Is AI the new ".com"?

Should you invest in AI(Artificial Intelligence) or new cutting edge technology for your startup? Will AI take up your job? These questions are asked by many people in the field. I'll try to answer these and similar questions. Let's get started

Most startups' favorite word these days is AI and most of them claim to 'revolutionize' or 'disrupt' an industry. Many investors get more skeptical when they hear these buzzwords because of the events that happened in the late 1990s. Are you wondering what events? Let's do a little time travel.

Some people might know this story or event, you can skip this part. For the rest, Let's begin. In the late 1990s, a dot com bubble was emerging. Silicon valley was going crazy. The Internet was hot new technology. Every entrepreneur with a 'revolutionary', 'disrupting' by internet startup idea was getting funds by investors. Even entrepreneurs who even didn't have a product to show to investors were getting funded for just an idea, an idea they got while chilling in the living room. Everyone was claiming to 'revolutionize' a certain industry. Nobody wanted to miss on this opportunity of making money neither the entrepreneurs nor the investors. During the dot com era, the value of equity markets grew exponentially, with the technology-dominated Nasdaq index rising from under 1,000 to more than 5,000 between the years 1995 and 2000. After a peak in March 2000, the bubble burst happened in 2001 and through 2002. Billions of dollars were lost. Many companies were shut down, prices of companies like cisco fell by 86%, many companies like Qualcomm lost a large portion of their market capitalization. It would take 15 years for the Nasdaq to regain its dotcom peak, which it did on April 23, 2015.

No, not everyone was blinded by the bright light of this new technology. Not everyone went crazy. There were companies like Walgreens who did something unusual, they decided to use their brains. They decided to think!. "We're a crawl, walk, run company." Dan Jorndt told Forbes in describing his deliberate, methodical approach to the internet. What he meant by that was Walgreens first started experimenting (crawl) with their website within the context of their mission "How will the internet connect to our convenience concept" and similar questions were first figured out internally. Then Walgreens began to find ways to tie the internet directly to its sophisticated inventory and distribution model (walk) and ultimately it's convenient drug store concept. Finally, Walgreen went big (Run), launching an internet site as sophisticated and well designed as most pure dot coms.

Walgreens is one of the many companies that made the transition from Good to Great company. This was just a part of their journey, Complete journey, and the other companies' journey that made the transition is very well stated in the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. As Jim Collins states "Good to Great companies used technology as an accelerator of momentum, not the creator of it."

It is not the first time, new technology is buzzing. There will be always new technologies popping as we are advancing in technology every day. There will be always new technology around the corner, you can't focus on everyone. So, the secret sauce to being successful lies in the application of the technology, not the technology itself. You can easily figure out how much you need to invest in the new technology by asking if the technology fits with your companies mission and vision all along? If it fits completely, you need to invest and become a pioneer in it. If not, you can settle for parity or completely ignore it. If you're still not sure whether to invest in technology or not, "Crawl, Walk, Run" strategy would be an effective approach, it requires some patience but it might save the company from a disaster. For e.g, HTC made the first Android smartphone in the world. They owned the largest android market for some time and eventually lost to its competitor Samsung and disappeared. A Billion-dollar company disaster WeWork. The co-working giant went from $47 billion valuations to bankruptcy in just 6 weeks. In both cases, bad investments in different types of technologies were one of the major reasons that they failed. I'm not suggesting that it was the only reason for their failure but it was one of many reasons. Just as technology alone is not the only reason behind the success, it is also not the only reason for the failure. There is a whole lot more than just technology behind a successful company. If you find yourself thinking that technology alone is the key to success, just remind yourself of the Vietnam War.

AI(Artificial Intelligence) or not, new technologies will keep emerging, the goal should be to provide or add value. If AI supports your vision and mission and helps you add value, you should go for it without a doubt. Just don't invest in it because everyone is doing it. Run pilot tests, research, use 'crawl, walk, run' strategy, and make sure it's not a bad investment. Think of ROI before investing.

Will machines replace men in the future? The question has been beautifully answered by Peter Thiel in his book 'Futurists can seem like they hope the answer is yes. Luddites are so worried about being replaced that they would rather we stop building new technology altogether. Neither side questions the premise that better computers will necessarily replace human workers. But that premise is wrong: computers are complements for humans, not substitutes. The most valuable businesses of the coming decades will be built by entrepreneurs who seek to empower people rather than try to make them obsolete.' Humans compete for food and resources but machines compete for none. With this pandemic going on, we need technology more than ever, whether it's AI or anything to assist humans as partners not as rivals competing for jobs.

For e.g Suppose a Med Tech company develops a technology that can identify Corona on any surface. Imagine how much easier would the life of health care workers and sanitization workers become. Ultimately, helping us all, Making lives easier. Humans' power to learn and adapt has already made them the most sophisticated species on the planet. Each day we are learning new ways to use computers and technology to do better what we are already doing or achieving the impossible. There is a need for a collaborative partnership between man and machine. Peter states - 'The most valuable companies in the future won't ask what problems can be solved by the computer alone. They'll ask: how can computers help humans solve hard problems.'

So, don't worry about a supercomputer taking over us and making us slaves, at least anywhere soon, As IBM Summit and other supercomputers are busy in finding a cure for COVID-19 with their human friends.

Image credits: BIG group

Let's do a little detour. The Amager Bakke power plant, designed by the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, turns local trash by incineration into low-carbon energy. The process, as designed, is so clean that the facility's roof has been created to be a recreational area. There is a 1,480-foot artificial ski slope on the roof of power plant! When we think of development or industrialization, air pollution and other pollution seems inevitable. At least in my country. When we see such designs, it challenges our old mentality. It doesn't force us to choose between clean air and development, better space and urbanization. 'Humans have such a great impact on the environment. Now we have that power we can either use it to create nightmares or we can use it to realize our dreams'- Bjarke. You might be wondering what all this has to do with technology or AI? I'll modify and rephrase the above statement in the context of this article - Technology has such a great impact on humans. Now it has that power we can use it to either create nightmares or we can use it to realize our dreams. The point I want to make is when we think of technology or AI, it shouldn't be a forced choice between man and machine. Why not both? Sustainable technology is the key to survival.

It's been quite a journey. Let's connect all the dots and conclude. In the first part, we saw technology alone cannot make you successful. Applying the technology thoughtfully perhaps can contribute to success. You have to get your marketing, target audience, competition, and other things right as well to be successful. It takes more than just technology! But when it comes to how we look at AI and technology, look at them as a complement to humans and not their substitute. Living in harmony with technology should be the mission, and sustainability should be the goal.

Adios, See you soon !

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Business Strategy