Technology is the present and the future of business. It is time to say goodbye to traditional business.
By Olusola Amusan
When I started my first business in 2010, I focused on distributing a self-published book I wrote during the ASUU strike of the previous year. I sold a few thousands and made my first million at 20. The encouragement poised me to create a training and consulting company, hire staff. I felt the adrenaline rush – that spirit of starting and growing a business from the scratch. Early enough I learned and understood the value of collaboration.
I employed technology as a key ally, used ads on social media to drive knowledge of my product and personality, and took several business skills courses online with reputable organizations. I was sure already that I would never have to seek a job, at least not desperately. As a student entrepreneur, graduation day grew closer and instead of getting worried, I rented an office space and created the ambience I would need to endear coaching clients. In the same year, I started a drycleaning business, learned some key lessons about partnership and liquidated it 14 months after. I also started a few other ventures, like my 13-hectare maize farm by the Akure Airport.
However, everything went down in a haze of carelessness. Another wrong partnership story. Before turning 24, I had failed in three ventures. For entrepreneurs though, failure is nothing. It is the breakfast of champions. Through these ventures, I learned how to manage money, make business value propositions, analyse markets, hire people and plough back profit. I used technology a great deal. My first blog was created the year I turned 18, and with the support of a friend, I built a website to sell my book, won an excellence award and the inaugural title for student entrepreneur of the year as a result. The spirit of entrepreneurship won’t let you rest on your oars even when you fail. You get up, learn from the mistakes and keep making the world a better place. Entrepreneurship is about identifying a gap, a need, and creating value (product or services) to fill that gap. As you fill the gap, people (consumers) reward you with a premium.
Today, many of the lessons I have learned been an entrepreneur helped me in my short stint with a multinational. I became a business owner within the larger technology business, managed millions of dollars in budget and helped the organization achieve never-before-seen results in social investments. My new enterprises are looking for ways of bridging the gaps that exist in our education system, and cushioning the impact of that on the workforce. I organize multiple opportunities for undergraduates to experience the industry before they actually ever need to seek for jobs.
Through Curators University, we are using rare education techniques like design thinking, and fun learning to help augment traditional teaching and learning methods. We are also introducing virtual, augmented reality and 3-D printing to ensure that African students are ready for the 4th Industrial revolution. An example of our engagement with Curators is how we tailor experiences using virtual and augmented reality demonstrated through our recent exchange program for students of the Federal University of Technology Akure to Nairobi, Kenya where they met their peers and interacted with top technology companies.
With Coven Works Inc, an American company I founded in 2016, we are on a journey to build tomorrow’s workforce. We are using traditional and advanced learning tools (a mixture of offline and online experiences) to help young people in the African workforce get set for the future of work. The future of work will be riddled with so many surprises. Data and Artificial intelligence is helping large companies make decisions faster, work smarter and get rid of unneeded labor. While this poses a very huge socio-political challenge, in terms of unemployment and loss of jobs, it also creates a massive opportunity for our species to rethink our existence and what we must do to outsmart the new age of machines, or in fact, merge with it.
The World Economic Forum predicts that more than 63 million new jobs will be created by 2025 as a result of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. For small businesses, 50% of all global businesses will require one form of automation or the other according to a Gartner report, by 2021. This poses a challenge to small businesses. The nimble, agile nature of small businesses will no longer be a unique selling proposition. Large enterprises will leverage data and AI to outsmart small businesses and reach customer segments faster. As small businesses, this bad news is also good news. We need to invest in helping our employees learn about the impact of automation on the future of work as well as demonstrate to them how this new technology wave can enable them to work faster and smarter.
Artificial intelligence enables small businesses today to predict sales using historical data, create and visualize data within their companies to communicate better with customers, employee and potential investors. You can reach new customer segments faster by deploying simple recommender systems. Quick surveys can be deployed in minutes to thousand of users in few minutes, analysed in real time and recommendations proposed to customer, before they open a new browser tab. We will have the advantage of speed, but also stronger cognitive competences. We will be able to represent sales data easily using quick tools that leverage historical data to predict sales over the next 24 months and whether or not we should take a loan to launch a new product line. Small businesses can calculate churn rate, determine which customers will get dormant over the next few months based on their buying patterns and figure out what must be done to keep them.
The age of traditional business is over, and for the first time, small businesses have the chance to scale using affordable technology solutions that give them a fair chance at survival. The question is whether we will consider the investment as worth the Naira. Whichever way you look at it, AI will affect your bottom line. If you don’t care, those who are adopting artificial intelligence will take on your customers and serve them better. If you do care, you stand a fair chance in a rapidly changing world, reaching new markets and bringing back home great value that can impact the nation’s GDP per capita.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.