Procurement 10 September 2018

3 existing technologies that can give your startup a competitive edge

There are simple technological solutions readily available that entrepreneurs can incorporate into their business

Writing for Business Advice, Ritam Gandhi, founder and director of Studio Graphene, considers the rapid growth of Britain’s startup community and outlines three existing technologies that can be tapped into for a business advantage.

The UK has long been a leader in innovation and entrepreneurship – and with almost half a million new companies being launched every year, more and more people are clearly making the bold step and pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams. Last year alone, 589,000 new businesses entered the economy – over 100,000 more than the previous year.

While the number of new companies launching is a positive development, this also means there are more startups competing over a limited market space. This fierce competition means that entrepreneurs need to take full advantage of all the resources available to them. The reality is that the failure rate of young startups is high – in 2014, just over half (53%) of businesses launched in the UK survived until their third birthday.

Entrepreneurs looking to disrupt an industry should be taking inspiration from what is already out there, taking advantage of existing technology to fuel the development and delivery of their product.

Some of the most successful companies in the world have taken this approach to develop and grow their business. Take Uber as a case in point – the technology that Uber relies on to power its functionality existed long before the transport giant came along. GPS location tracking and automatic card payment systems were used by many different companies – its success was not based on a novel, digital innovation. Uber simply harnessed the potential of these available solutions and used it to fill a gap they had identified in the market.

Importantly, there’s no reason why young companies cannot easily follow the same approach. To demonstrate just how straightforward it can be to employ existing technologies to enhance your business, Studio Graphene recently built an app for UK-based charity Signalong only within a matter of days. Existing AI and Google Vision technology were used to develop a function that assists those with hearing, speech, language and communication needs. The app allows people to take photos of everyday objects on their phones and then uses image recognition technology to inform the user of the correct sign to use for that object.

So what kind of technologies should startups and SMEs be looking to consider? Working closely with UK tech startups, Studio Graphene has listed below some of the key, and more importantly accessible, digital innovations that are available to companies.

GPS trackers

GPS trackers are one of the most valuable technologies that can help develop and grow a business, and hugely successful companies like Uber and Deliveroo would not be able to function without them. With the technological infrastructure already in place, companies now don’t need to worry about creating and maintaining a brand-new tracking system in-house. Various applications that utilise GPS trackers are readily available on the market – and are perfect solutions for startups looking to streamline and expand their business.

For companies that rely on vehicles, either through a B2B or B2C proposition, these applications can save businesses significant resources by giving them the ability to locate, track and manage a vast fleet of vehicles; monitor the delivery of their product in real-time; or significantly enhance customer experience.

The accessibility of GPS trackers offers a great opportunity for new companies to enter the market on the back of this established infrastructure. Indeed, the growing potential of GPS means there is plenty of room for new companies to introduce new services or enhance their existing business operations.

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APIs

The ever-growing online interconnectivity means that APIs – or Application Programming Interfaces – are becoming increasingly important for modern businesses. In a nutshell, an API is an interface that software uses to access whatever it needs. It allows applications and platforms to communicate between each other and promotes network connectivity by aggregating and integrating information from vast sources.

Without this technology, it would be near impossible to do simple things like search for flights online, or even order a takeaway on a Friday night through a delivery app. Many of the most well-known companies rely on APIs to power their functions. Uber’s entire application, for example, depends on this interface to connect riders with drivers. It has also harnessed the power of APIs to link its service to other, related applications such as TripAdvisor and OpenTable – thereby allowing customers to book a ride with Uber when they plan a day out or a dinner.

Connecting your business with third parties that can help extend your customer base is one of the most valuable ways to utilise APIs. Forging links with other businesses means that more people will be able to find out about what you offer – promoting greater brand and customer awareness.

An even simpler solution to utilise the interconnectivity features of APIs is to share information about your business with websites that might help you extend your customer reach, letting them promote your startup on their behalf. This could mean giving staffers at blogs or publications product and pricing details, creating a channel of networks that can direct readers to your own website.

Online payments systems

Changing consumer demand over the past decade has significantly affected how businesses operate on a daily basis. Traditional cash transactions, for instance, are being replaced by alternative methods like online payments and auto-pay. The popularity of services like Spotify and Netflix is partly due to the efficient payment options they offer consumers. By directly debiting customers’ accounts on a fixed basis, these giants offer the convenience and flexibility that people have grown to expect from businesses they interact with.

To keep up and stay competitive, startups should utilise the power of payment innovations to ensure that they can provide a seamless customer experience.

Aspiring entrepreneurs must have the determination and drive to overcome the many challenges of starting a new business. Thankfully, there are simple technological solutions readily available that they can incorporate into their business to stimulate strong growth and development.

The amount of tech options available can seem overwhelming, but thankfully, the rise of consultancies and third-party organisations that specialise in digital solutions can provide entrepreneurs and startups with the right guidance to effectively develop and enhance their product.

Ritam Gandhi is founder and director of Studio Graphene

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