Greetings, fellow entrepreneurs!
I’m Jim Gordon, the CEO, Founder, and Lead Systems Architect at Cloud Notions, LLC. Cloud Notions is the local Columbus, GA Partner Consulting Agency for Salesforce.com, Amazon Web Services (AWS), DocuSign, Hubspot, and several other high-tech business tools. I come from a technology background, having worked on many projects using everything from MS .NET, Java, Oracle, Flash Player (gasp!), and Android/iPhone apps. I’ve also dabbled in robotics and game development.
I feel very strongly about contributing to the local tech and entrepreneurship community, as I am the leader of the local Salesforce User Group and an active supporter of StartUP Columbus and several local charitable initiatives. You may know me as a guest judge in the recent StartUP Columbus Pitch Competition!
This blog post will outline several ways entrepreneurs can leverage technology in their businesses. In general, there are two technology scenarios for entrepreneurs: technology IS your business, or technology ENABLES your business. We’ll discuss both.
Technology IS your Business
For high-tech startups, technology IS the business. The good news is that this type of business has never been more feasible. The barriers to entry are low, and new cloud-based tools make scaling more accessible than ever.
If you have good engineering skills and a great product-market fit, then you can create a viable business via “sweat equity.” For example, you could build a proof-of-concept app on the AWS free-tier and use that to validate the product, attract co-founders, and secure investment. But don’t rule out founding a high-tech startup if you aren’t an engineer. Industry-specific knowledge is just as necessary as software engineering skills. For example, if you have extensive medical knowledge, you may be a perfect fit to run a medical database startup.
Whether you are a technical founder or not, I’d recommend reading up on the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC), prototyping, software MVPs, and product-market fit. These days, even a novice can make software in their basement. But there’s a formal process to building the right software that solves the right problem the right way. Make sure to research those terms and ensure your co-founders and partners are following SDLC best practices.
Technology ENABLES your Business
Technology still has a powerful role to play in non-technical startups. Computers have become ubiquitous: even “low tech” small businesses use technology to automate their processes, reduce overhead, and give their customers world-class service. As a very simplified example, let’s look at a business that has been around for centuries: the barbershop. These days, even small barbershops have a website with scheduling software. That appointment software will often send automated text messages to remind customers of appointments and even collect payments.
Technology has allowed small businesses and startups to do more with less. Instead of paying a phone clerk, they use scheduling software. Instead of driving paper checks to the bank, they take online payments. Instead of waiting for customers to become unhappy, they get automated feedback after each visit to address issues. Technology can reduce back-office costs and multiply your reach when communicating with customers. If you are an entrepreneur in the startup space, I’d strongly recommend automating your business processes.
Make business software decisions based on the potential for workflow automation and integration between tools. People are your most valuable (and expensive) resource. Don’t pay people to move paperwork from one side of the office or copy/paste between two systems.
One advantage of being a startup: your tools and processes haven’t been etched in stone yet. Larger competitors may find it difficult to pivot, but startups are more agile and have no limitations. They can start with best-of-breed tools and processes.
Putting It All Together
Whether your startup is in the high-tech space or some other industry, today’s technology tools can provide the leverage you need to get your business running at full speed. Talk with your co-founders, advisers, and partners about major technology decisions.
And, of course, make sure to reach out to StartUP Columbus for consultation, mentorship, events, workspace, and a ton of other resources. StartUP Columbus is committed to cultivating a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in Columbus.