© Tristan Post

AI for startups: Why and how startups are benefiting from using this technology

ChatGPT has helped artificial intelligence get more attention today than ever before. Nevertheless, there are many companies that are struggling to successfully apply the technology. But what is the situation for startups? Tristan Post, lecturer at TUM for “AI for Innovation and Entrepreneurship” and head of one of the largest incubators for artificial intelligence in Europe at the Campus Founder incubator in Heilbronn, explains in this guest article why startups in particular can benefit from AI and discusses the ways they can do so successfully. Using his own Munich startup “Yoga Cat” as an example, he shows how AI can also lead to success in practice.

Although expectations for artificial intelligence in business are high, in recent years many companies have struggled to actively embrace AI and use it profitably. However, this situation is gradually changing and the application of artificial intelligence is becoming easier and easier. Nevertheless, successfully integrating AI into a company requires a holistic approach. In this regard, startups particularly benefit because they are more agile compared to large companies and can more easily structure their processes to leverage AI to gain a competitive advantage. 

Much like in the late 50s and 60s when the first companies started using computers and were able to differentiate themselves from their competition, startups today can optimize their business processes and scale faster by leveraging the power of AI. Unlike established companies, startups usually have not yet become burdened by complex, entrenched structures. They are agile and can react to changes in the market more quickly. This means that they can integrate new technologies such as AI more easily and thereby improve their market position. 

It doesn’t matter what product or service the startup offers. My own startup “Yoga Cat”, for example, has developed the first deep cleaning solution for sports and yoga mats. It’s not about integrating AI into the product, it’s about how to build your operations to make the most of it. Today, it isn’t that difficult to use artificial intelligence, and it is not even necessary to initially develop AI solutions yourself, as there are already many good products on the market. If you are also looking to utilize AI within your startup, here are my tips for you: 

Develop a vision for AI at your startup 

First of all, you should get an overview of the possibilities of AI to define a vision for its use in your startup. This does not mean that it is not necessary to have a deep understanding of how to develop AI systems, but rather, to understand how to apply AI in business. 

It’s also important to get a good overview of the status quo at your startup, especially in terms of your business processes, your customers’ needs, and trends in the industry. Using this information, it is possible to derive a vision for the use of AI in the company that is tailored to its specific business requirements. 

For example, if you have a startup in production AI could be used to increase productivity and reduce errors. Here, for example, quality control could be automated, machine utilization could be optimized, or the efficiency of supply chains could be improved. If your focus is marketing and sales, you could use AI to create personalized offers and optimize marketing campaigns by analyzing and predicting customer preferences. 

A clear vision will help you drive the use of AI in your business and use resources more effectively. A clear strategy also makes it possible to integrate AI technologies into your business processes step by step and achieve long-term competitive advantages. 

Data should always be the focus 

Data is the fuel for AI systems and should therefore play a key role in your company. It is important that you structure your startup in such a way that data can be generated and collected at all crucial points. The goal should be that all decisions made in your startup are based on data. This may sound difficult at first, but most tools already do this on their own. CRM systems, Google Analytics, or sensor data, for example, can be used to collect key data points. 

It’s also important that your team has a data-driven mindset and everyone is pulling in the same direction. Everyone in the company should understand how important data is for using AI systems and the data should be shared as transparently as possible. 

For example, by collecting and analyzing data, you can build predictive models, better understand customer behavior/preferences, and create personalized offers based on this data. Data is at the heart of AI systems, and the more data you collect, the more effectively you can use technology to optimize business processes and gain a competitive advantage. 

Master your processes 

To optimize the use of AI in your startup, it’s important to understand your business processes in detail and figure out which of them can be automated or optimized. Repetitive and standardized processes are particularly well suited for automation with artificial intelligence. 

There are already many AI tools on the market that will do exactly what you need. In many cases, you won’t even need to develop your own AI systems. Doing some quick research can help you find the best AI tools for your startup. The costs are often less than the benefits they bring. 

An example might be that your startup regularly receives emails from customers who have similar requests. Here, you could use AI systems to automatically categorize and auto-reply to these emails. This would save you time and resources, allowing you to focus on more complex customer issues. 

Another example could be the automation of accounting processes. Here, AI technology can be used to automatically recognize and classify incoming invoices, create invoices, and execute transfers. This speeds up the process and minimizes errors. 

There are also numerous opportunities to use AI systems to automate processes in the area of production. Here, for example, machines could be optimized so that they independently monitor the quality of products and initiate maintenance work if necessary. 

It is important to emphasize that the use of artificial intelligence in business processes does not always mean that human labor becomes superfluous. Rather, AI systems can help to increase productivity and efficiency in the company and relieve human workers of repetitive tasks. 

A holistic approach is the key to success with AI 

Overall, there are numerous ways startups can leverage AI technology to optimize their business processes and gain a competitive advantage. A holistic approach based on a clear vision, the importance of data and comprehensive process optimization are the keys to success. Even if the use of artificial intelligence in the company may seem costly at first, the investment will pay off in the long term. Therefore, don’t be put off by the complexity, instead use AI purposefully to take your startup to the next level. 

If you want to know more, you can click here (Startups and AI: Unleasing New Possibilites for Business Growth and Innovation — A Yoga Cat Case Study | by Tristan Post | Feb, 2023 | Medium) read the entire case study or get in touch with us at Campus Founders.