Smartphones are more powerful than all of NASA’s combined computing power in 1969. Imagine how technology has unleashed itself into the public domain by packaging its capabilities into small components. The hi-tech supercomputer that once was accessible only to the larger corporates today is available to a small business that can develop cool apps almost instantly, store them in a cloud and cater to a global target market. This is an unprecedented shift that’s influencing the three prime movers of every business – technology, target, and talent. And each has profound implications for start-ups, just as they have for Intuit.
1.) Technology can accelerate your journey to scale and sustainability
Fifty percent of small businesses fail in the first five years, and cash flow is one of the critical factors. Intuit’s fundamental mission is champion dreamers by helping them get control of their finances and focus on what they love throughout financial techs architected for mobile and cloud. We have built AI/ML technologies which extract data from QuickBooks, match it with third-party data, and where a traditional bank might say no, we use those insights to provide credit to people in need quickly. In this context, I find one of Intuit’s customer stories strikingly relevant. Neal Newman, retired and passionate about self-defense, wanted to start his learning center. He struggled for two years to find funds and then finally started the Academy of Self Defense (ASD) in 2005. Today, with easy access to high-tech solutions like those offered by Intuit and many others, businesses like ASD can scale and open multiple centers at the drop of a hat. It’s incredible how the prowess of technology has been powering dreamers to build businesses and seek prosperity anywhere.
2.) Target market is just a click away
A recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) report titled “Rise of the Global Startup City” states the U.S. is no longer the epicenter of start-ups. From Shanghai and Beijing to Mumbai and Bangalore to Tel Aviv – today, start-ups and their customer bases are global. Availability of customer data, social media, and insights on geo-specific consumer behaviors help these scrappy new businesses pursue precise studies of a target market and develop comprehensive and feasible go-to-market strategies. It’s easy for a company in Bangalore to target a market in, say, Botswana. With small businesses constituting a large portion of Intuit’s customer base, we sensed an opportunity to drive the growth of those we serve as they launch themselves and seek to grow. This led us to start programs like Intuit Circles. Case in point: India-based Circles member Fyle is catering to 180 customers globally and has expanded to the U.S., Netherlands, and Singapore. One of the world’s fastest-growing expense management solutions, Fyle is leveraging Intuit’s Open Platform offerings that allow third-party developers to publish their apps on Intuit’s App Store and also connect with our QuickBooks users.
During my interactions with start-ups, the oft-repeated challenge that entrepreneurs mention is acquiring and retaining the right talent in the sea of big brands that often overshadow their newly floated entities. But today’s talent is looking for a broader mix of experiences and opportunities, and increasingly, companies of any size can meet this need. Intuit was in the same spot when we began our operations in India over a decade ago. With a careful mix of experiences and prospects, we have become one of the top employer brands in the country. Our efforts in creating experiences begin from the time a candidate steps into the Intuit premises. Throughout our interview process – Assessing for Awesome (A4A) – we give incoming talent a glimpse of the technology they will be working on, our customer-centric approach to arriving at a solution and the standards we follow at Intuit. Once they join, candidates not only get to work on trending tech projects that are needle movers in the Fintech industry, but also get the room to work on their passion projects as part of 10% unstructured time offered to employees to pursue their interests. What’s more, we offer some of the best career development programs, including in-house and intensive courses on Data Science and tuition assistance to brighten the prospects of talent. Today’s generation is much more risk-savvy. Constant learning and scope for innovating are two essential stickiness factors for this cohort. By focusing on creating experiences and career prospects, start-ups can surely offset the challenge of not having the level of brand recall that larger corporates enjoy.
In sum, technology, target, and talent are available to all to grow new businesses and power prosperity. It is up to our creativity and agility to leverage these and create our differentiated proposition. Identify the problem you want to solve for your customers and delight your customers with fantastic solutions. After all, Uber never had to invent anything new to set up its business. The GPS location feature and automatic credit card payment system that it so extensively uses both existed before. All that the transport giant did to create its Uber magic was to discover the consumer pain point of needing an agile and convenient transport.