The COVID-19 pandemic has flipped the business world on its head and put many in a state of panic. Do you dare start your own company, launch your very own business venture in such a volatile climate? How do you ensure steady growth and success in these trying times? Building a profitable business was difficult enough without a pandemic on our hands, but nowadays, it might seem impossible for new entrepreneurs.
Indeed, if you fail to incorporate new technology and capitalize on opportunities in the digital world, you may not manage to stay afloat throughout 2021. It’s also important to focus on branding and building the right company image to enhance the customer’s experience.
The truth is that there are many pieces to this puzzle, which also means that succeeding as a startup is very much possible despite the pandemic. With all of that in mind, let’s go over the most important opportunities startups should use to their advantage in 2021 to achieve their goals.
Standardizing hyper-personalization to achieve success
Throughout the pandemic, digital commerce rose to unprecedented heights. Of course, this should come as no surprise because people were and still are forced into lockdown and have to buy products online predominantly. This created a boom in the E-commerce sector, but it also made this very lucrative field more competitive than ever before.
Yes, there is a lot you can gain by taking your startup into the E-commerce realm, but to succeed, you have to boost your personalization. The new term is hyper-personalization, and it means delivering the experiences that are unique to the individual to elevate their satisfaction, build loyalty, and inspire repeat business.
The way forward is to leverage data-gathering software and solutions that will pool crucial user and customer data from every online touchpoint to optimize the individual’s experience. This is something that the giants like Google and Apple excel at, but it’s something that businesses of all sizes can use nowadays especially growth-oriented startups.
Your goal should be to learn as much as you can about the customer, understand their unique needs and drivers, their habits and preferences, and create a hyper-personalized journey that will convert them into loyal brand advocates.
Diversify your payment methods and accept bitcoin
On the financial side of things, startups need to capitalize on every opportunity and accommodate the needs of the individual as well. You can’t force the customer to buy in a way or through a platform that they don’t know or like – that’s how you’ll alienate them for good. If their only choice is to punch their credit card info into your site, but they want to pay through a secure platform like PayPal, then you can bet that they’ll take their business elsewhere.
So, payment diversification is important, but so is payment innovation. For example, bitcoin is emerging as the new standard in the post-COVID-19 world; it is growing in value and has built a passionate global community. Now that people are increasingly mining and trading in cryptocurrencies, you should consider expanding into the crypto realm to capitalize on a powerful demographic in 2021.
Start accepting bitcoin payments and consider investing in bitcoin mining as a company to take advantage of this growing industry in the years to come.
Innovate virtual tools to sell online
No matter if you sell physical or digital products or if you’re a service-based business, you can always leverage digital technologies to sell more, engage your customers, and build a powerful brand. The key is to develop virtual solutions that will help your customers decide to get in touch, place an order, or visit your physical store.
This is about innovation and creativity. For example, a popular Australian rug brand MissAmara always had a great website with many high-quality pictures showcasing their products. That might have been enough to push rugs before the pandemic, but now they have come up with their own virtual rug styler that allows people to visualize any rug from the store in their own homes, surrounded by their things, all in a handy little app!
The creativity, the innovation, the customer-centric problem-solving, all of that in a virtual tool that reduces customer effort and inspires people to buy a rug without ever visiting the store. This is just one of many examples in the digital world, but the point for you right now is that you need to be creative and think about what virtual tools your startup can offer to sell more and delight your customers.
Leverage AI and machine learning for contextual experiences
Context is everything nowadays. It’s not just about identifying the customer or knowing what your target demographic looks like; it’s about putting data into context and in the right perspective so that you can make better decisions. Context is what drives hyper-personalization, after all, and investing in contextualized experiences is one of the best ways for your startup to surpass the competition.
While everyone else is acting on basic, gross customer data, your goal should be to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to generate contextual insights. Collecting and collating vast amounts of customer and market data with AI allows you to act quickly and gain a deeper understanding of the customer.
It also allows you to predict trends and do some accurate forecasting so that you can bring new solutions to the market before everyone else. And, if there’s anything the customers love nowadays, it’s a brand that anticipates their needs.
Focusing on brand values and experiences
Speaking of branding, notice that every successful company in the world has a unique brand identity. The brand might not be innovative, it might not bring anything new to the table, but it is powerful and memorable. If you want your startup to achieve better results in 2021, one of your top priorities should be investing in the brand-building process.
You can start by creating a comprehensive brand wheel, detailing the brand’s essence, personality, vision and values, visuals, and much more. Focus on impacting your visual identity but invest heavily in quality content creation and website copywriting to reel in your audience.
A mix of storytelling with functional and relevant information is the way to spark the right emotional response. Once you have a powerful brand in place, you will have a much easier time standing out in a competitive industry, rising above a sea of competitors that all look and sound similar.
Building an omnichannel structure
Last but definitely not least, no startup can hope to succeed nowadays without an omnichannel approach to sales, marketing, and support. We’re not talking about multichannel here, because that’s where most startups end up – having a presence on a couple of online channels, never really delivering a tailored experience.
No, omnichannel is about optimizing the customer’s experience across all digital touchpoints. It’s about creating a seamless experience and ensuring brand consistency across the board. Whether people are buying or looking for support and guidance, or if they are comparing their options and reading through your content, you need to deliver a consistent message and brand identity on every channel.
Again, leverage customer data to achieve this type of consistency and eliminate any department silos in your startup. For an omnichannel structure to work, your departments need to work together towards common, overarching goals.
Of course, this is impossible without the right tech. So, consider investing in an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system to manage all resources on a centralized platform, and use cloud-based collaboration and communication tools to empower your employees to work together and build an efficient omnichannel structure.
Over to you
Launching a startup during a pandemic can be daunting, but when is it not? You have the opportunity to ensure continuous growth and success right now, but only if you invest in the right tools and make the right managerial decisions.
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Fintech Kennek raises $12.5M seed round to digitize lending
London-based fintech startup Kennek has raised $12.5 million in seed funding to expand its lending operating system.
According to an Oct. 10 tech.eu report, the round was led by HV Capital and included participation from Dutch Founders Fund, AlbionVC, FFVC, Plug & Play Ventures, and Syndicate One. Kennek offers software-as-a-service tools to help non-bank lenders streamline their operations using open banking, open finance, and payments.
The platform aims to automate time-consuming manual tasks and consolidate fragmented data to simplify lending. Xavier De Pauw, founder of Kennek said:
“Until kennek, lenders had to devote countless hours to menial operational tasks and deal with jumbled and hard-coded data – which makes every other part of lending a headache. As former lenders ourselves, we lived and breathed these frustrations, and built kennek to make them a thing of the past.”
The company said the latest funding round was oversubscribed and closed quickly despite the challenging fundraising environment. The new capital will be used to expand Kennek’s engineering team and strengthen its market position in the UK while exploring expansion into other European markets. Barbod Namini, Partner at lead investor HV Capital, commented on the investment:
“Kennek has developed an ambitious and genuinely unique proposition which we think can be the foundation of the entire alternative lending space. […] It is a complicated market and a solution that brings together all information and stakeholders onto a single platform is highly compelling for both lenders & the ecosystem as a whole.”
The fintech lending space has grown rapidly in recent years, but many lenders still rely on legacy systems and manual processes that limit efficiency and scalability. Kennek aims to leverage open banking and data integration to provide lenders with a more streamlined, automated lending experience.
The seed funding will allow the London-based startup to continue developing its platform and expanding its team to meet demand from non-bank lenders looking to digitize operations. Kennek’s focus on the UK and Europe also comes amid rising adoption of open banking and open finance in the regions.
Featured Image Credit: Photo from Kennek.io; Thank you!
Fortune 500’s race for generative AI breakthroughs
As excitement around generative AI grows, Fortune 500 companies, including Goldman Sachs, are carefully examining the possible applications of this technology. A recent survey of U.S. executives indicated that 60% believe generative AI will substantially impact their businesses in the long term. However, they anticipate a one to two-year timeframe before implementing their initial solutions. This optimism stems from the potential of generative AI to revolutionize various aspects of businesses, from enhancing customer experiences to optimizing internal processes. In the short term, companies will likely focus on pilot projects and experimentation, gradually integrating generative AI into their operations as they witness its positive influence on efficiency and profitability.
Goldman Sachs’ Cautious Approach to Implementing Generative AI
In a recent interview, Goldman Sachs CIO Marco Argenti revealed that the firm has not yet implemented any generative AI use cases. Instead, the company focuses on experimentation and setting high standards before adopting the technology. Argenti recognized the desire for outcomes in areas like developer and operational efficiency but emphasized ensuring precision before putting experimental AI use cases into production.
According to Argenti, striking the right balance between driving innovation and maintaining accuracy is crucial for successfully integrating generative AI within the firm. Goldman Sachs intends to continue exploring this emerging technology’s potential benefits and applications while diligently assessing risks to ensure it meets the company’s stringent quality standards.
One possible application for Goldman Sachs is in software development, where the company has observed a 20-40% productivity increase during its trials. The goal is for 1,000 developers to utilize generative AI tools by year’s end. However, Argenti emphasized that a well-defined expectation of return on investment is necessary before fully integrating generative AI into production.
To achieve this, the company plans to implement a systematic and strategic approach to adopting generative AI, ensuring that it complements and enhances the skills of its developers. Additionally, Goldman Sachs intends to evaluate the long-term impact of generative AI on their software development processes and the overall quality of the applications being developed.
Goldman Sachs’ approach to AI implementation goes beyond merely executing models. The firm has created a platform encompassing technical, legal, and compliance assessments to filter out improper content and keep track of all interactions. This comprehensive system ensures seamless integration of artificial intelligence in operations while adhering to regulatory standards and maintaining client confidentiality. Moreover, the platform continuously improves and adapts its algorithms, allowing Goldman Sachs to stay at the forefront of technology and offer its clients the most efficient and secure services.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Google DeepMind; Pexels; Thank you!
UK seizes web3 opportunity simplifying crypto regulations
As Web3 companies increasingly consider leaving the United States due to regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom must simplify its cryptocurrency regulations to attract these businesses. The conservative think tank Policy Exchange recently released a report detailing ten suggestions for improving Web3 regulation in the country. Among the recommendations are reducing liability for token holders in decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and encouraging the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to adopt alternative Know Your Customer (KYC) methodologies, such as digital identities and blockchain analytics tools. These suggestions aim to position the UK as a hub for Web3 innovation and attract blockchain-based businesses looking for a more conducive regulatory environment.
Streamlining Cryptocurrency Regulations for Innovation
To make it easier for emerging Web3 companies to navigate existing legal frameworks and contribute to the UK’s digital economy growth, the government must streamline cryptocurrency regulations and adopt forward-looking approaches. By making the regulatory landscape clear and straightforward, the UK can create an environment that fosters innovation, growth, and competitiveness in the global fintech industry.
The Policy Exchange report also recommends not weakening self-hosted wallets or treating proof-of-stake (PoS) services as financial services. This approach aims to protect the fundamental principles of decentralization and user autonomy while strongly emphasizing security and regulatory compliance. By doing so, the UK can nurture an environment that encourages innovation and the continued growth of blockchain technology.
Despite recent strict measures by UK authorities, such as His Majesty’s Treasury and the FCA, toward the digital assets sector, the proposed changes in the Policy Exchange report strive to make the UK a more attractive location for Web3 enterprises. By adopting these suggestions, the UK can demonstrate its commitment to fostering innovation in the rapidly evolving blockchain and cryptocurrency industries while ensuring a robust and transparent regulatory environment.
The ongoing uncertainty surrounding cryptocurrency regulations in various countries has prompted Web3 companies to explore alternative jurisdictions with more precise legal frameworks. As the United States grapples with regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom can position itself as a hub for Web3 innovation by simplifying and streamlining its cryptocurrency regulations.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Jonathan Borba; Pexels; Thank you!