I am a technology entrepreneur — in spite of my background as an investment banker, creator of a luxury gift line, and founder of a branding agency. This is certainly not a “typical” path to a technology career, yet here I am with a company that is leading the rise of digital transformation and connections for small businesses and startups through machine learning. Since Alice launched two years ago (originally as Circular Board), I have been asked a lot of questions about what it means to lead a tech company, and how we handle decisions about hardware options, cloud services, API, hiring a dev team, coding, etc.
Like any tech company, we are figuring the answers out as we go. However, as I evolve deeper into the traditional role of technology founder, I’ve learned that every founder — no matter the size of their business or which industry they operate in— should now think of itself as a technology company. We all rely on technology to run our companies, and in doing so should be thinking bigger about how to capitalize on technology to grow. Through the Circular Board accelerator, we have helped hundreds of women scale their ideas, and technology is a key instrument in their success. On Alice, we recommend specific technology resources to business leaders to ensure they avoid building technology debt.
Here are three additional areas founders should consider regarding technology:
Have a Robust Digital Strategy
Whether you are selling T-shirts, building a data solution to cure cancer, or developing the next social media platform, digital marketing is a key part of the equation. Consider the information and technology necessary to amplify your product, customer experience, operations and marketing — essentially, anything that humans can possibly touch can be bolstered by technology. Your digital strategy shouldn’t just be about efficiency, either; it’s about ensuring that you can deliver an optimal experience to your customers and team, while setting the stage for growth at every stage in the journey. Ensure that you’re thinking about the elements to your digital path early and often.
Made Smart Hardware Investments
Hardware can be costly, so you want to be smart about investing in computers, storage, and networking. Think of your hardware investments at the macro level, not just one computer at a time. We opted to use Dell Small Business for our hardware needs for a couple of reasons: 1) The cost was reasonable 2) Warranties and maintenance options were comprehensive; and most importantly, 3) At this stage, we don’t have a CTO or Director of IT yet, and Dell Small Business essentially acts as an IT advisor that will grow with us.
Have a Strong Technical Team
I’m curious by nature, so staying on top of the latest UX learnings and programming languages is actually enjoyable weekend reading for me. That certainly helps me in mapping out our product path, but I also know that in order for Alice to evolve at a rapid pace and ultimately achieve our long-term vision, we need to invest in best-in-class technical expertise. That’s why we brought in Pivotal to build out our initial platform and made an early hire with a lead engineer, Nena Djaja, with killer credentials. Rounding out our dev team are a machine learning expert, experienced software engineer, and product designer. Each of them brings a specific skill set that allows us to continue developing Alice nimbly and in response to entrepreneurs’ real-time needs. For your company, bring in experts to fill in the technical gaps, and if you aren’t even sure where to start, consult with advisors that can help guide you.
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