25 May 2021
Product & Technology
In this digital age where advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) and Cloud Computing (“cloud”) are easily accessible, startups may consider leveraging these technological solutions to transform or add a competitive edge to their businesses.
However, the adoption of AI and cloud shouldn't be viewed through the single lens of boosting competitiveness; but a deeper understanding is required to identify which facet of their businesses should be and could be transformed through these digital technologies. In his book, Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction, Thomas Siebel posits that technology has reached an inflection point and now enterprises must manage the convergence of megatrends that include AI and cloud, in addition to Big Data and IoT.
This inflection point has been made more obvious by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses have been pushed to adopt these digital transformation tools to improve efficiency and productivity, as they establish themselves in the next normal that will be defined by these tech megatrends. Our latest article hence describes how AI can help startups augment their businesses in today’s environment and how cloud solutions can be used to create workplaces that now must be more digitally minded.
An introduction to the AI ecosystem for businesses
The last decade gave birth to the mainstreaming of technologies that were once confined to either conceptualisation or the realm of science fiction. Today, more companies are making use of AI and related technologies such as machine intelligence and deep learning. While they may work in concert with one another, they each have important distinctions.
Firstly, AI essentially refers to computer systems that can perform tasks that typically require human intelligence. Machine learning is a subset of AI, which consists of algorithms and statistical models that enable computer systems to perform a specific task without needing explicit instructions, relying instead on patterns and interference recognition. Lastly, deep learning refers to a class of machine learning algorithms that uses multiple layers to progressively extract higher-level features from the raw input of the AI system.
According to Dyota Marsudi, Senior Executive Director, Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia & India, the key benefit of AI systems is that they can perform simple and well-defined tasks as good as (if not better than) a human. They are especially useful in performing tasks when trained with large data set which is well-labelled – although they do have their limitations.
“AI systems don’t do so well in performing tasks without context, namely those that are complex or those that require creativity and judgement. They are also limited in their ability to learn from small amounts of data or unlabelled data,” said Dyota.
How AI can augment a startup’s business
So how can startups make the most effective use of their AI?
According to Tam Hock Chuan, Managing Director, Vertex Growth, “It’s important for businesses to understand how they can use AI and data. But the question is then: how do you differentiate via AI? How can you use it to create an IP (intellectual property) that is unique to you and that is hard for others to replicate? It is also important to know how to convince your customers that the outputs generated from the AI engine are correct.”
Echoing Hock Chuan’s view, Ravi Shankar, Co-founder & CEO of Active.ai, explained that the success of an AI system rests on the effort taken into creating it. “In an area where everything is available, the speed, the execution, the way you think things through and how simple you build the system – as well as how you consider price and scale – is very valuable. It’s about using AI to give you a deep understanding of markets, how you then build the market and then eventually becoming the market.”
Kanika Mayar, Executive Director, Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia & India, noted there are now multiple tools and open source frameworks available which can help fast track the build phase, without compromising on intellectual property – stating that “While the data and base frameworks may be common, what it really comes down to is the problem you’re solving and how well you can solve them.”
However, workers are only as good as their tools; startups and their founders must first understand what they want to use the solutions for and be mindful of their limitations. Doing so helps startups understand which technology best suits their specific needs, thereby making the most efficient use out of their financial and human resources.
On this point, a fundamental aspect in knowing how to approach building an AI system is to first set expectations of what you hope to get out of using AI. This means that businesses must work collaboratively with their clients via real-time conversational problem-solving. Ravi added that “Creating an open architecture for your client allows them to believe that they can work with you to open their acceptance of AI via that collaborative framework. However, building such an explainable model is one of the biggest challenges of building an AI-driven company.”
How startups can tap into cloud solutions for a business boost
Alongside AI, cloud services are supporting startups to build successful businesses.
Generally, cloud computing involves the on-demand delivery of computing services. This includes services like compute, storage, database, analytics, Internet of Things, machine learning, and many others (otherwise known as the cloud). Due to the plethora of cloud solutions (as well as their providers) in the market, companies – especially startups – according to Carmen Yuen, Partner, Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia & India, “Must keep in mind a variety of considerations when choosing the right one for their business.
One of the considerations for startups is thinking about where they are today as well as what their longer term needs will be, and choosing the right cloud platform that will support their growth as they mature and scale – possibly very quickly... Digbijoy Shukla, Business Development Lead, Startup Ecosystem, Amazon Web Services (ASEAN) noted that the cloud has democratized innovation, and gives anyone with a strong business idea unprecedented opportunities to succeed throughout their journey, from inception all the way to international expansion. “At AWS, we strive to create the best possible environment for founders to bring their ideas to life. Our startup customers tell us they choose to build on AWS because of the agility and flexibility it provides as they grow. Furthermore, the cloud is global, meaning that a solution built in Asia can be deployed anywhere else in the world, in just minutes. This scalability that AWS’s global infrastructure offers is essential to hypergrowth startups as they grow and expand into new international regions.”
With a greater understanding of what cloud solutions entail, startups would then take a more informed decision in choosing which solution is best suited for their operations. For Amiram Schacar, former Founder & CEO of SPOT.IO, the right solution can even foster and accelerate innovation.
“Startups should adopt a multi-cloud solution to leverage more innovation. For example, they may see a certain service provided by one provider that’s currently not available with the one you’re already familiar with,” stated Amiram.
AI and cloud systems can help spur further innovation
Our world is becoming increasingly digitised – for people, enterprises and governments alike. There are a host of different technological solutions available which are enabling organisations to innovate faster and become more efficient. AI and cloud computing are becoming effective solutions for companies to deploy for succeeding in innovation-led economy of today and the future.
Watch the full video recordings below.
Technopreneur Webinar Series #7: Making Sense of Artificial Intelligence
Technopreneur Webinar Series #8: Leveraging the Power of Cloud Services
Visit our Youtube channel for more Technopreneur videos.
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