Before you invest in Artificial Intelligence WATCH THIS

Are you thinking to invest in artificial intelligence or get into the data science domain? surely, there has been so much fuzz about it in recent years, big companies and small alike are increasingly investing in these technologies, so the obvious question should you invest now? 

In this article, I’m going to shed light on why should you start to consider investing in AI and how should you approach that. Obviously, this article is not meant for everyone but even if you are not in the IT field this article will highlight why business executives should pay attention to this and how it will help them in their digital transformation journeys. 

Alright, so let me begin by attempting to convince you putting your money, time, and effort into this investment. Let’s look at some numbers here

  • In 2015, a survey by Gartner showed only 10% reported that either they use AI or thinking about using it, while data shows that number has risen dramatically in 2019 to 37%
  • In 2019 the market for Artificial Intelligence was value to about $27B with projected growth to 10X by 2027
  • According to AI contribution to GDP in 2030, by region is expected to be 26% for China GDP 14.5% for north America and 12.5% for my home country

I hope this whet your appetite to know more about the investment in AI. For that I will share with you three things I believe essential for any investment considerations and more specifically so in advanced technologies.

Start a Learning Journey

You need to familiarise yourself with data science and advanced analytics. It’s so easy these day to find good courses online both free or paid. The learning is not just for the purpose of being data scientist but rather gives you understanding of the field you are investing in. Another very important topic you need to research is the problems that you think AI would be of great help. You need to envisage how the use of advanced technologies would really solve a real business problem. In other word, you need to be the digital advisor who uses his/her creativity to solve challenging problems. Remember learning is a journey not a destination. So keep on learning, experimenting and exploring new things 

Work in the Field 

If you can afford to work in a startup or international company do so to gain experience and get exposure to the market and access a large network of customers and therefore explore various challenges.

Surely sometimes, it may not be possible to get a job in this filed, However there are other means such as freelancing and open source communities that you can leverage.

It is very crucial to be equipped with both theoretical knowledge and practical applied experience that teach you what works and what does not.

Due Diligence

This step is perhaps discussed a lot and would vary depending on how you approach the investment. So if you are investing your money in a startup then you would want to look for few things.

  • The robustness of the idea, its viability to market, visibility and impact on business and society.
  • You need to look for the Founders’ past history and current competence and skills because after all they will be leading your investment 
  • Founders readiness of vision, clarity, go to the market and operational plans are very critical. It’s very important that you look for business models that offer resilience and flexibility that can also provide diversity rather than relying on one single product or idea because that could be risky
  • look for a startup that has the right team mixture, it’s like a recipe. Every details matter. Building a thriving culture that value customer empathy and have great values is essential for any business success
  • Check for Market tractions and current customers if any. Validate how will the business model attract new customers and most importantly how fast? Again I stress on the business model and its ability to organically grow in market size and consumption

On the other hand if you are investment your time, skills and energy by beginning a startup you then need to ask yourself five questions: 

  • Am I offering a unique value proposition that solve a problem for a large business segment and there is an urgent need at this time? 
  • Do I have the capability to implement this idea, on time, at budget and offer it on timely manner and acceptable price?
  • Am I building an evolving business model that can sustain changes in market and can easily pivote and tranform to different business models?
  • Am I able to build a thriving culture that attract talents, create shared values and goals? and above all, inspire them to make the impossible?
  • Do I have what it takes to attract customers and investors and be the face and the biggest seller of the company? 

These were the three tips I wanted to share with you today. AI is all about R&D so always look for startups that profoundly exert effort into the research and development because the process always involves trial and error and results only come after many many failed experiments.

Entrepreneurial University: How to Drive Private Sector Innovation?

Think with me! How many great research ideas, papers and projects conducted by university Professors and final year Students are now “on the shelf”? How many wasted business opportunities a company has missed by not having an innovation team or department? But wait, from where great ideas come in the first place? 

As someone who worked many years as a Digital Transformation advisor, I say with certainty, business innovation comes mostly from research. In fact, big companies do have enormous R&D teams and they spend billions of dollars on Research alone. An important question would then be how the private sector and particularly startups can follow the same path?

We at for example, work with university professors on research papers that represent “THE CORE” of our work. We firmly believe our success comes from working on the latest research in Data & AI combined with Business Innovation to create next-level products that can compete with technologically advanced offerings in the market. 

I would guess that you have been intrigued by the “Entrepreneurial University” term in the title. Did I get that right? I have always been captivated by the notion of working with universities to create entrepreneurial thinking, collaborate and solve the knowledge paradox between the academic and private worlds. In fact, this model is widely used by developed countries and considered the second source of funding for academic research in the US.

Finding Common Ground

Finding the common ground between academic researchers and private sectors can be difficult and a road full of hardship and that is mainly in my opinion due to the different mindset between sellers in private companies and scientists. Nevertheless, both parties recognize they need each other to reach their goals. So what is the secret to bridging the gap between the two fields?

The secret in my opinion is innovative thinking. Both fields can embrace innovative thinking and adopt a process. This process should serve as a “connector” between the two fields.

Private Companies Viewpoint

Private companies look for profitability and always measured by their ability to make money. Yes, there are other measures companies employ but at the very end, it is how much money they earned in a given period. So for simplicity, let say private companies do view the world from a money angle. Now, to earn that many companies must implement various strategies to better allocate resources and achieve their goals.

Depending on the company strategy and the type of products they make, traditional products are now very hard to sell. In fact, the consumer has become more sophisticated and demand new experience. Companies have no choice but to transform the way they offer business and continue to innovate. To do that, many have sought to establish an innovation department to start to ideate and bring new ideas.

It is unequivocal that basing products on the latest in research would mostly position the companies’ products as leading in the industry assuming proper marketing and sales strategies. Therefore, working with research institutes would bring great opportunity to business. Realizing its significance, private companies can work with researchers and ensure the result is aligned with the company strategy and the final product is consumer-friendly.

Researchers Viewpoint 

Researchers, on the other hand, focus on the quality of research and the outcomes. Although researchers do consider the practicality of the proposed solutions, however, they don’t tend to focus on the sell-ability of the solutions. It is immensely important that researchers are not distracted by the sales or business matters so they are focus on the quality of outcomes.

Having a clear process will certainly help both researchers and private companies collaborate and produce tangible outcomes without compromise from any party.

Process To Adopt 

Having an independent regulatory body that helps shape the regulation and guidelines that govern the relationship and ensure ethics, seemly and proper conducts are in place is of great value. There is an active relationship today between researchers and the private sector, however, this relationship is not really bound by a clear process that leaves no ambiguity. The below is a proposed process; rather than a simple one; that ensure a consistent relationship:

No alt text provided for this image

Influence & Impartiality

Although the idea of Industry Research Funding seems effectively inciting to the development of research. However, there are growing concerns over the fair-mindedness of research, ethics and impartiality of both research topics and researchers. This has inclined countries to develop guidelines and governance models to help ensure the adherence to properly checked procedures to help avoid conflict of interest and keep preserving the lofty goals of scientific research while enabling the private sector to both contribute to research advancement and help bring innovation to business and consumers.

Financial Model

Perhaps, having a financial model that ensures both researchers and research institutes are compensated well is really needed. The financial model will also incentivize the private sector to invest. The cost of establishing an innovation team at the company would be higher compared to offering to compensate a researcher in a university. Furthermore, the industry research fund will help researchers produce more results. Not only that but also, it enables researchers for example access enterprise-level tools and resources. For instance, researchers can access data annotators in a company or hire someone easily via the company purchase department. They can also build appealing UI that help deliver the solution and show its capability in a better and well-presented UI.

Regulations & Guidelines

The need for setting up regulations and guidelines to govern the relationship between the private sector and the academic research institutes is unequivocally important to ensure the sustainability of the relationship and the yielded outcomes that contribute to business innovation and the increase in the research activities.

The key highlights that need to be taking into consideration whilst planning and building such guidelines and governance models need to ensure:

  • Clear guidelines for Intellectual Property and Patents ownership. This also should include any artefacts such as code and datasets
  • Clear guidelines for future development and usage of the research outcomes. This should also include any packaging and repackaging of any solution.
  • Clear guidelines on the licenses scheme and distribution.
  • Clear guidelines on the compensation scheme and governance model to ensure fairness and avoid any abuse.
  • Clear guidelines on procedures to ensure research fairness as well as correctness and preserve the ethics of research conducts.

It’s also worth it that government need to build a framework that helps both the academic and private sectors collaborate without worrying about complex engagement models and fear of preaching any law. That also should include creating a body that oversights the relationship and ensures adherence to the herewith in framework.

I hope you found this article useful and enriching and would be delighted to receive your kind comments and feedback. Also, please do share your experience if you are an academic and had the chance to work with the private sector.