The Changing Rules Of Tech Entrepreneurship

Since 1996, manufacturing jobs in the United States have decreased by a whopping 28%. Britain’s industrial story isn’t too rosy, either. Over the last couple of decades or so, high-growth tech companies have heralded financial growth abroad from the giants of Silicon Valley: Facebook and Google. Now, as we stand on the brink of an artificial intelligence revolution that’s making many jobs obsolete, we are grappling for an alternate socio-economic model that is sustainable.

Since technology will be at the forefront of this new era, let’s talk about good tech entrepreneurship.

What Makes A Good Tech Entrepreneur?

Tech companies make up almost one-quarter of the American stock-market index commonly known as the “S&P 500” in terms of market cap. Whether there is an impending tech bubble or not is still an ongoing debate. However, there is no doubting the fact that the tech sector is the driving force behind stock markets, not just in the United States but globally. Understandably, investors are pouring their dollars into the sector, which puts it at risk for becoming overvalued and eventually leading to a bust. On a related note, while it may be easy for you to attract investor money right now with a tech venture, it is important that you take sustainability into account. That’s the first task for a tech entrepreneur.

1. Impact is important for sustainability.

While competitive advantage may have been enough to sail a tech venture a few years back, the saturated market and the impending rise of AI mean you need a lot more to sustain. Today, that “lot more” is social impact. Now social impact does not necessarily equal a social venture. In fact, the term alludes to solving “real” problems that people will continue to value over a length of time.

2. Use “gamification” the right way.

Gamification first became a buzzword in 2010. Since then, many made failed attempts and successful attempts at it, the former making up a larger chunk. Tinder is arguably the best example of how to leverage gamification to make a valuable tech venture. Health Month is another example of gamification done right. Both give the promise of real, tangible results if people indulge in a fun “game” that doesn’t take much effort to play. Two things are paramount for gamification to be sustainable: The UX should be simple and engaging and there should be tangible rewards in place.

A lot of tech ventures, especially mobile apps, still rely on badges and trophies for gamification. If you are taking a similar approach, you are essentially creating scarcity where there is none, which is a problem. While you may see high engagement rates with such an approach, sustainability is always a question. That’s where the role of good tech entrepreneurship comes in. As a good tech entrepreneur, you must find out a better way to capitalize on gamification. For instance, if you have a music app, you could give away limited tickets to an upcoming concert in return for social shares. Similarly, if you have a food app, you could unlock a superstar chef’s recipe for a certain order value.

3. Look beyond gamification.

Sustainability is important in the current tech world, and while good gamification might be one way to achieve that, it is certainly not the only way. Solving an actual problem with your venture is also what good tech entrepreneurship is about. Let’s take the case of public services, for instance. Tech can play a huge role in making governance more transparent and accessible to people. However, in order to achieve that, public-service apps have to be more inclusive than your average mobile app that lets you book tickets or a table at a fancy neighborhood restaurant.

A public-service app has to be usable enough for the majority of the population, and user interfaces play a pivotal role in making that possible. During the design process, taking into account various subsets of people who might access the app can bring a large majority of people on the web to make governments more accessible and more responsible. VoiceMap HK by the Hong Kong government is a good example of a public-service app that takes accessibility into account. The free app gives and takes oral instructions, thus allowing the visually impaired to use Google Maps and similar apps.

4. Staying ahead of the curve is important, too.

While solving current problems is paramount for sustainability, spotting emerging trends or future problem areas is where the growth lies. For instance, while the growth of AI is almost inevitable now, you don’t necessarily have to compete with Google and Amazon to create the next big venture. Instead, you could focus on another likely outcome of the growth of AI and machine learning: How do people make money in a world that’s largely run by intelligent machines?

Even more so, if universal basic income is going to be the norm in most developed societies, how can tech play a role in ensuring that everybody gets their fair share? Likewise, if most of the global jobs become concentrated in third-world countries, what role can tech play in getting these job opportunities to deserving candidates irrespective of their geographical location?

On that last point, there is also the case of the gig economy likely becoming the norm, which presents the challenge of verified credentials, among other things. Imagine a tech startup that performs thorough background checks on freelancers so companies have a vetted pool of professionals to choose from. That’s solving a real problem and that’s where an opportunity lies for you to lead in the tech space.

Tech entrepreneurship, like any other kind of entrepreneurship, is about innovation. Still, it’s also about not letting someone beguile you into making the next big viral phenomenon only to fizzle out a few months later. In the age of social media, creating something viral is not that big a task. It is keeping that virality going for sustained growth that’s the real challenge.