Technology is no stranger to the life and work of an entrepreneur. As a female co-founder of Confi, a digital health start-up that relies on innovative and explicit use of different technologies to inspire confidence in sensitive health topics, I have certainly learned the value of using technology to my advantage. But as an entrepreneur hoping to make a social impact, there are certain goals that technology cannot help me meet and these limitations are essential to keep them in mind.
1. Genuine human connection
The most obvious, an entrepreneur’s goal of affiliating themselves with important contacts and expanding their circle of influence, relies on the ability to make genuine and meaningful connections with other human beings. Online technologies from listservs to LinkedIn have revolutionised what it means to network, but nothing can truly replace the importance of in-person conversations, meeting for coffee, and the invaluable brainstorming sessions that occur face-to-face with your team. Some might argue that video conferencing and email are time savers and could replace in-person connection, but lasting professional contacts come through an entrepreneur’s inclination towards social interaction.
2. Effective presentation
The business person’s age-old, number one goal of presenting their work to potential funders is contingent on their ability to effectively capture the attention of their audience, display pertinent information about their idea or business, and leave a lasting impression on those who might become potential collaborators down the road. While tech can be used as a tool in presentations and pitches, the difference here is that technology can never completely remove the need for an entrepreneur’s style or charm. Like with human connection, it is important that an idea has a mission, face, and soul behind it, not just a screen.
3. Making the best decision
Sadly, no algorithm or technology-centered solution will ever be fit to configure the absolute best decision that you can make for your company. While numbers and data can certainly influence and drive the work of entrepreneurs, making the best decision is sometimes-intuitive, but always difficult. Regardless of available case studies, financial projections, and analytics, the best decision is contingent on what you, as the entrepreneur, decides is right in the end. While subjective, this goal reminds entrepreneurs that technology can take the role of an assistant, but is not in the driver’s seat.
Technology has definitely opened up opportunities for connecting with those outside of immediate social circles and professional networks; however, current technologies do not have the capacity to completely replace the need for diverse teams or the ability to cultivate truly critical perspectives. Diversity is essential for any entrepreneur hoping to embrace the advantages of creating an inclusive lens through which to achieve their organisation’s mission. Additionally, there are ways in which many algorithms, apps, and other technologies have been coded or made that carry biases towards certain types of people and users. Accessibility also must be taken into account in an entrepreneur’s decision to use technology, so to fully embrace all types of users and experiences with their innovation.
5. User-centered design
As aforementioned in the preceding goals, technology can be an assistive tool, indeed, but it will never be able to replicate or provide the value of an old-fashioned focus group or an entrepreneur's need to craft user personas based on ground-level interactions with their users. Crowdsourcing platforms have attempted to achieve this by maximizing the responses and opinions that designers have access to; however, online mechanisms for garnering ideas and support only goes so far in painting the picture of how a user will use your product or service and how it will fulfill their needs. At Confi, for example, we fully embrace crowdsourcing of user opinions and expectations as a method of defining the visualizations and graphics on our site. And while it might seem as though our surveys have created a platform reflective of our user’s interests and needs, it is the individual conversations, on-the-ground interviews and focus groups, and the process of co-designing with our users that has validated our model and allowed our site to become a go-to resource for sensitive health topics.
Do not get me wrong; I love technology and love how it allows our startup to change lives in ways that never would have been possible otherwise. Acknowledging the goals that technology cannot meet is not meant to minimalize the time-saving and revolutionary goals technology assists entrepreneurs, like me, in accomplishing. Resisting the urge to find the tech hack or online solution to every problem, however, is important for fulfilling the core mission of being an entrepreneur: achieving your dreams of making an impact. No technology will ever be an adequate stand-in for the feeling of pure satisfaction and of feeling compelled to do more. The entirely unique and personal experience of being an entrepreneur cannot be hacked or solved, only embraced and celebrated.