By John Mason
Gone are the days when a company launched in its home market and then waited 10 years before expanding overseas.
Today, many entrepreneurs think globally from the start. What is driving this change and what does it mean for start-ups and the investors that back them?
For starters, consider the 6.8 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide. Many of these are in emerging markets where users are often connecting to the internet for the very first time via a mobile device. Next, think about the explosive growth of cloud computing, where data generated from these devices through transactions, interactions and social networking can be collected, collated, analyzed and exploited. For the first time ever, there exists a massive global communications platform, providing tremendous reach for even the most modest of companies wishing to expand their horizons – literally.
Cloud not only expands the reach of small and midsize businesses (SMBs). It levels the playing field too, helping them compete in a quickly changing business environment. As cloud technology moves into new realms of communications, content and applications, SMBs can spend less time and money managing IT and more time focused on their real priority – growth.
In other words, cloud and mobile have a symbiotic relationship. Cloud-based applications help businesses stay mobile, agile and responsive without sacrificing security or reliability, and even the smallest of companies can provide their customers with fast, around-the-clock access to important data.
This new level of mobility also enables new types of small, entrepreneurial businesses in new markets heretofore confined by geography, to establish a global presence.
There also are opportunities for educational entrepreneurs. Children in resource-challenged communities can now leapfrog outdated, distant – even non-existent – formal school systems, thanks to low-cost computers, tablets and smartphones.
More and more small farmers are today harnessing the power of mobile to help them connect to agricultural services, information and markets. With a few taps, farmers in remote areas can obtain information about the optimum time to plant their seeds, the right way to keep pests at bay, or the best market in which to sell their crops.
While this broad array of mobile applications and cloud services, always accessible and context-aware, provides many new and improved customer experiences, it also raises questions of security and data privacy. Too many smaller businesses focus only on the “front end” of the mobile experience – what the interface looks like, where the mobile app resides, for which mobile operating system it is available, etc. It is just as important to remember the “back end” of the experience – data security, privacy, and analytics.
By adopting a cloud and mobile worldview and considering the whole end-to-end experience, small business owners today can quickly be on their way to seizing new, global market opportunities.