5 Machine Learning Areas That Can Accelerate Your Entrepreneur Journey

Machine learning (ML) is a discipline under the broader space of Artificial Intelligence (AI). ML is one of the most talked and sorted fields in the IT space. Everyone and every organization want to take advantage of the recent advancements in this field.

ML if explained in simple words, is a set of statistical algorithms put together to create a predicting model. ML predicts the future outcome by understanding the past data. ML can be based on supervised, non-supervised or reward-based models. And outcome (prediction) can be based on classification (e.g. true or false or good or bad or ugly) or continuous (series or range base) and clustering.

There are many ML definitions available on the internet, so I am not writing all of them here.

There are many applications of ML. E.g. weather forecast, video prediction (e.g. in Netflix), shopping patterns (e.g. Amazon), marketing response, etc. The list is literally endless and hence, let us only talk about the top 5 potential problems that ML can solve which has the potential to accelerate the Entrepreneur journey. 

Predicting / Validating the:
1.    Market segment – As you get into the market with your next big idea, you would like to understand and predict how the market would react to it. You can always apply human intelligence and make a logical prediction. But depending on the idea or business you are wanting to get into, there would be many parameters that dictate the outcome. It would be a mammoth task to consider all applicable features from a huge set of historical data. But by applying the right multi-class classification algorithm(s) to create a model, you can predict whether the response from the potential market segment will be good or bad or neutral. You can also predict size (range) using continuous / regression algorithms.
2.    Target demographics - It is important to understand and anticipate who, where and what your target personas (audience) wants. Predicting the right age range, gender, their likes and dislikes, preferences, geographical locations, etc. will play a role in the success or failure of the adaptability of your next big idea. And yes, while one can apply common sense to predict, but the scientific approach applied using ML will allow you to see many more potential outcomes and will consider the historical data in fullest.
3.    Marketing campaign outcome – Marketing the service offering or your product is super important. And you may spend a substantial amount on various online or offline marketing campaigns. But you can sense the benefit or return overspend only post or during the campaigns. But wouldn’t it make more sense if you are upfront able to predict the outcome of the campaign? You can do so by applying classification algorithm-based models to sense if reach or response will be high or low. You can employ a regression-based model to predict the response range (or whether lead conversion). You can then accordingly tweak the parameters of the campaign and upfront predict whether the response or probability of lead conversion is improving or not.
4.    Customer servicing – Need of the modern hour is to be proactive than reactive when it comes to servicing the customers. And if you would like to be proactive, predicting their response or reactions is key. We can employ ML to understand based on the historical data how typically a customer would react. While every customer is different but there are many common aspects where their expectations or reactions are similar. Hence, based on the varied expectations and service factors, one can predict a customer’s reaction. This edge provides you with an option to be proactive than reactive.  
5.    Core business levers – Everyone of us will have different idea and market. Depending on the business you are into, predicting the functional outcome can be also carried out using ML. These ideas are business or problem case centric. The core problem that you are trying to solve would be core to the ML model.

One common issue you will face is around quality data availability. Not only you need enough (quantity) data to train your model, but the spread of feature values and labels should be good. If not, the model may turn out to be biased over one outcome than the other.

5 Technologies Where a Start-up Should Spend Money

As a founder of a start-up (entrepreneur) or a freelancer, you are always mindful of optimal utilisation of the capital. You are extremely careful about the expenditures as it is a limited resource.
Therefore, there is a tendency to avail free services or tools as much as possible. And the money saved can be utilised either somewhere else or it can help you to sustain for an extended period.
Limiting the expenditure is not a bad idea, but it comes with its challenges and limitations. There are certain areas which are more important than others, and you should not shy away from spending some bucks for it.
But for today, let us focus on those areas that need right fit technologies, where it is worth spending some money. Following lists down top 5 tech space where a start-up should spend money:
1. Online Presence - Needless to say, that every start-up would need a website. And you should strictly avoid using free web hosting sites. Spend money in buying the domain name & space. If you are familiar with website design or DIY website platforms, you can save some money but make sure the site has the professional user experience. A web site is the online face of your start-up, and hence you shouldn't shy away from spending a few bucks if need be. Apart from having a good website, you should have the right email, web-meetings and social presence. While one can argue that all of these can be picked up for free or freemium, IMO it is worthwhile spending some money in buying the domain, space, email address, online conference & communication services, mobile platform (if need be) and digital marketing.
2. Accounting & Budget management - As your work grows, it becomes essential to manage the inflow and outflow of revenue. You might be taking services from vendors, maintaining the inventory, issuing credits, taking credits (loans), issuing payments and possibly paying salaries. While, your core work maybe not so dull as managing P&L or maintaining the books, but you should not ignore this crucial aspect. Any mistakes in keeping the budget or accounts can put you in financial or even legal issues. Therefore, buying the right software to manage the accounts and budget is super important. Of course, there are free software's that can do the job for you at this point of time (the infancy stage), but as the business grows you may not be able to use all the features or will have some limitations.
3. Asset & Workflow management - Whether the work you are offering is in the field of IT or not, invariably, you would be creating a digital footprint. It could be in the form of emails, documents, presentations, excels, raw files (created by software such as Tally or others), etc. And making sure that these assets are stored securely and safely is vital. Further, your work's workflow can be automated or can be streamlined if managed using the right software. It makes your daily activities run smooth and follows the process which will reward the work in the long run. Investing in these software's and processes is like insurance. You may never see the value unless something breaks.
4. Customer Servicing - No business or work can grow if your customers are unhappy. And for right customer servicing, you would need the help of proper tools and processes. Whether it is CRM or Support Emails or Social Platforms, technology can help a lot. Investing in the right CRM that can handle campaigns, bulk emails, reminders, notices, marketing reach or conducting surveys can play a differentiator role. With evident applicability of machine learning and artificial intelligence & chat-bots, customer service can become much more personalised and specific. Technology-aided customer services ensure timely address of the needs, instead of being reactive. Therefore, given this being the most sensitive aspect of the business it is worth spending some money in picking the right technology.
5. Original software - I don't mean to put this point as the last point in my list because it is least significant. Instead, this is one of the most crucial aspects. While you may also not like your work or offering being copied or pirated, we should also not rely on pirated software's. I know you can save a lot of money in doing so, but is it worth? Not only the software's you are using can be unstable & has no guarantee/warranty but would possibly get no updates. Further, it is illegal to be using pirated software's. Why would you want to risk your brand for such cheap tricks? Use limited software's if need be, but make sure you use only the licensed ones. You would be risking all your work and information on pirated software's which can crash one day putting your entire business in jeopardy. And believe me, this is not a hypothetical "what if" scenario but it is a real one.

I am not asking to buy the fanciest or enterprise-class software or technology tools as you begin your entrepreneurial journey. You can always plan the spend and increase the spend as work demands but stay mindful of the above technologies where if not from day one, you may have to spend eventually.

Also, you can pick the right software's that are freemium to start. And as your work grows and realises the need, you can subscribe/buy full edition by paying. Make sure that any technology tool you adopt should be available in the form of a mobile app. It will help in increasing your efficiency, servicing availability and productivity.

This way, you are not risking by putting a lot of money from day one but are doing only when the need arises. But, make sure that you pick the right software or technology that supports well when you grow and scale.

5 Steps That Can Elevate You From A Freelancer To An Entrepreneur

Gone are the days when the first choice of preference was to acquire a 'decent' job. In today's world aspiration is to work for oneself. A quick search on Wikipedia will tell us that if a person who is self-employed and is not necessarily committed to a particular employer long-term is called a freelancer. But if a person is independent isn't he/she also an entrepreneur?

I am not going to talk about the differences between a freelancer and an entrepreneur but let us talk about what it takes (in five steps) to elevate oneself from a freelancer to an entrepreneur.

However, it is important to suggest that beyond the perception that potential customers will carry on hearing you were a freelancer v/s an entrepreneur, the critical differentiator is the ability to scale.

You can scale organically (growth fuelled by acquiring more customers) or inorganically (growth powered by increasing productivity). An entrepreneur typically exhibits both these qualities (unlike a freelancer). Adapting the following notions can allow this elevation.

1.   Personify the online presence - You should for sure have social media presence (e.g. Facebook page, Instagram business account, Twitter handler, etc.) but the relevance of an official website and email address is still essential. The site helps in conveying the vision and mission of the work plus helps in showcasing testimonials, offerings and ways to get connected. You should have an email with the same domain name as that of the website (and not something like Gmail or Yahoo or Hotmail). Digital presence is super essential irrespective to the nature of the job.

2.   Have virtual or physical appearance - Apart from the online presence, it is vital to have physical or a virtual address where the correspondence can happen. It is not to mandatory have this from day one, but as the business grows, it becomes essential. You can opt for shared workspace, virtual or on-demand meeting rooms. Online (audio and video) conferences play an important role, and you should not be hesitant in spending some bucks in buying a virtual meeting space. 

3.   Automate - As work increases, repetitive tasks will also increase. Look out for opportunities on how to automate tasks such as sending newsletters, payment reminders, invoices, greetings or necessary updates. Leverage good CRM, invoicing & accounting systems, appointment management and contact management. Automation will not only help to improve productivity but will also help in bringing a lot of regularity in repetitive tasks and give you a professional outlook.

4.   Secure storage - As your work increases, the digital footprint also increases. Depending upon the nature of your work, assets such as Documents, Excel, PowerPoint Presentations, PSD, CAD, etc. will grow and become the centre of the action. Any misadventure with these files on your local laptop/desktop can prove extremely damaging (to revenue and image). Therefore, you should secure important assets and make sure you have a backup. Thus, beyond storing them on local disks make sure you have storage space on the cloud making your assets immutable and always available.

5.   Register your company - Although this is the 5th point in the list, it's one of the most crucial steps. You should have the name of the organisation register using the most straightforward option under the proprietary company register act. You have to fill an online application and get shop-act done in the name of the company. It not only makes your company an official entity but also allows you to accept payment (online or cheque or NEFT) under the name of the company (and not under your name). It also enables you to claim all tax benefits that a company is entitled to (e.g. travel, stationery, electricity, phone bills). Having a legal entity gives a forward-looking impression to the customer.

The Difference Is Often With The Perception