What should small business owners know about data and AI?

Founders are faced with an endless stream of messages about data and artificial intelligence: Vendor marketing, investor inquiries, and headlines suggesting many other companies are pursuing their own data and AI efforts. “I am inundated with Marketing Tech AI,” said Christina Bellman, founder and CEO of LEVO, an IV machine company based in Colorado. “To be wild

The first thing to understand is why you always hear about data and AI in the same breath. AI is an algorithm, which at its most basic level is a process that takes in one and executes the other. But like a car that can’t leave the garage without fuel, machine learning algorithms need large amounts of data to fuel their work; in turn, just as fuel is extracted and processed to become usable for your vehicle, much of the most valuable data is derived from machine learning processes. Bottom line: one doesn’t make much sense without the other. So just know that when we talk about AI in this series, the implication is that there’s a collection of data somewhere to feed the output.

AI is already used by many companies (56%, according to one study) to gain a competitive advantage by reducing manual work often done by highly paid talent, providing customers with more robust insights, or expanding product offerings. Chances are, you’re already buying AI in one form or another, as a business owner or certainly as a consumer — from your credit card fraud detection to your investment bank’s stock-buying algorithms to features built into your productivity software.

But what do founders actually need to know about AI for their business?

Glad you asked. I’m a data scientist, among other things, and my profession is one of many that regularly works with AI, so I spend a lot of time talking to other data scientists, as well as founders and small business owners. I’m also a journalist and in that role I’ve noticed a significant gap in conversations between the technical professionals who implement solutions and the business leaders who need them. Over the coming weeks and months, in this series on AI for small businesses, I’ll be taking an in-depth look at what founders want (and need) to know. Your feedback is welcome. You can contact me on Twitter with questions or thoughts; you can also use the handy form we have included below. Here are some of the questions we will answer:

  • Why is AI important to your business?
  • What can AI do – and what can’t?
  • How does AI actually work?
  • When is AI more useful than the tools you already use?
  • What questions should you ask when considering an AI product or service?
  • How do you spot false claims about AI?
  • What is the right price for AI products and services?
  • How do you know for sure that the AI ​​is doing its job properly?
  • What are the biggest pitfalls business leaders face when hiring data and AI teams?
  • What kinds of regulatory, legal and ethical concerns should you consider?

You have the opportunity to shape this series. Let us know what other questions you have, and we’ll give you answers.

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