Three ways startups can lay the groundwork for the digital future

Digital technology is already essential to most workplaces – and it’s set to become even more so. As we move into the future, today’s emerging tech will have matured and become integrated into our personal and professional lives in the way laptops did in the late 2000s. 

It’s easy to see technology like inteligência artificial (AI) and extended reality (XR) as lower priority compared to the day-to-day demands of running a business.  

But these cutting-edge developments are set to introduce entirely new industries, job roles and ways of working. Savvy startup founders who invest in this digital future now are the ones who will attract the best talent and stand out to investors, while others scramble to catch up.  

Here’s how you can prepare your startup for the future of work. 

Empower and connect your team 

Intel® Skills for Innovation Framework, a program designed to help educators prepare students with key competencies needed in the workplace of tomorrow, is just one of many resources that is shaping the modern workplace. In addition to key areas like data analytics and information security, there is huge potential in extended reality.  


Extended reality encompasses a few different types of technology: 

  • Augmented reality (AR), which combines interactive computer-generated content with the real world 

  • Virtual reality (VR), where users enter and can interact with a simulated environment 

  • Mixed reality (MR), which combines the real world and a computer-generated one, and in which physical and virtual objects can interact with each other 

 It may seem futuristic, but these technologies are more accessible than ever. We’re already seeing that capabilities enabling teams to work from anywhere are unlocking productivity. Employees can flourish in and outside of work thanks to improved work-life balance, while businesses of all sizes can hire the best people, unrestricted by geography. 

Since businesses were effectively forced to go remote-first overnight, plenty will already be used to real-time remote communication. But XR developments are promising to revolutionize connected working, inspired by the collaborative capabilities seen in other industries.  

Open-source coding platforms, for example, enable programmers anywhere in the world to access and improve software source codes. By doing so, the original authors can get new ideas to improve their software from experts they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to work with. 

Startups can use XR to allow individuals from inside and outside the business to interact with 3D models or collaborative design projects, wherever they are. Virtual meeting rooms can simulate a real environment, making interactions feel more personal and enabling teams to replicate actions they would do in person, like writing on a shared whiteboard. 

XR is also a great way to upskill your team. With XR, your employees can access immersive training that lets them gain practical experience as they learn, and test out new skills risk-free. 

Users would need a headset to unlock the full potential of these capabilities, but you wouldn’t need to buy an expensive bit of kit for everyone in the team to use in every meeting – one or two to use when XR adds the most value is plenty to reap the benefits. 

Enhance your offering 

It’s not just internal teams that can benefit when startups invest in their digital future. Integrating tools like XR into your operations can provide an enhanced customer experience, too.  

For example, fashion retailers can use virtual reality to create a showroom space for customers to explore from their own homes using their phone, computer or headset. Meanwhile, tech brands could set up on-site demonstrations using VR headsets for customers to interact with a digital model of the product.  

Interior and furniture brands are already making use of augmented reality. Tools like the Dulux Visualizer app or IKEA Place enable customers to simulate design and decor options in their own spaces.  

Whereas these tools may have seemed gimmicky when the technology was rudimentary, advancements have made them a cornerstone of marketing for these brands, boosting conversions, enabling upsell opportunities and facilitating a superior customer experience. 

Become AI-fluent 

With its vast potential, and new uses being developed every day, it’s impossible to talk about the workplace of the future without AI. Business leaders and employees alike will need to become proficient in its use to keep pace, with AI fluency understood to be one of the top five competencies that professionals will need to have in the next five years.  

AI literacy doesn’t just mean writing prompts that get the best outputs from tools like ChatGPT. It’s a skill that involves knowing how to work with AI for maximum effectiveness. 

Understanding its strength and limitations to know which tasks can be optimized by machine intelligence, and which are the best use of a human’s time, enables a collaborative rather than competitive AI-supported workplace.  

If you’re not already using AI in your startup, beginning to do so at a basic level is a good way to start building literacy.   

Identify some appropriate use cases for your business and build a considered strategy to implement them. This will introduce your team to working alongside AI, give them space to understand how to work with it, and establish it as a tool to help with their work – not a threat to job security. 

If you’re a forward-thinking startup already using AI, your next step should be to further upskill your team. By 2030, a deep understanding of human-machine partnerships will be what sets organizations and their workers apart, so making the investment now will lay an important foundation for your business to flourish later. 


Join DWEN and connect with women founders

Technology is evolving rapidly and there are more opportunities than ever to use cutting-edge capabilities in your startup – but you don’t have to figure it all out alone.

O Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) is a global community of women entrepreneurs, investors and advisors. As a DWEN member, you can share stories, learn from others, and access tailored resources to help your startup reach its maximum potential.

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