By Deanna Meador
Every year organizations around the world from the World Economic Forum to large consulting firms such as Deloitte and Accenture publish reports on the top emerging technologies that are poised to make an impact in the world over the next 3-5 years (additive manufacturing, intelligent automation, metaverse, 5G adoption, virtual try-on technology, and many more). Emerging technologies are empowering and could make potentially significant contributions across a wide range of existing and future industries. Science Direct identified five attributes of emerging technologies including:
Relatively Fast Growth
Uncertainty and Ambiguity
These are technologies that often have not yet been commercialized but have the potential to generate positive, substantial change, sometimes to the ways entire industries operate.
For people and companies to realize the value these technologies are poised to deliver, early testers and adopters are a necessity. To this point, the phrase, ‘no plan survives first contact with the enemy’ has inspired a similar saying in tech- ‘no technology survives the first encounter with the customer’. As a tech founder, you need those encounters with the customer to be early and often.
When Couture’s CEO works with aspiring entrepreneurs, the first step is always problem-focused customer discovery. Putting the product the founder has built or thinks they want to build out of their mind completely so they can open up to listen to what is really needed or missing in the market. The second wave of that discovery centers around solution-focused interviewing that involves getting the product, which could mean mockups, animations, prototypes, MVPs, etc., in front of potential customers. For emerging technology founders this second type of customer discovery can be tricky to navigate.
When Couture Technologies’ CEO was out doing this solution-focused work, she found that apparel brands wanted the fully completed, fully realized product with all the bells and whistles right then and there. Great evidence of product-market fit but not easy to get a potential customer to wait. When working on a B2B emerging technology, this means you need businesses to take a risk and come along on the journey with you. You have to build a partnership on each side. There are two keys I’ve learned over the last three years to make this successful.
Trust and Transparency Wins, Always - Unfortunately, founders of emerging technologies ‘sometimes get ahead of their skis’ and tout features they can’t deliver, at least not anytime soon (take a look back at our Fake It ‘Til You Make It blog post). This is not only detrimental to the founder and their company but can also set the emerging technology back several years. For founders, find that person or people within a company that you’d love to work with and bring them into your story. Build internal champions and work TOGETHER. Give realistic timelines and communicate when you are at risk of missing them.
For companies, don’t be afraid to take a risk when you find a good emerging technology partner. Emerging technologies are what will keep you innovative and ahead of your competitors. Some will fail but some will succeed more than you ever anticipated. Having a wait-and-see culture means you’ll always be behind the company that decides to take the leap.
Start Small while Learning Big - For emerging technology founders and those adopting their technology, find the way(s) to start small while learning big. With Couture’s emerging technology this meant integrating virtual try-on for a brand’s top buys or featured products before going full steam ahead and implementing for every garment a brand offers. This allowed for quick AB testing, rapid iteration, comfort and trust to build on both sides, and a stronger user experience. Having a company partner that embraces starting small can be all the difference between an emerging technology company folding or taking YEARS to bring an idea to life vs. being able to provide value for an entire industry in just a few short years.
Calculated risks on emerging technologies with good partners = a win! For Founders—don’t be afraid to set out there and build. For companies or consumers—don’t be afraid to try or test or adopt. Let’s push the envelope on what’s possible together!