As economic development professionals, we want fruitful entrepreneurship programs. Certainly it is a success story whenever a Dallas entrepreneur creates her own livelihood. Beyond that, we want companies started that create jobs for others in the community. We want new economic value created and the tax base strengthened. SourceLinkDallas will spend a considerable amount of time and effort to help lifestyle businesses and high-growth potential firms too. Over the next few weeks this blog will explore new business opportunities across the spectrum. Today we will look at ways technology has and will change business, especially service businesses.
There have been some dramatic and familiar ways that new businesses have used technology to change a timeless business process. Retail may be the most obvious example. Several retail product lines have nearly been replaced by online shopping. Music, video rentals and books were exclusively dealt with through brick and mortar outlets, until. According to Wikipedia, Ritmoteca.com offered customers 99 cent MP3 downloads starting in 1998. Netflix started delivering DVDs in 1999, and Amazon.com went online even earlier in 1995 selling books. These platforms for retailing have changed the way people consumed media products. With practically everything for sale online it is difficult to imagine new opportunities to do retail online. I suspect there are still many retail businesses that will be revised with various levels of internet delivery. Business models evolve, old companies grow complacent and customers often want a more intimate connection. Any of these can open the door to small businesses wanting to carve out a niche in retail. Even, locally focused retailers are using social media, for instance, to personalize their products to a local, and increasingly loyal customer base.
Retail is only a starting point when thinking about technology-based services. New tools are being developed that will have major impacts on professional service businesses too. Legal discovery has been a labor-intensive and expensive process. Large teams of junior attorneys or paralegals would pour through hundreds or thousands of pages of letters, emails and other documents to help piece together complex legal cases. In March of 2011, the New York Times ran a story about new software tools that can scan hundreds of thousands of pages of documents in a weekend and flag the most important ones. Then attorneys can focus on the few hundred that have the most direct bearing on the case. Law firms quoted in the article indicated that these tools could take the place of hundreds of junior level attorneys. There are similar data mining and big data problems in many industries. This type of automation certainly means fewer career prospects in some fields, but they represent business opportunities to the companies that can develop these tools and bring them to market.
There is a lot of popular attention focused on consumer-facing services like video games or social media platforms, but it may be in business services where the best opportunities exist. Dallas entrepreneurs are fortunate to be in such a diverse, business center. The local legal, accounting, consulting, advertising and IT industries are some of the most sophisticated and largest in the U.S. These companies represent potential customers for small firms that can solve business problems with technology.
These business solutions require teams that can bring industry knowledge together with technical acumen. Next week, we will highlight another set of small business opportunities, small scale, custom manufacturing.