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How These 9 Startups are Thriving in the Covid-19 Economy

startups in covid-19

The year 2020 will forever be known as “devastating to all businesses,” but the year has been especially brutal to industries such as hospitality, travel, retail, and restaurants. However, companies in other sectors, such as health and technology, have taken off. Here is how nine startups are thriving in the Covid-19 economy.

These 9 startup companies found ways to grow their business by making needed adjustments and serving the community during the pandemic.

1. Nurx

Nurx is a disruptor in the telehealth industry. It connects patients with providers virtually for consultations and prescriptions for a variety of health services, including birth control, PrEP, HPV tests and migraine treatment.

The company offers patients consulting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via text. After paying the initial consultation fee, patients can message providers for a full year. Because patients don’t have to schedule in-person doctor visits to get care, Nurx is both a more convenient and safer option during the pandemic.

With telemedicine surging in 2020, and an additional $22.5 million in new financing, the company is positioned for long-term stability and growth. While telehealth is increasing overall, its niche serving women’s intimate health issues gives Nurx a competitive advantage.

The company has the opportunity to continue expanding the services it provides and to grow beyond the 29 states in which it is currently licensed.

2. Databricks

Databricks uses open source coding for data engineering, collaborative data analysis, and machine learning. Its platform offers clients:

  • Options tailored to their individual needs
  • Reduced supply chain operation costs
  • Web content creation based on visitor activity

The company has raised $400 million in new funding and expanded its customer dashboard capabilities by buying Redash. LinkedIn ranks Databricks as the No. 5 U.S. startup company for 2020.

Databricks’ most significant strength is its ability to make complex data analysis easier to conduct. The information gained from these analyses helps its customers save money and offer better service to their customers.

3. Verkada

Verkada provides enterprise building security with both hardware and cloud-based software. Its controls allow users to access its command platform from any browser with an internet connection. Integrated cameras and environmental sensors enable clients to detect changes happening across their locations and take data-driven action.

As the pandemic spread, Verkada adapted its system to highlight when and where crowds were beginning to form. This allows clients to disperse large groups and maintain social distancing. The company also created a heat map of high-traffic areas so clients could mark those for deeper and more frequent cleaning.

Verkada raised $80 million and doubled its workforce this year. The company’s advantage is its ability to see new opportunities and pivot to meet customer needs in new ways.

4. Nuro

Nuro’s goal is to use robotics and artificial intelligence to take over delivery orders.

The company launched the first self-driving delivery car in 2016. It initially partnered with Kroger in Phoenix to deliver groceries to such customers as:

  • Parents with young children
  • The elderly
  • Individuals who don’t drive

During the pandemic, Nuro has also used its driverless fleet to deliver medical supplies to Covid-19 patients in California.

On November 9, 2020, it announced a Series C funding round of $500 million. Nuro’s greatest strength is its bold ambition to bring robotics technology to Americans’ everyday lives, during the pandemic and beyond.

5. Movandi

Movandi is achieving success with innovative technologies that make 5G more widely available. Its 5G repeaters are designed to improve 5G coverage in public spaces and buildings in ways that expand the signal around corners.

Movandi’s achievements have resulted in the following awards this year:

  • AspenCore World Electronics Achievement Awards Startup of the Year 2020
  • CNBC Disruptor 50 for 2020
  • Orange County Business Journal Innovator of the Year 2020

Covid-19 has shown that the need for robust broadband is greater than ever. By finding new ways to overcome earlier technologies’ line-of-sight challenges, Movandi is making a signal contribution (pun intended).

6. FullStory

FullStory is a provider of analytical software that enables its clients to improve their websites. The company employs heat maps and other tracking tools to discover where visitors go on a website. Its software also helps pinpoint where retail sites lose customers in the sales funnel.

FullStory’s software is so effective that one client gained $5.63 million in benefits (increased conversion rates, improved error resolution, etc.) over three years. The result was a 411% return on investment.

LinkedIn ranked FullStory one of the top startups of 2020. The company quadrupled its workforce between 2017-19 and has raised $67 million in funding since its inception.

Allowing its clients to detect pandemic-driven consumer behavior changes helps them respond rapidly and effectively to these shifts. The quality of FullStory’s service to its clients provides a benchmark to copy.

7. Attentive

Attentive is a marketing and advertising company that uses real-time behavioral data to target customers and convert sales. Over 2,000 businesses currently use Attentive’s messaging platform to drive sales.

The company recently raised $230 million in Series D investments and has grown to over 400 full-time employees.

Attentive’s most significant strength is its consistent performance over time and deep client base. The company succeeds because its messaging platform helps its clients reach their own customers so effectively.

8. Modern Health

Modern Health is a digital benefits platform that provides mental health support for its clients’ employees. The company uses virtual visits and text messages to connect employees to certified coaches and licensed therapists.

During the pandemic, the company began offering free mental health resources, including live sessions with its network therapists, to the public at large. Its goal was to help the community as a whole get through this challenging year.

Like other top-performing startups in telehealth, Modern Health’s competitive advantage lies in finding its niche: in this case, mental health. It has raised over $42 million in venture funding and has been named to LinkedIn’s list of top startups for 2020.

9. FIG

FIG was founded as an alternative to traditional agency marketing. Its goal is to be the storytellers of the information age.

Among its honors, FIG has been:

  • Named to the Inc. 5000 in 2019 and 2020
  • Listed on Ad Age’s A-list of standout agencies for 2018, 2019, and 2020
  • Designated one of LinkedIn’s top 50 startups for 2020

The company has achieved a three-year revenue growth of 150%. FIG is an inspired leadership story of how connecting with people on an emotional level can drive success.

In 2020, many startups floundered due to the ultimate “beyond their controlâ€� circumstances — The Global Coronavirus Epidemic.

The startups listed here are thriving despite the pandemic and ensuing recession.

These companies are succeeding by finding niche specialties, excelling through customer and community service, and adjusting their offerings to help the community during trying times.

Image Credit: ketut subiyanto; pexels

The post How These 9 Startups are Thriving in the Covid-19 Economy appeared first on ReadWrite.

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AI Analysis Digital Strategy Marketing Startups

How to Use AI to Create a Data-Driven Digital Marketing Strategy for Your Startup

ai digital marketing

When you’re growing your startup, there are countless things to consider – from product design to hiring your team. One of the most crucial aspects, though, is digital marketing.

No matter how amazing your product, you’ve got to get the word out to create an audience for it. This is where digital marketing comes in. And AI is rapidly gaining ground here. 

It’s an open secret that AI is transforming almost every aspect of our lives. This includes marketing strategies. In today’s business world, harnessing AI is essential to keep up with competitors or even get a step ahead. 

This article is for you if you’re working on setting up a digital marketing strategy for your startup. It outlines what data-driven digital marketing is, where AI comes into play, and how you can make the best use of this technology’s potential. With what you’ll learn here, your startup’s digital marketing strategy can excel from the beginning. 

What is a Data-Driven Digital Marketing Strategy? 

The biggest mistake you can make in digital marketing is to base your strategy solely on assumptions. Assumptions about your product, your performance, or your target audience can end in disaster. 

With a data-driven strategy, you gather and analyze as much information as possible. Then, you base your decisions on these quantitative insights. 

Building a digital marketing strategy from scratch involves four steps, with or without AI involvement.

1 – Market Research 

First off, thoroughly investigate your audience and your competitors. 

Find out who your customers are and where their interests lie. 

Then, learn what you can from your competitors. Which audiences do they target? What are their marketing strategies? Which messages of theirs resonate with customers?

2 – Drawing Up a Buyer Journey 

When a potential customer first sees your product, they won’t instantly buy it. Not even if you have the world’s best marketing strategy. 

Broadly, customers go through three phases in their buyer journey. First, they become aware of your product and its advantages. How does it benefit them? What problems could it solve? Then, in the consideration stage, they compare alternative solutions. Finally, they decide to go with your solution – or not. 

When you draft a digital marketing strategy, figure out how to optimize this journey.

3 – Choose the Right Digital Marketing Channels 

Next, you have to decide which marketing channels to use. Typically, this includes content, email, and social media marketing. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) also factor into it. 

4 – Launch, Analyze, and Refine 

Finally, you can launch your digital marketing strategy. Consider having a try-out phase. When you do put your finished digital marketing plan into action, keep a close eye on performance and make adjustments as you go along. 

How Does AI Factor Into It? 

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have massive potential for data-driven digital marketing. They excel at rapidly gathering and processing vast amounts of data. This means they can offer almost instant insights into complex realities. 

Another bonus: You can use AI and ML to automate processes. Tedious tasks like content research no longer need to bog down your marketing team. Algorithms can take care of these tasks faster and with more in-depth results. 

Here’s a detailed guide on how to leverage AI and ML during every step of creating a data-driven digital marketing strategy.  

Get to Know Your Customers With AI 

First, figure out who your customers are and what they want. AI can help you by finding patterns at macro-scales and providing actionable insights. 

You can use AI pattern recognition to analyze the data you’ve bought from market research providers. 

Alternatively, you can deploy algorithms to pull enormous amounts of data from social media or discussion forums. Using natural language processing, algorithms can sift through countless posts, reviews, and articles.

The goal is to run a sentiment analysis. With this AI tool, you’ll be able to identify the major questions, trends, and gaps related to products like yours. It will also make it easier to pinpoint your audience’s demographic details. 

Suppose you’re running surveys or focus groups to get a more in-depth understanding of your potential customers. In that case, AI and ML will help you make sense of feedback. Using voice recognition, it can even transcribe and analyze the results of oral discussions. 

Use AI Tools for Competitor Research 

In parallel, you can use AI-driven tools to give you an edge in competitor market research. 

Use these tools to track competitors on social media and find out what their strategies are. Get statistics on posting frequencies, types of posts, and identify high-performing content. Gather insights into their followers’ demographics. Figure out how these followers interact with the brand through comments, shares, and likes. 

AI-based platforms can also help you reverse-engineer your competitors’ website analytics. Once you launch your own website, keeping a close eye on page traffic and bounce rates will be crucial. Before you get there, though, check out what your rivals are up to. Think of it like peeking over your friends’ shoulders during a math test. Analyze what they’re doing, then do it better. 

Also, AI and ML can mine your competitors’ link profiles. Having links to your website on other pages is a crucial factor for high rankings. That’s because search engines see such links as proof of trustworthiness and authority. By understanding which pages link your chief rivals, you can draft a strategy to stay competitive.

Set Up an AI-Optimized Buyer Journey 

When you envision your customers’ buyer journey, know that you can use AI at every turn to improve their experience. 

In fact, an outstanding user experience (UX) largely depends on AI. Machine learning algorithms can provide every customer with a personalized experience. From the first time someone comes in touch with your brand, your AI will keep tabs on them. It will identify which stage of the buyer journey they are at. Which aspects of your product interest them? What problems are they aiming to solve? 

These insights will then curate website content, adjust paid ads, or send personalized recommendations. If you use AI for nothing else, use it for personalization. Statistics show that 91% of customers are more likely to shop with brands that tailor content and communication to their interests. 

AI can also improve customer service, another critical element of the buyer journey. Especially during the comparison and decision phase, swift customer support can be the clinch. AI can help in the form of chatbots that answer routine questions and auto-generated email responses. This will free up your team to respond to complex or urgent queries. 

Harness AI for Content Marketing

Creating the right content has become crucial to digital marketing. Search engines reward comprehensiveness and high information value and penalize superficial, spammy posts and articles. 

AI can help you to produce high-quality content that will drive organic traffic to your website. 

Based on your target audience’s interests and your competitor’s performance, AI tools can generate content ideas. They will tell exactly which topics resonate with potential customers. 

To go further, deploy AI-driven tools to create content profiles. When writing any piece of content, research is the most tedious part. It can take hours to go through similar blog posts and analyze how they performed. 

AI will take this load off your back. The right tools can scan through all existing articles and posts on any subject. They will then tell you how to approach the topic, structure your content, and which gaps other articles left for you to improve on. 

More directly, AI can improve the quality of your writing. Deep-learning algorithms will polish your grammar and improve your vocabulary. 

Leverage AI Tools for Social Media 

Tools based on AI and ML can boost your social media performance. 

They will help you analyze past performance to pinpoint the right content to post. On a larger scale, they can help you draft a messaging strategy. One size does not fit all: You have to tailor your brand voice to different platforms. Overall, this will help you develop a social media strategy for maximum effect and reach on each channel.

Also, you can automate processes like analytics. Gain cross-platform insights by having your AI assistant regularly deliver comprehensive reports. 

Take Email Marketing to the Next Level With AI  

When you’re starting out with email marketing, you might be tempted to default to Mailchimp and then focus exclusively on building an email list. Instead, carefully check out the various AI and ML tools that Mailchimp alternatives (appsumodotcom) offer. These tools can reduce the time and money you have to invest and increase your ROI. Building an email list is important, but no longer everything. 

The right email marketing platform will offer AI and ML tools to increase email personalization for every single sub-group in your target audience. They will also offer analytical insights for data-driven email marketing. You’ll be able to check the effectiveness of different subject lines, and A/B test different newsletter layouts. Solid AI tools also help you increase your campaigns’ deliverability by optimizing send times and making sure your email list is clean.

Boost Your SEO Using AI 

When you think of digital marketing, chances are that Search Engine Optimization – SEO – tops your list of priorities. SEO has been key for years, and it should be an integral part of drawing up your digital strategy. 

Luckily, AI can give you a serious leg up. 

It’s important to know that search engines themselves use AI and ML algorithms. RankBrain, for example, is Google’s AI search algorithm. To get these algorithms to rank your site highly, using AI yourself is a must. 

To begin with, use AI to optimize your keyword research process. Deciding on the right keywords to target is fundamental for your SEO strategy. In 2020, trends like Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) have gained momentum. AI-driven keyword research tools are an asset in harnessing these trends. 

You can also use AI to optimize your content for voice search. It’s estimated that 50% of searches this year will be voice-based. These voice searches use a natural language processing AI. Making sure that your content is compatible with them will improve your rankings.

Further AI applications in SEO are having an algorithm check how you appear in local searches, using it for A/B testing, and to optimize your site’s technical SEO. 

Optimize Paid Marketing with AI 

Finally, using the right AI tools can give a major boost to your SEM performance. As in other areas of marketing, AI helps you target the right audience and personalize content. In terms of analytics, it can show you the bigger picture. 

To be more specific, AI will also keep track of all your SEM metrics for you – from CTR (Click-Through-Rate) and CPA (Cost Per Action) to CPC (Cost Per Click). You can have periodic summary reports delivered and keep an overview of the success of different marketing campaigns. 

Conclusion 

Integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning into your digital marketing strategy from the get-go will give you a valuable advantage. It will help you base your marketing approach on data insights, rather than assumptions. 

AI now permeates every aspect of digital marketing. Setting up data-driven strategies and feedback loops is something to do sooner rather than later. 

Use AI-driven tools to gather and analyze data for market research. Make them part of your buyer journey. Harness them for content, social media, and email marketing, as well as SEO and SEM. 

Altogether, this integration of AI and ML will give your startup an edge from the start – and set you up on the path to success. 

The post How to Use AI to Create a Data-Driven Digital Marketing Strategy for Your Startup appeared first on ReadWrite.

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Why the H-1B Visa Freeze Puts the Tech Sector in Jeopardy

H-1B visa freeze

On June 22, President Trump signed an executive order temporarily suspending visas like H-1Bs. The ban seeks to ensure that there are open positions for American workers, citing COVID-related job losses. Without H-1B visa holders, though, the U.S. tech industry could face some considerable new challenges.

An H-1B is a work visa for workers in specialty fields like IT, science, and medicine. As a non-immigrant visa, it goes to people who aren’t U.S. residents but want to stay in the country temporarily. Before the ban, the U.S. would give out a limited number of H-1Bs a year, but now, they won’t issue until 2021.

Supporters of the ban point towards the unemployment rate, which neared 15% in April. Supposedly, suspending work visas would help keep jobs open for Americans who lost their jobs. That’s a reasonable cause, but this visa freeze may do more harm than good for the tech industry.

America’s Tech Talent Deficit

The U.S. has dealt with a tech talent shortage long before the pandemic hit. In the past few years, the technology industry has boomed, but the number of qualified workers hasn’t kept up. There’s too much demand for American workers to fill all of the open tech positions.

Mehul Patel, CEO of tech recruiter Hired, explains how every company is a tech company in today’s world. Even if a business doesn’t design or build technology, it needs IT workers to function. Technology has become inseparable from all kinds of businesses, leading to a massive demand for tech workers.

As of late 2019, there were roughly 918,000 unfilled IT positions among American employers. Fewer than 70,000 people graduate with a computer science degree each year, leaving a considerable gap even if every graduate got an IT job. Even if workers took every available H-1B visa a year, it wouldn’t be enough to fill this skills gap.

Before the ban, the U.S. only issued 85,000 H-1Bs a year. This visa program helps tech companies account for the talent deficit, but not entirely. Even with the H-1B program in full force, there would still be tech jobs available for American workers.

The Tech Industry’s Reliance on H-1B Visa Holders

Given the skills gap, banning H-1Bs won’t impact on the number of available tech jobs much. Not only would it be ineffective in improving job availability, but it could go so far as to damage the industry. Since the tech sector has such a considerable talent shortage, it’s come to rely on the H-1B program.

More H-1B visas go to workers in the tech industry than any other sector. In 2017, Amazon alone hired 2,500 H-1B holders, and the other top H-1B hirers were all tech companies. Losing these workers means that the nation’s tech businesses would lose a substantial part of their workforce.

At current levels, the U.S. isn’t producing enough qualified tech workers to sustain the industry’s astronomical growth. Tech companies have embraced H-1B workers because it helps them make up for this gap. Since the pandemic has contributed even more to tech’s growth, businesses need these workers more than ever.

Losing a Competitive Edge

Filling the skills gap isn’t the only reason why tech has turned to the H-1B program. Being able to pool talent from other countries has enabled U.S. tech companies to acquire the business’s best minds. This visa program is a major reason why the U.S. has dominated the global tech market.

Hiring foreign workers helps U.S. companies get the best talent that the world has to offer. It also brings that talent away from other nations, further solidifying America’s competitive edge. Without these workers, the U.S. could lose its status as a world leader in technology.

The consumer tech sector accounts for almost 12% of the GDP, generating $2.3 trillion annually. If the industry loses one of its most profitable advantages, it could impact the U.S. economy as a whole. As the sector loses some of its best talent, it could become less profitable, contributing less to the economy.

If the U.S. loses its spot a the top tech nation, it could draw American employees out. Tech graduates could leave the country to work in other nations with a better technology market.

Nearshoring as a Response to the Ban

If tech companies can’t use H-1Bs, they may turn to other options that could hurt American jobs. One potentially lucrative option is nearshoring, which involves hiring staff in other counties in similar timezones. Nearshoring gives businesses the advantages of offshoring while being able to collaborate more easily.

Nearshoring would enable U.S. tech companies to retain international talent and keep their competitive edge. While it may sustain the tech industry, this movement could impact American jobs more than the H-1B program would. As more companies nearshore to make up for the H-1B freeze, they could prefer it over hiring locally.

There’s a limited number of available H-1Bs, but there’s no limit on how much nearshoring a company can do. The H-1B freeze could lead to a surge in nearshoring’s popularity, leading to fewer Americans’ available jobs. This strategy was always an option, but it may be a more enticing one without the H-1B program.

Opposition to the Visa Freeze

The tech sector is well aware of how the H-1B freeze could threaten it. In response, a group of tech giants filed an amicus brief against the ban in early August. The group, which includes companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft, argued that the ban would cause irreparable damage to the U.S. economy.

Technology companies aren’t the only organizations that announce opposition to the temporary ban either. In July, several business groups filed a lawsuit against Homeland Security and the State Department over the freeze. With plaintiffs like the Chamber of Commerce, this lawsuit has the potential to change something.

Google and Spotify also filed a request to support this lawsuit. The case goes beyond stating the ban’s potential economic impact, claiming that it exceeds the president’s authority. With all of this opposition, the H-1B freeze may not go into effect, but the lawsuit’s outcome remains uncertain.

What Will Happen to Tech When the Ban Lifts

If lawsuits don’t reverse it, the ban will last until the end of 2020, unless authorities think they need to extend it. Even if it does end in December, the tech industry may not revert to its previous state. Just a few months of restriction is enough to change an entire industry, especially one as fast-paced as technology.

The tech industry needs to move fast to meet ever-changing demands and to stay ahead of the competition. If the H-1B ban lasts long enough, tech companies will have to adjust, which could likely mean outsourcing or nearshoring. A few months of these practices could lead the industry as a whole to adopt them, too.

If tech businesses don’t resort to these strategies, the ban would still have lasting effects. A few months without access to the world’s top tech talent is more than enough for the industry to fall behind. By the time the ban lifts, potential H-1B applicants may want to stay in other countries with better tech industries.

As more tech talent emerges, the reinstated H-1B program could start to fuel the U.S. tech sector again. It would take a long time for it to get back to where it was before, though. The tech industry could reach its former glory again, but it won’t be immediate.

The Future of the U.S. Tech Industry Is Uncertain

At this point, all of these outcomes are just speculation. Whether or not the H-1B visa ban will last is up in the air, how U.S. tech companies will react. While none of these consequences are certain, most of them aren’t promising either.

The visa freeze has the potential to threaten the U.S. tech industry. The H-1B program is one of its greatest strengths, and without it, U.S. tech may not be able to keep its lead.

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