Over the years, I’ve helped build and scale two fully-remote “unicorns” back when remote was still a novel concept. Today, I’m banking on the fact that AI will play a crucial role in the future of my company, Job van der Voort writes.
Over the past eight years, I’ve helped build and scale two fully-remote “unicorns” — startup companies valued at $1 billion (€1.09bn) or more — beginning when remote and distributed models were still novel concepts.
Back then, I banked on my strong belief that these models presented a firm business advantage — and it paid off.
Today, I feel the same way about AI.
Since the start of 2023, AI has dominated the headlines — particularly the rapid developments in generative large language models like ChatGPT.
In the past week alone, a new report has suggested that AI could replace the equivalent of 300 million jobs.
A number of well-known researchers signed an open letter calling for AI labs around the world to pause the development of large-scale AI systems for at least six months and work together to develop and implement safety protocols to mitigate AI’s future risks to humanity.
But while the debate around the technology remains fierce, I believe that leaders should be embracing the progress these new tools can stimulate rather than being anxious about their hypothetical risks.
I’m banking on the fact that AI will play a crucial role in the future of my company, especially when it comes to helping us continue to grow and scale internationally.
AI is a valuable tool, not a threat
My company, Remote, is a platform for businesses of all sizes to employ and pay remote workers from anywhere.
For a business like ours, making sure we stay competitive in the global market means being able to scale efficiently.
That means regularly launching new offerings and expanding to new markets. We already support workers on all habitable continents, and we’re about halfway to our goal of having a presence in every country in the world, but for the next leg of the journey, embracing AI will be the key to scaling successfully, sustainably and effectively.
Using AI internally has been a game-changer for our team. Since our business model involves employing people in dozens of countries, our teams need the ability to quickly answer questions about the applicable regulations in all of those places.
We’ve trained up a generative AI chatbot using country-specific expertise and local knowledge.
So instead of spending hours poring over documents to find vital information about the nuances of a particular country’s legislation, our team can input a question into our own internal ChatGPT tool and receive an accurate answer in seconds.
This saves time and allows people to focus on more important tasks, which in turn helps us offer an even better service to our clients. And this example is just the beginning.
It's all about the practical solutions
We're also exploring other ways to use AI within our operations to make sure we keep our product as affordable as possible as we grow.
Automating menial tasks and reducing the need for manual labour with AI is going to be instrumental in helping us reduce operational costs so our end-product price point remains accessible to businesses of all sizes, just as we strive to be now.
Of course, tools like ChatGPT are not without their limitations, and there’s a way to go before every response can be trusted every time.
AI is still very much in the training phase of its evolution, and for now, it's still reliant on humans to oversee and educate it.
But as we’ve seen with the lightning-fast AI advances within just the first few months of 2023, improvements and breakthroughs in AI are happening every day so it’s only a matter of time before it’s mature enough to deliver tangible business results.
Since the inception of the company, I have believed that the only way we will scale is through automating manual tasks.
These new tools give us a powerful new way to do that. Onboarding, knowledge management, and customer support are crucial elements of our continued global expansion, and we’ve got to get them right.
However, AI is capable of providing us with practical solutions to help us deliver our much-needed services to customers worldwide without needing to hire our way out of the problem.
It also means our existing staff can pivot more of their time to value-adding, growth-enabling efforts.
Let's focus on what really matters
In today’s rocky macroeconomic environment, capitalising on every potential opportunity for efficiency is the sensible approach to scaling internationally.
What’s more, businesses that fail to harness AI today are almost certain to become very, very expensive to run in the future for the simple reason that they will be forced to hire more people to get the same level of work done.
AI is shaping the future of my company in a significant way, but one of its biggest benefits is how it allows us to focus more on what really matters — our employees and our customers.
Automating tasks means helping more customers and people in general to access employment opportunities.
Job van der Voort is the CEO and Co-Founder of Remote. He previously worked as a neuroscientist before leaving academia to become the VP of Product at GitLab, the world’s largest all-remote company, where he hired talent in 67 different countries.
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