Link Building: U.K. Tech Veterans Connect AI Startups With Corporates

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Who wouldn’t want to found an AI startup? After all, this is the family of technologies that will change the world over the next few years, creating new jobs and sweeping away old ones. So if you’re a smart, young computer sciences graduate with entrepreneurial ambitions, the artificial intelligence sector offers an attractive place to pitch camp.

But there’s another perspective. If you run a business, you’re probably thinking that AI is the way to go. You’ve read the literature. You know there is huge potential for cutting costs and improving services and you’re probably also concerned that competitors are already investing to establish a competitive edge. But here’s the problem. As things stand, you’re not entirely sure that you understand or trust the technology or the suppliers. Equally important, with so many science-driven companies offering AI tools, it’s not entirely clear how relevant those solutions will be to your business. And as governments around the world ponder new regulatatory frameworks, there is also the question of whether the tools you buy will be legal and compliant. That can be a particular worry if you’re dealing with startups who may not be giving a huge amount of thought to compliance issues.

In other words, one of the factors holding up the creative adoption of AI solutions is the gulf in understanding between startup providers and potential customers. The same could be said of other emerging technologies, such as quantum computing or blockchain.

Driving Adoption

That’s a problem that Eric Van der Kleij and Cokce Gizer Clover are seeking to address through a new U.K.-based initiative designed to bring emerging technology startups together with customers and investors to discuss use cases and iron out the problems and challenges associated with the adoption of unfamiliar technologies.

So what does that mean in practice? When I spoke to Van der Kleij earlier this week, I was keen to find out.

The intitiative – branded TransformBase – has been designed to help business leaders “improve their understanding” of cutting-edge technologies and what they can do.

So why is this necessary? Well, as Van der Kleij explains, the platform will initially focus on AI, a sector in which things are moving very quickly. The challenge for businesses lies not only in being aware of what is possible but also in ensuring that they can operate safely and within the law, now and in the future.

Creating Roadmaps

By bringing providers together with buyers, Transformbase aims to create what he describes as “actionable roadmaps” for technology adoption. The starting point will be a series of round table meetings – conducted in the context of an umbrella event – at which interested parties will discuss how the technology can be used while also setting out the challenges that must be overcome. The output from these discussions will feed into the aforementioned actionable roadmaps, which will in turn be handed over to the working groups to develop further.

That raises the question of what an actionable roadmap actually looks like. “We want to help people find answers,” says Van der Kleij.

He cites the example of data ownership. Generative AI is trained by crunching vast quantities of data but there may well be questions over the ownership of that information. “What if you’re using data and you find out what you’ve been hoovering up has been potentially illegally acquired,” he says. “We will want the roadmap to look at how you prevent that.”

The issues up for discussion go well beyond compliance. For instance, the likelihood is that a roadmap will also look at the skills and education programs required to enable companies to successfully deploy AI.

In that respect, you could see Transformbase as an initiative primarily aimed at educating the (largely) corporate customers who are likely to buy into emerging tech in coming years.

Bringing In Startups

But Transformbase’s creators are steeped in the startup community. Van der Kleij played a significant role in the development of the United Kingdom’s tech ecosystem. A decade ago, he acted as a policy adviser to then-Prime Minister David Cameron, work that fed through to the creation of ecosystem development agency Tech City (latterly Tech Nation). In addition, Van der Keij is co-founder of Edenbase, an organization that connects founders to startups. Meanwhile, Geyser Clover led the startups competition, Extreme tech Challenge.

And Van der Kleij stresses that early stage companies should become involved. “For startups, this will be transformative,” he says. “They can come to meet investors and understand the relevance of the discussions at the round tables.” As such, he says, they will be able not only to connect with buyers but also gain insights into the type of solutions they wish to acquire.

And to some extent, startups will be able to drive the agenda. “They can suggest topics for discussion at the round tables,” he says.

Will this be any more than a talking shop? Van der Kleij says the initiative should achieve some real economic traction. “We expect to see real economic benefits starting to flow,” he says. “Education and skills training, the emergence of appropriate supervision, money flowing into thousands of startups, The measure will be economic impact.

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