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What's the Invisible Impact of AI? The Winners Aren't Who You Think AI technology will usher in a new era and allow businesses to solve problems in ways never thought possible.

By Phil Santoro Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Key Takeaways

  • As generative AI becomes ubiquitous, so will the number of companies offering generative AI services.
  • Inevitably, there will be consequences.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Over the past two decades, the proliferation of software has fueled a new wave of innovation, enabling companies to offer better, smarter, faster products and services. Take the trucking industry. For a century, shipping goods across the country on semis was a fairly simple business: transport goods from point A to point B.

Then, software and predictive analytics came into the picture, affecting every element of the journey, from route optimization to fleet management to delivery support. The industry's core stayed the same, yet it was completely transformed by technology, becoming more efficient, reliable and safer in the process.

No matter the industry, every company has become a tech company, and now, a similar transformation is underway, led by artificial intelligence. My prediction: the biggest winner in AI will not be one large, self-defined "AI player" but rather companies across all industries that find ways to leverage AI to solve customer problems better.

Related: Why Entrepreneurs Should Embrace Generative AI

Game on

In November of last year, OpenAI's ChatGPT was publicly released, reaching over 100 million users within two months. The launch kicked off a corporate gold rush, with Google declaring a "Code Red" and Microsoft's Satya Nadella remarking on February 7 that "a race starts today." By March, Bard — Google's version of generative AI — was out. Now, Meta has unveiled LLaMA, its own AI platform, along with the underlying code, essentially giving it away as open-source software. Not to be outdone by big tech, generative AI startups received $1.7 billion in investments across 46 deals in the first quarter of 2023.

Given the frenzy, some fear that AI will end up controlled by a single, dominant firm—or a trifecta of the largest tech companies—but it's more likely that, over time, the AI wave will benefit every organization that smartly and quickly seizes the opportunity. AI will become critical for business operations in a range of areas: customer service, marketing content development, personalized product experiences, and product design optimization through instantaneous feedback.

For some companies, AI will simply help people make better decisions. A recent study demonstrated that doctors make wiser choices when utilizing input from AI models, creating a "hybrid intelligence" that could lead to better treatment outcomes. Instead of taking over a doctor's job, AI offers the possibility of an instant consultation option that could be heeded or ignored. In the business world, it's easy to imagine a similar hybrid intelligence system helping employees make smarter, faster decisions to enhance the overall customer experience. For startups, AI's code-generating potential could help get a beta version of a service online, test a market's potential, and quickly troubleshoot issues before handing it off to the engineering team.

As generative AI becomes ubiquitous, so will the number of companies offering generative AI services. Just as every company became a tech company, AI will transform industry after industry, helping fuel innovation, growth, and scale faster than we've ever seen before.

Related: Entrepreneurs Can Flourish in a Downturn With the Right Mindset and Strategy

Level up

According to an analysis in March, the number of AI mentions on corporate earnings calls has spiked more than 75 percent so far this year relative to the same period in 2022. The hype can make it tempting to jump on the bandwagon simply to avoid being left behind. Companies are, unfortunately "AI washing" — overselling their use of the technology to attract interest and boost sales. This isn't a growth-oriented approach; companies focused on short-term gains will be left behind.

Every company, regardless of industry, needs to identify critical problems to solve and then smartly test AI to solve them better. At Wilbur Labs, we are discussing the potential uses and applications for generative AI for new companies we are building and during current portfolio company board meetings. One of our portfolio companies, Barkbus — a mobile dog-grooming company — is currently using ChatGPT to enhance its customer service. The company uses the generative AI program to read and analyze customer texts in real-time and route requests direct to the right team member to facilitate faster and more personalized responses.

AI can also streamline efficiencies behind the scenes. For example, Newfront, an insurance brokerage, uses the technology to simplify the buying and selling process. The company has quickly explored ways ChatGPT can support employees and create better client relationships. One example is contract gap analysis. The insurance industry relies on contracts, many of which are more than 100 pages long.

By using a ChatGPT-based application, Newfront can instantly assimilate these documents, identify insurance requirements and compare them with a client's current coverage to identify gaps. The app automated a time-consuming process, creating a more efficient business model and better customer experience by freeing up underwriters to focus on advising clients, understanding their concerns, and working with them to build solutions.

In both cases, AI will outsize the ability to move fast and better serve customers. Moreover, customers often won't even know that AI plays such an important role in the background. The key to both initiatives' success was identifying a problem and then smartly leveraging AI to solve it. The technology complemented both businesses' existing capabilities, created real value and was not theoretical in nature.

Related: Here's How We Can Create A Future Where Artificial Intelligence Is A Force For Good

Prepare for turbulence

As with any new technology, there are bumps ahead.

The rapid adoption of AI and the sheer speed of change will cause friction. Inevitably, there will be consequences, both on a macro level (the proliferation of misinformation and deepfakes, and increased income inequality, for example) on an individual and organizational level.

In the long term, we're almost certain to see a burst of innovation — one that could be even bigger than the dawn of the internet or the smartphone. This technology will usher in a new era and allow businesses to solve problems in ways never thought possible.

Phil Santoro

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Entrepreneur and Co-Founder at Wilbur Labs

Phil Santoro is an entrepreneur. He is a Co-Founder of Wilbur Labs, a startup studio based in San Francisco. Previously, Phil worked at Google and founded and sold FreeForums.org to a public company. As an expert on building companies, Phil loves sharing what he’s learned to help others.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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