3 important AI lessons for start-ups and scale-ups from entrepreneur Nick Bell

3 important AI lessons for start-ups and scale-ups from entrepreneur Nick Bell

By Nick Bell (pictured), serial entrepreneur, 5 x young rich-lister and owner of the Superist Group


If you’ve been hiding under your desk from artificial intelligence (AI), you’re not alone. Back in the mid 2000’s, after a couple of failed startups, I gave my ‘entrepreneurial journey’ one last shot. Even though I was a total non-techie with just $350 to my name, a laptop, phone, and the drive to jump on board the digital bullet train, I launched my first digital marketing agency from my bedroom.

In the 15 or so years since, quite a bit has changed. I’ve been featured multiple times as a young rich-lister, was invited to be an advisor on the Australian series of Celebrity Apprentice, and have built a global digital marketing group, currently at 18 agencies employing around 2,000 people. Yet, despite the ‘success’, I have to admit that when ChatGPT and AI started to hit headlines late last year I felt a little out of my comfort zone.

AI isn’t going anywhere, fast, so buckle up. It’s the new ‘digital revolution’ and as a business founder, owner, or even manager, if you don’t embrace it, very quickly you are going to be left behind. As the interwebs are already awash with AI How-Tos and To-Dos, I’ll keep it simple.

Here are 3 of the most important AI take-homes for business owners and managers from where I stand today.

1. Do not allow yourself to be crippled by fear

Fear of the unknown can be crippling and in business, in particular in the tech space, that’s dangerous. Staying abreast of and adapting to technology trends is no longer the sole domain of the super savvy youth, or emerging entrepreneurs. It’s life.

AI is not only new, it’s evolving at high speed and is currently still totally unregulated, which is exciting but has many people panicking. Australia and the US have already banned ChatGPT on government devices. Italy has banned it altogether.

AI is certainly a complex and fast-moving beast and there’s a lot to learn, but it’s essential you take stock of its potential impact (both positive and negative) on your business and industry. It’s why I’ve been up at 4am every day for months trying to learn as much as I can about how I can adapt and improve my businesses.

If you don’t have the capacity to achieve this personally, engage or lean on someone who can (see my next point).


2. Lean on your networks

If you are struggling with how to move forward with AI in your business, I can’t stress enough the importance of building and nurturing a quality support network of people – mentors, collaborators, co-workers, friends, professional contacts – you can lean on when it matters.

Alongside understanding and implementing AI, one of my top priorities right now is adding more agencies to our current group of 18, so I know I’m kidding myself If I think I can do it on my own. Over many years I’ve built a substantial network of trusted advisors and friends who are experts in areas I’m not like real estate, investing, and digital transformation. I’ve also brought in a specialist to work with me and my senior leadership team to help identify specific areas where we can implement AI and improve efficiencies as quickly as possible across the group.

Remember, ‘If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.’


3. AI makes you more efficient across your business

In its most simplified form, AI improves efficiencies. Many people are already leveraging generative AI to help mass produce/create work that they can turn to make a profit. You might ask ‘How can I use AI to improve the delivery of customer service?’ for example, instead of making a bunch of new hires.

I’ve done it myself recently with the launch of Budget SEO, a new digital marketing agency powered by AI. The idea for the business came from the hundreds of enquiries we were receiving from small business owners who recognise the importance of a strong digital presence yet are feeling the pinch of rising costs, inflation, and managing cashflow. So, I turned to AI to build a solution and it’s been a game changer both from an operational perspective as well as the quality of the output for the customer. We’ve utilised AI across all aspects of the business which has reduced manual execution by 40% and helped minimise human error, so the quality of work is high. By going ‘all in’ with AI we’ve been able to drop our prices and pass on the savings to our customers, something you rarely see in the market space for a growing business. 

Embracing AI is no longer a choice, it’s a necessity for business survival. Ultimately, it’s going to save us time and resources that we can direct afresh to the most important experience of all, our customer’s.