It’s been an eventful year for businesses of all sizes and in all sectors — but it’s been an especially interesting one for small businesses and new entrepreneurs. A lot of this excitement has been generated around new technology, but that’s only one part of the story.
At Dell and across the globe, some of the biggest moments have been social progress wins. We’re seeing a greater push toward gender equality, establishing mandates for inclusion and diversity and embracing social responsibility and ethical consumerism.
So without further ado, let’s take a look back at some of the most memorable small business milestones in 2018.
A Big Year for Tech
At the beginning of 2018, I published a piece predicting what the year would have in store for small business and tech, and I expected to see an increase in the adoption of AR and VR. While these technologies have remained cutting-edge rather than ubiquitous over the past year, it’s clear their popularity is on the rise among organizations of all stripes. In March at SXSW, we saw a number of startups and nonprofits deploying AR and VR to solve real problems with innovative approaches.
Also on the topic of technology, AI has started to seriously disrupt white-collar professions including medicine, law and journalism, as we discussed at NewCo’s Shift Forum. Sophisticated data analytics and machine learning are more prevalent, especially in the B2B and SaaS spaces, and these tools enable smaller businesses to punch well above their weight.
I also forecasted that cybersecurity would be a major focus for the year. As promised by the EU, the GDPR was instituted in May, affecting small businesses and their clients the world over, and the latest breaking headlines about major security breaches suggest there is still cybersecurity work to be done to protect customer information. In light of recent attacks, it’s more vital than ever companies optimize their security systems with innovative cybersecurity solutions. In May, at the Dell Technologies World conference in Las Vegas, CMO Alison Dew announced, “Now is the time where big data, blockchain and emerging technologies will combine for real transformation.” I have to say, I’m inclined to agree. Blockchain is still gaining traction, but it promises to be a revolutionary solution for providing transparency, traceability and trust in online transactions.
Diversity as a Differentiator
You can’t talk about 2018 without talking about gender equality. January kicked off with the start of the Time’s Up movement, which emerged within the greater context of #MeToo and would remain in the headlines for the rest of the year. Because gender discrimination is not just a problem in the media and entertainment industry: it’s a problem in every business sector — including tech, entrepreneurship and venture capital.
In February, my colleague Ingrid Devin wrote that while 40 percent of U.S. entrepreneurs are women — with rates of women’s entrepreneurship rising faster than men’s all over the world — only three percent of VC funding goes to women-founded enterprises, and only seven percent of partners at the top 100 venture firms are women.
At Dell, we partnered with Springboard Enterprises in 2017 to present our Women Funding Women networking events, which we continued this year, alongside our WE Cities Initiative. Only about 30 percent of the world’s formal SMEs are women-owned and led — yet we know how crucial it is to invest in women, since they reinvest 90 percent of their income into their families and communities, according to the World Bank.
And while we’re talking numbers, women control $20 trillion in annual spending. The global GDP could grow by a whopping $12 trillion by 2025 if we continue to advance women’s equality.
That’s why it was so important for Dell to host DWEN in July, which was held in Toronto. We were also pleased to sponsor Power Trip in October, a networking summit bringing together 200 of the country’s most powerful female leaders.
There are many kinds of diversity, not just gender. But because it directly impacts all of us, building gender-diverse businesses is a good gateway for raising the profile of all underrepresented groups. A lot has been written about the benefits diversity brings to boardrooms and creative teams, but even diverse suppliers can be a huge boost to small businesses and entrepreneurs.
The Way We Produce and Consume is Changing
All of these factors are building momentum and changing the way we work. Flexible office spaces and coworking spaces have become more common in recent years, and 2018 saw a continued increase in remote working. This trend has proven popular with millennials, who prioritize a better work-life balance. Tech is making this possible.
Technology has also been a big help to customers. My colleague Karen Quintos wrote that “customer experience is overtaking price and product as a company’s key brand differentiator.” Thanks to tech, transparency in business is trending as well. Everything from social media to VR is helping consumers track the supply chain, manufacture and export practices of their favorite companies.
It’s no surprise that social entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility are on the rise — especially with so many societal and environmental issues making headlines, such as gender inequality, pollution and climate change. Since socially-conscious millennials control so much capital, the pressure’s on for companies to walk the talk and commit to making positive change.
This is an opportunity for small businesses to take charge, since they have often been leaders in social enterprise and sustainability. Last month, we launched our second annual Small But Mighty contest so that small businesses can show the world how they’re solving today’s challenges in big ways. I’m looking forward to hearing their success stories, and I know we’ll all carry that success and innovation with us as we move forward in 2019.
How is your small business making an impact in 2019? We’d like to help: Connect with a Dell advisor to see how our small business solutions can fast-track your company’s goals throughout the year.