StartUp Founders: Era Of AI First

AI is not a trend or a tool; it's a foundation, a pillar on which you build your business, not a feature of your business.

StartUp Founders, Era of AI First

Dear Reader,

Imagine building an app that didn’t connect to the internet. AI is, if not more, paradigm-shifting than the internet. Think of it as horse & carriage vs car. You’ll still get there, just 84 days later. If Time to Market (TTM) is your metric, then you’re already late. This is AI First. (𝕏)

Your competitive advantage, absent cash, isn’t just your tech, that’s becoming a commodity, it’s how effectively you can implement, scale, and leverage it. Your edge lies in your speed and how you distribute, delight, and capture market share. (𝕏)

TL;DR: AI is not a trend or a tool; it’s a foundation, a pillar on which you build your business, not a feature of your business. The AI First Workbook asks a few critical questions to get you started.


3.0 Outcome Driven Design: Jobs To Be Done Framework


In 2012, Zuck announced Facebook was going to prioritize mobile. It was called mobile first.

In 2015, The need to integrate cloud tech became a billion dollar business. It was called API first.

In 2024, the new new is AI first. Can you imagine building anything now that doesn’t leverage AI to automate, accelerate, optimize, or create?

This isn’t about being late and thinking your business is doomed. It’s about understanding that no matter where you are, if AI isn’t a critical layer in your business, technology, and operations, you’ll be outmaneuvered. AI is not a delegatable competency. It’s a foundational pillar YOU must deeply understand.

Right now, there are 4 common AI approaches:

  • Legacy: Those who believe they can thrive without AI.
  • Delegate: Those who use AI to replace (copy & paste), generating untrained outputs.
  • Augment: Those who use AI to enhance existing processes.
  • Innovate: Those who are rethinking and transforming how things get done with AI.

For most StartUps, there are two effective approaches:

Top Down: Optimization
Integrate AI into your existing value chain to enhance and support operations, inserting where there is incremental, immediate and accretive value.

Bottom Up: Innovation
Rethink and reinvent your processes & products with AI as a foundational pillar, to create entirely new ways of building, operating and engaging with the market.

AI adoption isn’t without challenges (your edge). Data privacy, algorithmic bias, and the need for explainable AI. The sourcing of talent, the continuous upskilling alongside a healthy dose (cost) of experimentation. AI is not a “just turn it on” task, it’s a forever strategic commitment.

Designing An AI-First Strategy: Questions to help start the journey

SU003.1 Designing An AI First Strategy (aka The New Pillar) by James Sinclair

If you’re still here, you’re probably in one of three camps:

FOMO: You know AI is the future, but you don’t know where to start without it feeling like a shitty add-on. Identify one high-impact area where AI could drive immediate value for your business.

Competence: You get it, but you’re not sure who to hire, who to talk to, or how to level up your AI game. Focus on upskilling your team and finding strategic partnerships to accelerate the journey.

Legacy: You built your stack wrong, your data is a mess, and now you’re playing catch-up – or worse you’ve built an FNAC (feature-not-a-company). Dive in to your your data and infra, start something to lay the groundwork for AI adoption.

This is a pivotal moment, for all of us. Consistent hype, endless learning, always feeling behind. New models, tools, innovations and use cases around every corner. The cloud platforms are evolving at an insane velocity and incumbents owning your customers are preventing market entry. You have to carve your corner not as an AI company but a company built on AI.

If you need help defining your strategy, feel free to grab time with me.

Now go make something people want.

— James

(LinkedIn | Tiktok | Twitter)​​

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