The last decade has seen an explosive rise in smartphone technology delivering a wide range of mobile apps, providing universal access to unprecedented efficiency gains. Small businesses are especially poised to benefit from these gains due to their accelerated adoption of new technology, along with the optimized processes they enable. Earlier this week, I was invited to our nation’s capitol to testify at a Small Business Committee hearing about how app technology is benefitting small businesses.
Congress is uniquely positioned to help small companies like mine build products to help small businesses through targeted reforms to patent, immigration, internet tax collection, crowdfunding and support for the “gig economy”. As the founder and CEO of a small business that also creates products for small businesses, I encouraged our elected officials to implement and support a range of issues that could help small businesses.
Smartphones: Pocket-sized supercomputers
It’s hard to fathom just how powerful smartphones have become, and how quickly they continue to grow.
Here is an example to put into perspective.
Perhaps the original “portable computer” was on the Apollo Command Module, in 1969. It had 64 kilobytes of memory, and operated at a speed of 43 kilohertz. As comparison, the iPhone 6 has 1 gigabyte of memory, and operates at 1.4 gigahertz. In other words, the iPhone can process 16,000x more data at 33,000x the speed as the Apollo Command Module. Indeed, a single iPhone has far more computing power than all of NASA combined at the time it was landing astronauts on the moon. And it only costs $200.
And the winner is small business
One of the most incredible aspects of the mobile app revolution is that unlike previous technologies that appeared first in the enterprise and then “trickled down” to the people, mobile apps start with the people first. This means mobile apps are improving the efficiency of everybody, all at once, regardless of company size. Indeed, if mobile apps favor anybody, they favor small businesses -- in three broad ways:
First, small businesses like those that create these apps are given a massive advantage over larger enterprise competitors. This is because the historical strengths of a large company -- access to capital, global reach, and an army of “warm bodies” to throw at problems -- are neutralized in an environment where anybody in their basement can create an app that is given the same visibility and distribution as every other app. This means the need for expensive marketing campaigns and giant sales teams has been dramatically reduced, leaving large companies with very few strengths and a long list of weaknesses for their smaller competitors to exploit.
But second and more importantly, the sheer power and affordability of the mobile app ecosystem enables smaller companies to offer enterprise-grade capabilities to the smallest of businesses: what previously cost millions of dollars now costs $5 per month. This means the businesses that are able to adapt quickly to new technologies, are now the first to access them. Accordingly, large businesses that are accustomed to having a technology advantage are seeing much stiffer competition from their smaller competitors, driving a heightened level of innovation nationally and globally.
Mobile apps have essentially leveled the playing field for small businesses, and have given them a fighting chance against larger companies that until now, would have blown them out of the water. While many small businesses across the country have utilized mobile, there are millions who still don’t. It’s the responsibility of mobile app companies, along with small business advocacy organizations and even Congress to provide training and raise awareness about these new technologies. Getting more and more small businesses to adopt these productivity tools to keep their business moving will lead to more efficiency, and ultimately greater economic development throughout the country and the world.
Barrett is founder & CEO of Expensify, an expense reporting software company.