Why Scale-ups Need Robust Digital Capabilities Before Adopting AI

Why Scale-ups Need Robust Digital Capabilities Before Adopting AI

By Rafael S.Lajeunesse, co-founder and CEO ReachX

In today’s fast-paced business landscape, scale-ups are eager to leverage AI to drive growth, enhance efficiency, and gain a competitive edge. However, before diving headfirst into the realm of AI, it’s imperative for scale-ups to prioritise the development of robust digital capabilities as the foundation for sustainable success.

I’ve witnessed firsthand the transformative power of both digital capabilities and AI on a business success. Scale-ups, often characterised by their rapid growth trajectory and entrepreneurial spirit, are fuelled by ambition and innovation. They possess the drive to disrupt industries and revolutionise the status quo. Yet, amid the excitement of scaling operations and expanding market reach, it’s crucial not to overlook the fundamental importance of establishing strong digital foundations.

Establishing Digital Foundations

Digital capabilities encompass a spectrum of technologies, processes, and strategies that enable organisations to effectively harness the power of digital tools and platforms. From streamlined workflows and data-driven decision-making to seamless customer experiences and agile operations, digital capabilities form the bedrock upon which AI initiatives can flourish.

One of the primary reasons scale-ups must prioritise digital capabilities lies in the inherent complexity of AI implementation. While AI holds immense potential to transform business operations and unlock unprecedented insights, its successful integration requires a solid infrastructure capable of supporting its intricacies.

E-commerce is a sector that is overall embracing the power of AI through innovation. If an e-commerce scale-up wants to enhance customer engagement through AI-powered personalisation algorithms, it would first need a robust digital infrastructure encompassing data management systems, analytics frameworks, and scalable cloud architecture. Without this, implementing AI algorithms would be like building a skyscraper on unstable ground.

An e-commerce brand that has successfully achieved this is eBay. eBay employs AI  to offer personalised suggestions to customers, enhance shipping and delivery efficiency, optimise pricing strategies, foster trust between buyers and sellers, and address various other aspects of its operations. This advanced technology is evident in features such as eBay’s image search and automated web page translations. The company also revealed that during 2019, the e-commerce platform asserted that its AI systems accurately pinpointed 40 percent of online credit card fraud cases with notable precision, proving how powerful AI can be as a tool in business.

By investing in digital capabilities early on, scale-ups can lay the groundwork for seamless AI integration, ensuring that data is accessible, clean, and actionable. From implementing robust data governance frameworks to fostering a culture of data literacy across the organization, building digital capabilities fosters a data-centric mindset essential for AI-driven innovation.

Moreover, cultivating digital capabilities enables scale-ups to navigate the complexities of digital transformation with agility and resilience. In today’s hyper-connected world, organisations must adapt to evolving customer preferences, market dynamics, and technological advancements at an unprecedented pace.

Take the example of the UK fintech scale-up ieDigital, which is on course to acquire AI tech provider Abaka. Abaka leverages cutting-edge AI algorithms to craft an unprecedented recommendation engine tailored for financial services. The focus is on hyper-personalised services that seamlessly blend contextual engagement and bespoke product offerings, all meticulously curated through deep analysis of consumer data. This means that ieDigital can now expand its global digital solutions offering, focused on the financial services industry. 

By harnessing the power of machine learning and sophisticated behavioural segmentation software, companies like ieDigital are not just predicting, but shaping the future of financial product preferences. 


In essence, digital capabilities empower scale-ups to embrace change as a catalyst for growth, rather than a barrier to innovation. By fostering a culture of continuous learning and experimentation, organisations can harness the power of digital technologies to drive strategic initiatives and fuel sustainable growth.

Furthermore, prioritising digital capabilities enables scale-ups to unlock the full potential of AI by addressing critical challenges such as data quality, interoperability, and scalability. While AI algorithms hold promise in automating tasks, optimising processes, and uncovering hidden patterns within vast datasets, their effectiveness hinges on the availability of high-quality, relevant data.

Consider the example of a healthcare scale-up leveraging AI to enhance patient outcomes through predictive analytics. By investing in digital capabilities such as interoperable electronic health records (EHR) systems, secure data-sharing protocols, and advanced analytics platforms, the organisation can harness the wealth of patient data to develop personalised treatment plans, detect early warning signs of disease, and improve clinical decision-making, which is a game-changer for patients and healthcare providers alike. This rings true for UK healthcare company, Real World Health, who place data analysis at the heart of its business model and AI provides them with predictive analysis reports that instantly create a full picture of impacts and outcomes across efficiency, safety, and standards of care. Without a robust digital infrastructure in place, these capabilities and opportunities to transform the healthcare sector would not be achievable.

Ethical and Regulatory Considerations

It’s important to note, that digital capabilities empower scale-ups to address ethical and regulatory considerations inherent in AI implementation, such as data privacy, security, and algorithmic bias. By establishing transparent governance frameworks and engaging stakeholders in ethical discussions, organisations can mitigate risks and build trust in AI-driven solutions.

In conclusion, while the allure of AI may be compelling, scale-ups must first prioritise the development of robust digital capabilities as the foundation for sustainable growth and innovation. By investing in scalable infrastructure, fostering a culture of data-driven decision-making, and embracing change as a catalyst for growth, organisations can unlock the full potential of AI to drive strategic initiatives, enhance operational efficiency, and deliver exceptional customer experiences.

As we embark on the next wave of technological disruption, let us remember that success in the age of AI begins with a strong digital foundation. By laying the groundwork today, scale-ups can pave the way for a future where innovation knows no bounds, and possibilities are limited only by our imagination. Summed up perfectly by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, “There is no alternative to digital transformation. Visionary companies will carve out new strategic options for themselves — those that don’t adapt, will fail.”

Author Bio

Rafael is CEO of ReachX and is responsible for driving the company’s vision to be the trusted platform for institutional investors and corporates. ReachX is a digital investment bank that offers tech solutions, access to capital and talent to growth companies and institutional investors. Prior to founding ReachX, Rafael worked in consulting with Fortune 500 companies with McKinsey and as an investor with JJP Morgan & co.


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