Businesses believe technology is ‘taking on a life of its own’, says Microsoft

The rapid pace of change in new technology is leaving many businesses feeling like the future is arriving before they are ready for it, according to a UK manager at Microsoft.

Guest speakers Jackie Mulligan (Director of Enterprise, UK Centre for Events Management) and Daniel Langton (Business Manager, Microsoft)

Speaking at an event in Yorkshire, Daniel Langton said companies of all sizes across Britain believe that technology is taking on a life of its own and moving so fast it is difficult to keep up.

This is forcing long-established companies to address fundamental questions about their business and operations, he told the audience at Leeds Enterprise Network.

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Mr Langton said: “With the range of technology trends coming together this is a time when the innovative businesses have got everything to play for.”

He added: “Who would have thought that a company (Airbnb) that a few years ago wasn’t even around could be the biggest hotel company by number of rooms booked in the world?

“The same goes for innovations like Uber and all those types of disrupters that are coming in and thinking about how they can exploit technology in what they can do.”

Airbnb allows strangers to share their own homes for a fee, while Uber connects passengers and drivers via a smartphone app. Both have attracted multi-billion dollar valuations.

Mr Langton said: “We talk a lot about the successes that technology brings, but for every success and every company that has thought innovatively and created a market from scratch or enhanced an existing market, there are always people that are not going to win through the advent of new technology.”

The event was attended by young entrepreneurs and established businesses and hosted by The Yorkshire Post.

Other speakers included Jackie Mulligan, an expert on the events and meetings industry.

She told the audience that the personal information economy “is one of the biggest challenges and opportunities we have ahead of us”. This emerging economy is based on the explosive growth in digital data that is creating new forms of economic and social value.

Ms Mulligan said people are happy to share updates on social media when they feel good, want to reflect their status and preserve memories.

But they dislike the emerging reality that “our televisions are listening to us”, she added, referring to the revelation this week that some Samsung TVs can pick up and recognise viewers’ conversations.

“The personal information economy is about this privacy bump we are hitting. We like to share but on our own terms,” said Ms Mulligan, who is a lecturer at Leeds Beckett University.

On a social mission

The Business Enterprise Fund, headline sponsor at the Leeds Enterprise Network event, is on a “social mission”, according to director Meg Heath.

The social enterprise works with early stage, established or struggling businesses that are struggling to access finance from mainstream lenders.

Ms Heath, who is deputy fund director, told the audience that BEF considers “sensible” lending requirements from businesses.

The fund is active in West and North Yorkshire and this year moved into the North East.

It is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2015 and has lent more than £12m to businesses.

The Leeds Enterprise Network is part of Leeds Beckett University’s enterprise support services.