Building a Company in the Age of AI: Scott’s Take

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A major perk of building a company in the age of AI is that you get to leverage a very powerful assistant, for free. Sheridan and I have utilized AI for a wide array of tasks in building Essembi the company and Essembi the product.

The other night I posed a question to Sheridan on Teams: “Wonder how much credit AI deserves in this startup?

As I reflect on this question myself, it is remarkable to think about the wide array of tasks that I have leaned on AI to help me with at Essembi. I took a scroll through my chat history on my preferred AI platforms, ChatGPT and Google’s Bard, to reflect on exactly what AI did to help Essembi grow over the past six months.

Building HTML and CSS content for the website: AI is great at building HTML code (the content) and correspondence CSS (the style guide). A perfect example: I asked AI to frame out this comparison section of our homepage.

Example website structure built by AI

Example ChatGPT thread for creating HTML and CSS content for Essembi website

Magically, I had the entire structure framed out in a matter of seconds. I would call it 90% complete without me expending an ounce of energy. Truly game changing. Particularly for a guy who by no stretch of the imagination is a coder.

(Note here that Bard was the early choice of AI engines for assisting with building HTML and CSS content in March when the website development was starting. However, over time I gravitated more and more to ChatGPT as I found the code snippets better starting points for me personally.)

Developing reactive website content for phones and tablets: Once the website was framed out for the desktop browser, I would copy and paste the HTML and CSS into ChatGPT and prompt it to build the reactive CSS for phones and tablets. It was brilliant at this. Most of the time, with solid prompting, it would build a mobile and tablet layout that was 95% complete with me needing to push it over the finish line with a few minor adjustments.

Analyzing the target vertical markets for Essembi: We used Bard to help us understand our target market better. It segmented the software market and calculated our total addressable market, or “TAM”, in under a minute. No, it was not 100% accurate; but it was better than starting with nothing.

Building Essembi’s “Accelerate your product roadmap” tag line: When it came to building a tag line for the business, we had some thoughts on what it wanted to convey. We punched that into ChatGPT and asked it to generate 25 alternatives. Our result ended up being a mashup of the ideas generated by ChatGPT. It was an incredible white boarding session with our AI teammate. The best part - AI generated a ton of great ideas without being emotionally attached to one of those ideas. So, no feelings were hurt when we didn’t select one of the ideas generated by AI.

Some of the other tasks I have used AI for throughout Essembi’s first few months are:

  • Troubleshooting the seemingly inevitable issues that arise when setting up Office 365 users (done in Bard).
  • Troubleshooting the also inevitable issues that arise when configuring a domain’s DNS (Bard).
  • Drafting onboarding material for developers (ChatGPT).
  • Reviewing draft emails and suggesting edits to simplify content (ChatGPT).
  • Suggesting alternative headlines and copy for the website (ChatGPT).
  • Building marketing email flows for use in Klaviyo (ChatGPT).
  • Reviewing and suggesting changes to legal documents (ChatGPT).
  • Proof reading blog posts (ChatGPT).

Scrolling through my AI chat history was a trip down memory lane. It’s like finding an old notebook – as you flip through your history you can reflect on how your problems and challenges have changed from week to week as the company, product and priorities have changed.

So, how much help has AI actually provided in getting Essembi launched? Sheridan’s response to my Teams message seems pretty spot on…

How much more efficient has AI made Essembi

Hopefully you have already started your own journey with AI tools like ChatGPT and Google’s Bard. If not, be patient with the tools. It will take time to learn the best use cases for AI for your daily tasks and just how to prompt the AI engine to get the best possible answers. Be persistent and I bet you will find that it also makes you faster and better at whatever you are doing.

(For the record, ChatGPT proofread this content so if there are any grammatical issues, please direct your concerns to Sam Altman.)

Stay tuned for Sheridan's personal take on how AI has helped him build Essembi's product.

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