AI fuels startup success: 86% of founders report positive impact, HubSpot finds

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In a sign of the growing influence of artificial intelligence in the business world, a new report from HubSpot found that AI is rapidly reshaping how startups approach their go-to-market strategies and fueling growth for early-stage companies.

The report, based on a survey of over 1,000 startup founders worldwide, found that 86% of respondents said AI has positively impacted their go-to-market plans. Nearly 60% said AI tools have helped them reach more qualified sales prospects.

“Everyone’s embraced AI at different speeds,” said Ashley Groves, founder of the fintech startup Deaglo, who was interviewed for the report. “We’ve created a safe space for people to try it out. When they see the value for themselves, even from a personal perspective, they’re on board.”

Information technology and software startups lead AI investment across industries, with professional services and manufacturing close behind, according to a HubSpot survey of startup founders. (Image Credit: HubSpot)

Startups adopt AI across the business

As large tech companies and well-funded startups race to develop and deploy AI systems, the report suggests that even early-stage startups are now adopting the technology throughout their businesses — from marketing and sales to product development and customer service.

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More than 70% of surveyed founders said they already have a designated team focused on acquiring or using AI in their go-to-market approach. And two-thirds said they plan to hire employees with AI expertise in the next year.

This highlights the growing recognition among startup leaders that AI is not just a nice-to-have technology but a critical competitive advantage in today’s data-driven business landscape. As more startups invest in AI talent and capabilities, we can expect to see a new generation of innovative, agile, and customer-centric companies that are poised to disrupt traditional industries and create new market opportunities.

Marketing teams at startups lead in adopting AI tools, with 62 percent using them and 43 percent finding them the most impactful in driving growth, a HubSpot survey found. (Image Credit: HubSpot)

AI becomes the ‘new cofounder’

The HubSpot report underscores how AI is not just changing specific business tactics but redefining the very nature of entrepreneurship in the digital age.

“There is a fundamental rethinking of process – how we approach entrepreneurship, from the ground up,” said Ethan Mollick, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who studies AI and innovation. He predicts AI will become like a “new cofounder” for many startups.

The report found that AI adoption is especially high among fast-growing startups in fields like technology, professional services, and manufacturing. For many, machine learning (ML) is being used to predict customer behavior, personalize marketing, dynamically adjust pricing, and automate customer service.

Marketing teams are leading the way, with 62 percent using AI tools compared to 54 percent of sales teams, the report found. Founders rated marketing as the area where AI has had the biggest impact on their go-to-market success so far.

ChatGPT is the most popular AI tool among startups for sales, marketing, data analytics and customer experience, with HubSpot’s AI offerings ranking second in marketing and customer experience, a survey by HubSpot found. (Image Credit: HubSpot)

Challenges remain but optimism is high

Despite the benefits, founders also expressed concerns about the costs and challenges of adopting AI, including integrating it with existing systems, hiring AI talent, and addressing data privacy and ethical issues.

“As we’re working on these powerful generative AI tools that are interacting with the world, [we want to] make sure humans are still at the center of that story,” said Daniela Amodei, founder of Anthropic, an AI lab working with tech giants like Google. “We hope people use [AI] as a partner and collaborator that helps humans do the things they want to do.”

Still, optimism remains high, with 78% of founders believing AI will help increase their company’s growth in the coming year.

The HubSpot report is just the latest data point in the rapid emergence of AI as an essential technology for businesses of all sizes. With both tech giants and scrappy startups now betting big on AI, the business world seems poised for a new machine-powered era of competition and innovation.