Hello Alice: AI tool helps female entrepreneurs grow business

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Almost 1,000 women (983 to be exact) started net-new* businesses per day in the U.S. from 2012 to 2016, according to the “2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report,” commissioned by American Express OPEN. In a little less than a decade, the number of women-owned companies has grown at a rate five times faster than the national average, the report said. Other report revelations show there are 11.3 million women-owned firms, employing nearly 9 million people and generating more than $1.6 trillion in revenue.

However, there is a flipside to this encouraging news. Women have less access to formal and informal networks in science, technology and business services leading to management and leadership positions, as reported by the US Chamber of Commerce’s Women-Owned Businesses. Additionally, when it comes to accessing capital, women also lack the necessary funding.

Through its cloud company, Pivotal Software Inc., Dell Technologies Inc. is part of an effort to level the playing field for female entrepreneurs. Pivotal partnered with The Circular Board on a project called Hello Alice, the first artificial intelligence-based virtual advisor for female entrepreneurs. It took three months for the company to develop, test and launch the software using its cloud technology that provides Hello Alice with machine learning capabilities.

The goal is to continously compile data and grow the platform in an effort to connect, mentor and help female entrepreneurs scale their businesses. Using algorithms devised from user content as it populates the site will assist in developing the capabilities that can predict what the user requires and then offer targeted solutions.  

“We’ve been really proud to partner with [The Circular Board] for the last two years, because they use a digital platform that is very scalable,” said Elizabeth Gore (pictured, right), entrepreneur in residence at Dell EMC. “Women are only getting three percent of venture capital in the U.S., so access to capital, mentorship, networks is really critical. And so we’re really excited to partner with ‘Hello Alice’ to help solve that problem.” 

Gore and Carolyn Rodz (pictured, left), founder and chief executive officer of The Circular Board, spoke to Rebecca Knight (@knightrm) and Paul Gillin (@pgillin), co-hosts of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile live streaming studio, during Dell EMC World in Las Vegas, Nevada. (* Disclosure below.)

This week theCUBE spotlights Elizabeth Gore and Carolyn Rodz in our Women in Tech feature.

Hello Alice, how can you help me?

The catalyst for Hello Alice began when Rodz’s organization began hearing from women about the lack of resources at their disposal when it came to launching a business. To solve the problems and help women integrate into the existing start-up ecosystem, The Circular Board and Pivotal spent thousands of hours executing user testing to uncover patterns in the way women access information and capital, as well as uncover the reason for a lack of integrating into existing systems.

The teams reached out to partners and experts to gather data that provided the very best answers based on machine learning to problems that are specific to female founders. Data was collected from organizations such as The Kauffman Foundation, the Case Foundation, the Small Business Administration, the Department of Commerce and companies like Dell.

Collecting data and content relevant to women and by coding the site in a gender-specific way, the curated information is helpful for “time-poor entrepreneurs” to become more profitable, Gore explained.

“So from the start we looked at what were the unique needs of women, how did they learn and absorb information best. And that was where we started to create the platform. But, certainly, she’s open to everybody. The more the merrier,” Rodz said.

Starting now, women entrepreneurs can log on to www.helloalice.com and create a profile, which according to Rodz formulates connections to the right resources based on industry, stage of growth and location.The site guides businesswomen to solutions around the world that they might not have been able to otherwise.

Advice to female entrepreneurs

Rodz and Gore offered some helpful advice to female entrepreneurs just starting out.

“Build the right team, find a co-founder, enlist the right investors to help provide the capital that you need, get the right partners on board and really look beyond just your employees as your team. But really look at who is the circle that you’re enlisting behind your business to make it happen,” Rodz said.

While Gore advised: “And I would say it’s really important to put purpose into profit. So really understand while you’re going after that profitability, why did you start in the first place? What is the purpose that your company is going after? On those hard days, put that back into your focus.”

* “Net New” takes into account the number of new businesses minus firm closures or changes in ownership resulting in the loss of woman-owned status.

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s independent editorial coverage of Dell EMC World 2017. (* Disclosure: TheCUBE is a paid media partner for Dell EMC World. Neither Dell nor other sponsors have editorial influence on content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE