In a world where many complain about the lack of resources for women in businesses, few put their money where their mouth is. However, female-forward companies, Circular Board and Dell, are doing just that. Their new platform, Alice, which is meant to help the 35 million women-lead businesses in the US, offers female entrepreneurs targeted brand-building tools via smart technology.
Elizabeth Gore and Carolyn Rodz.Circular Summit 2017
“Alice is essentially a search tool for founders," says Carolyn Rodz, Founder and CEO of the Circular Board. “Based on their profile Alice will know a user's industry, location and state of growth, so that it can refine [search results] based on real time needs, like securing capital or finding legal representation for a certain niche locale." As more women use Alice, the platform is able to aggregate and disseminate data more specifically.
“Alice gets smarter the more people use it," says Rodz. “She is learning from the community as a whole, learning what works based on geography, industry, getting very granular. Alice is collaborative. It's not just providing information for you, it is helping women everywhere."
Named after Lewis Carroll's wily protagonist, Alice is meant to help women move forward in business building by streamlining their search for resources. “In Alice, we saw an entrepreneurial spirit, leadership skills and guts to push beyond the hurdles to get to where she needed to go," said Rodz," adding that the platform represents the work that has been done manually by the Circular Board up until now. “Alice was created as the result of what we learned was the great value we provided; integration into the existing startup ecosystem. Men can turn to buddies from business school, but a lot of women are a real disadvantage in terms of the value of their social network. We heard there was no shortage of resources but they were having a hard time navigating the space. We realized we can reach hundreds and thousands through the Circular Board accelerator, but if we wanted to impact millions, technology was the answer."
According to Rodz, the choice of Dell as a partner was a natural one, as the Circular Board and Dell have been working together for two years. Both companies also are laser-focused on the advancement of women across industries, especially tech.
“There is this obvious “this needs to be in the world" moment and for us and as we started talking to people to figure out why there was such a disparity, we discovered that the ecosystem is large and the solutions are very granular," says Rodz. "We knew the execution would be complicated. We couldn't do it alone, we needed backing of key players and really significant partners."
Elizabeth Gore, the Entrepreneur In Residence at Dell, says she was all too excited and motivated to be that partner.
“Dell has a really interesting opportunity right now because we had a very large acquisition last year of multiple companies [including tech firm, Pivotal] so now we can be the solution provider for these platforms--whether that be through security, digital transformation, their hardware and technology--and we have a very robust policy team who is always looking out for entrepreneurs," says Gore. “[The idea was] what if we took The Circular Board as a company, put it through a digital [reinvention] and created what is now the first ever artificial intelligence from female entrepreneurs."
In addition to its powerful search engine, Alice is built to get smarter and more refined the more it is used. Through machine learning, entrepreneurs input information about their company needs, including location, stage of growth, employee numbers, fundraising status, and industry vertical. “Based on that, through the life cycle of your company Alice will [populate] resources for you, everything from marketing to accounting to accelerator recommendations to potential mentors. As you grow and as you expand, it will continue to push that information to you based on the data it's continuing to gather from you and your industry peers."
Alice Press Conference at Dell EMC World.Karen Quintos, Elizabeth Gore, Carolyn Rodz and Michele Perras
"Every time you ask a question Alice will put it in this data and analytics to start building out and predicting, says Gore. “The platform will go from good to great to awesome as more and more women populate it. The cool thing about women is we love feedback so we've built in this consistent feedback loop."
Gore, who works with Dell's executive leadership team and is constantly looking for ways to help “bolster ecosystems" for entrepreneurs across policy (her personal passion) and technology. “We look at specific demographics and figure out to get entrepreneurs the right technology," says Gore. “Every country has a very different need and focus."
With 1,200 new female-led companies launching per day, Rodz says the immediate goal is to get 4 million Alice users over the next five years. “We are confident we can do that with the partnerships we are building out and the demand from women for a tool they can use to grow," she says.
Alice User Dashboard
Currently Gore says the Dell team is focused mainly on content aggregation, pulling all available reports and data that can help entrepreneurs grow. One of the key points of focus, according to Gore, will be providing resources for female-focused fundraising, which Gore says is greatly lacking. “A big objective will be to go out to as many groups as possible and ask them to be part of the platform," she says. “A lot of the angel networks are really excited about this." Next, Gore plans to impute more information about banking and loans, as most women go that route to grow their businesses rather than through the VC community. “We want to go after the banks and understand why women aren't getting loans like men," says Gore. "It doesn't make sense."
Ultimately, the greater purpose of helping female entrepreneurs--on a larger level--is the biggest motivator for Gore and Rodz. "There is so much more to come," says Rodz. "It's a big undertaking, but so exciting to have the potential to rewrite the story for women entrepreneurs."
Personally, I am over the top excited that we are on the cusp of turning the page on not only a new year but also on a new 10-year window of opportunities and possibilities!
You may be thinking, whoa…I am just embracing the fall season…yikes… it is tough to think about a new decade!
Yet it is this groundwork, this forward thought that you put in place TODAY that will propel you and lead you into greatness in 2020 and beyond. Designing a new decade rests in your ability to vision, in your willingness to be curious, in your awareness of where you are now and what you most want to curate. Essentially, curating what's next is about tapping into today with confidence, conviction, and decision. Leading YOU starts now. This is your new next. It is your choice.
Sometimes to get to that 'next', you need to take a step back to reflect. Please pardon my asking you to spend time in yesterday. Those who know me personally, know that I created and continue to grow my business based on enabling the present moment as a springboard for living your legacy. So, indulge me here! True, I am asking you to peek into the past, yet it is only in order for you to bring the essence of that past forward into this moment called NOW.
One of the best ways to tap into what's next is to clarify what drives you. To design a new decade, ask yourself this question about the past ten years:
What worked? What were my successes?
Make a list of your achievements big and small. Don't type them, but rather use ink and paper and sit with and savor them. Move your thoughts and your successes from your head, to your heart, to your pen, to the paper. Remember that on the flip side of goals not attained and New Year's resolutions abandoned, there was more than likely some traction and action that moved you forward, even if the end result was not what you expected. Once you have a full list of a decade's worth of personal and professional accomplishments, think about how this makes you feel. Do you remember celebrating all of them? My guess is no. So, celebrate them now. Give them new life by validating them. Circle the successes that resonate with you most right now. Where can you lean into those accomplishments as you power into the decade ahead?
Now comes a tougher question, one that I used myself in my own mid-life reinvention and a question I adore because in a moment's time it provides you with a quick reconnect to your unique inner voice.
If it were 10 years ago and nothing were standing in your way, no fear or excuses to contend with…what would you do?
Don't overthink it. The brilliance of this question is that it refocuses purpose. Whatever first came to mind when you answered this for yourself is at its core a powerful insight into defining and redefining the FUTURE decade. Bring your answer into the light of today and what small piece of it is actionable NOW? Where is this resonating and aligning with a 2019 version of yourself?
Then, based on your success list and your answer to the above question, what is your 2020 vision for your business and for the business of YOU?
Designing a new decade begins as a collection of 3,650 opportunities. 3,650 blank slates of new days ahead in which to pivot and propel yourself forward. Every single one of those days is a window into your legacy. An invitation to be, create, explore, and chip away at this thing we call life. One 24-hour segment at a time.
While you have a decade ahead to work on design improvements, you have the ability to begin manifesting this project of YOU Version 2020 right NOW. Based on exploring the exercises in this post, begin executing your vision. Ask questions. Be present. Let go of 2019 and the past 10 years so that you can embrace the next 10. Position acceptance and self-trust at the forefront of how you lead you. One choice at a time.
Don't get bogged down in the concept of the next 10 years. Instead position clarity and intention into each new day, starting today. Then chase every one of those intentions with an in-the-moment commitment and solution toward living a legendary life!