#SWAAYthenarrative

Meet ‘Alice’: The First AI Platform For Business-Building (Lady) Bosses

Business

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."

5 min read
Health

3 Healthy Ways to Relieve Stress Each Evening (Instead of Reaching for Another Cocktail)

When we envision a person who is suffering from substance use disorder (SUD)—defined by having a history of past misuse, experiencing increasing mental health symptoms, or having a family history of addiction—we often picture someone waking up and instantly grabbing their first drink. However, in my experience working with those battling SUD for nearly a decade, I've learned that everyone's relationship with alcohol looks different and having a few too many drinks at night can be just as dangerous.

The time of day, amount, or type of alcohol one drinks doesn't define if they suffer from SUD or not—it's the compulsion to drink. By focusing on healthy stress relievers and implementing them into your daily routine, you aren't just avoiding another glass at night, you are curbing any inclination for SUD that you may have.

While you may feel the desire to reach for another drink after dinner and putting the kids to bed to relieve some of the stress you incurred that day, there are other things that you can do that are much more beneficial to your mental health and wellbeing.

Risks of Reaching for Another Drink

Reaching for another cocktail or glass of wine can feel like a great way to relieve the stress of the day at the time, but over time it can actually lead to the opposite. Excessive drinking is known to lead to increased anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders such as increased risk of family problems, altered judgment, and worsened sleep quality. These can all lead to increased stress and create a continuous cycle I have seen in many of my patients, which often prove difficult to break.

Increased alcohol consumption can directly impact an individual's mood and temperament, too. In my patients, I've seen a connection between increased alcohol consumption and irritability, fatigue, and loss of interest in activities that previously brought that person joy—activities that people should always put time into, especially right now during the pandemic.

While drinking in moderation doesn't have serious implications for some, others are already at increased risk for SUD. One drink per day is considered moderate for women, while eight drinks or more in a single week is categorized as heavy drinking. It's important to monitor your intake—whether you are at increased risk for SUD or not. It is all too easy for one glass to become another, and then another. And if you keep reaching for just one more drink, you can start to build a tolerance, as it requires more and more alcohol to achieve the desired effect. This can result in dangerous, addictive habits that will alter your life, and the lives of those who care for you.

Three Healthy Ways to Relieve Evening Stress

Stress relief from alcohol is short-lived, but choosing healthier, alternative stress relievers can provide long-lasting benefits for both your mental and physical wellbeing. At Wellbridge, our team not only focuses on treating addiction but also on teaching healthy habits to support ongoing sobriety. And many of these learnings can be implemented to avoid addiction by handling stress better as well!

Below are three healthy stress relief ideas you can implement into your routine:

  1. Mindfulness exercises can be a powerful and mentally stimulating stress reliever. Throughout our therapeutic program at Wellbridge, we provide different opportunities to cultivate mindfulness. For example, breathing exercises, such as box breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, mindful walking, and progressive muscle relaxation. If you're looking for entry, guided meditation, check out this YouTube channel where experts post mindfulness exercises each week.
  2. Human connection is invaluable. Whether it is your spouse, your children, a friend, or even a therapist, connecting with someone else can be a great way to relieve stress. The additional perspective that another person provides can also help us feel that the anxieties and stressors we are experiencing are more manageable. If you are feeling increased stress from loneliness or isolation, reach out and schedule a Zoom coffee hour with a friend, or call a loved one to check-in and chat.
  3. Physical activity is an excellent stress reliever as well, for so many reasons. Not only can it help us get our mind off of stress, it enables our bodies to release endorphins and provides long-lasting physical health benefits. Physical activity doesn't need to be a full-blown workout if you don't feel up to it, or simply don't have extended periods of time to dedicate to a longer exercise regimen. Even a short walk or some stretching can go a long way towards improving your mood. I enjoy following guided, online yoga practices for both mindfulness practice and physical activity.

Despite my years working in this space, I am no stranger to giving in to stress. However, I've learned that by allotting myself a little time each morning and evening for activities that set a positive tone in my life—like meditation, journaling, and exercise—I've been able to better manage my stress and feel more prepared for heightened periods of stress. Do I manage to set aside personal time every morning and evening? Definitely not—life happens! But by doing our best to take regular time out for ourselves, we're all certain to be in a better place emotionally and mentally.

Putting Your Mental Health & Wellbeing First

It's important to also recognize that it isn't just stress that causes us to reach for another drink at night. With the added pressures and responsibilities of women in today's world, having another glass of our favorite drink at the end of the day can often seem like a quicker and easier option than other healthier ways to relieve stress.

However, it's essential to put your mental health and wellbeing front and center in your priority list—something that many women struggle with. But just like the oxygen masks on an airplane, you can't take care of others if you don't take care of yourself first. By focusing on implementing small, healthy habits and making them a seamless part of your daily routine, you ensure that you can show up in all aspects of your life and for all the people in your life.

If you are struggling with increased stress, be specific and honest with your support system about your need to preserve your mental wellbeing. Prioritizing your needs will help you be there for other people you care about in your life.

I always refer back to a quote from a Dar Williams song—a song about therapy no less! "Oh, how I loved everybody else when I finally got to talk so much about myself." Talk about your needs with others and find time to develop healthy coping habits. And if you feel as though you've already created an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, discuss that relationship with a medical advisor to learn if advanced treatment is the right option for you.