July 20, 2017
Bye, Siri and ‘HelloAlice’: How Black Women Can Use This New Tech for Business Success
For those who are #TeamiPhone, Siri has probably become your bestie. It gives directions to that next power meeting; finds the perfect meetup spot for a blind date; and even keeps you on point remembering grandma’s 80-something birthday—all prompted by “Hey Siri.” Women entrepreneurs of color may soon be saying, “HelloAlice.”
But what if you, the entrepreneur—female, specifically—could actually have a “Siri” who is a know-it-all business coach; well-connected mastermind leader; and experienced venture capitalist? Perhaps a virtual assistant with robust knowledge of resources that will help you fund your business, scale business growth, expand your network of key stakeholders, and find out how to close the deal with major investors.
Alice is the incarnation of a female entrepreneur’s dream come true. The web-based, artificial intelligence platform was created by Circular Board, an organization that has helped more than 200 entrepreneurs raise more than $28 million in capital through the first virtual accelerator for women entrepreneurs, in partnership with Dell and Pivotal.
The platform serves as a a virtual assistant with a robust knowledge of resources to help fund your business; scale business growth; expand your network of key stakeholders, and assist with closing a deal with major investors.
Here are three ways Alice can balance the scales of success particularly, for women entrepreneurs of color, based on our testing:
A One-Stop Shop, Particularly for Startup Entrepreneurs
For the newbie entrepreneur, Alice is a great platform to find tried-and-true how-tos for successfully launching a business. It offers insight into everything from website design to creating a business plan.
“Alice is really the answer to what I wish I had when I started my first company,” says Carolyn Rodz, founder and CEO of Circular Board. “There are so many resources today, and the intellectual and financial capital is clustered in a select number of really dense startup ecosystems,” she adds.
“Initially when we started this, it was to see what innovation would look like if we democratized access to resources and brought the financial expertise and the intellectual knowledge to all entrepreneurs regardless of where they came from, what industry they are in, what stage of growth. We’re really helping get them integrated into the millions of resources available.
Users choose categories including accounting, financing, strategy, and technology. Alice provides resources in the form of blogs, websites, and other sites from tailored sources of information in those areas. It offers solutions in the form of tools, content, experts, and also events. Try that with your average search engine—you typically wind down a time-consuming rabbit hole of information overload.
More Open Access and Inclusion by Way of Real-Life Vetting
Alice was created as a virtual “mentor, guide and confidante,” for women entrepreneurs to find specific tools and resources they need in one ecosystem.
At the forefront of its inception is something that could particularly help black female entrepreneurs: Access to information, networks, and real-time mentors from diverse sources that are convenient to find. Oh, and did we mention it’s free? (For now.)
“We started with a virtual accelerator program and got an incredible amount of traction through that,” Rodz says. “What was interesting through that process was that not only were we attracting women from all over the world, but we had almost 50% minority women which was really exciting to us. And we started to realize that the diversity issue that we see in the ecosystem is really more about getting outside of the bubble. [When recruiting,] we looked really far and wide. Entrepreneurs are everywhere, so instead of just looking at those working out of a co-working space in the middle of San Francisco, for us it was very important as an organization that we look and cast a really broad net, to start to bring more people into the broader ecosystem.”
Alice Is by Women, for Women
Dell notes that as the platform is populated with more information and resources, machine learning will allow Alice to “predict founders’ needs to guide them to referrals, events, mentors, and access points to capital and ecosystems.”
Alice’s current real-time resources have been culled from Dell’s, Pivotal’s, and Circular Board’s networks of entrepreneurs and partnerships with leading business organizations including the SBA, the United Nations Foundation, and Y Combinator. Users can also suggest new sources of information to be considered for Alice’s future search results.
You can think of the Alice platform as a web-based world where some of the smartest, most well-educated and successful entrepreneurs from your LinkedIn connections or Facebook friends offer targeted information, recommendations, and insights for business success—all in one place founded on the principle of for-women-by-women.
“What excites me a lot about the work we do with Circular Board in general and specifically through Alice is the ability to pull women in and get them connected to these accelerator programs, to these co-working space, so that they become part of the conversations that are being had.”
Hopefully, with the growth of Alice, diversity is still an important part of its user experience and that the perspectives, insights, and resources remain truthfully reflective of the actual body of today’s women entrepreneurs and their needs. Otherwise, black women entrepreneurs just might have to stick to, Hey Siri, resources for black women entrepreneurs, please and thank you.