Dell and Circular Board Advise Women Entrepreneurs: Go Ask Alice
Houston—Dell and Circular Board want women founders to meet Alice.
Alice is a software platform that uses artificial intelligence-related tools designed to connect female entrepreneurs with resources needed to develop their companies regardless of where they are based, what industry they are in, or what language they speak.
“The genesis for Alice is that we realized that women just weren’t aware of what existed out there for them,” says Carolyn Rodz, the founder and CEO of Houston-based Circular Board, which runs a virtual accelerator for women entrepreneurs. “Alice helps to pair these founders with the right resources based on their industry, stage of growth and location, and based on their real-time needs. It doesn’t matter if she’s in Africa or New York City.”
Alice was unveiled this week at the Dell World conference in Las Vegas. Rodz took the idea of creating something like Alice to Dell’s entrepreneur-in-residence Elizabeth Gore last year, based on insights gained from running Circular Board, which was founded in 2013.
“The goal is to provide a very limited number of resources to fulfill a need,” Rodz says. “With a Google search, founders are overwhelmed by the number of responses they are getting. With so many, it’s hard to know what is helpful.”
Users create a profile on Alice, which then asks how it can help via a drop-down menu of categories such as marketing, legal, and strategy. Once a choice is made, another drop-down menu breaks down the subject into sub-categories, ultimately leading to websites that can offer specific guidance. The information comes from a variety of resources, Rodz says, including organizations such as the Case Foundation and the Kauffman Foundation; government resources such as the Small Business Administration; and corporations such as Dell and Johnson & Johnson.
Ultimately, Rodz says they hope to include additional features such as person-to-person communications and virtual experiences to connect users with experts who can share their expertise and resources.
As more entrepreneurs use the service, Alice will update itself in real-time, Rodz says, with the idea that it can predict users’ needs and provide customized content.
Pivotal, a software development firm in the Dell Technologies portfolio created the Alice platform in three months, during which the service was subjected to user testing.
Right now, Alice is free. Rodz says some basic level of the service will always be free, though there are plans to charge for more specialized services. Circular Board are also considering various partnerships with companies and groups that would pay to provide sponsored content.
Alice is a natural extension of Circular Board, which has worked so far with more than 13,000 women founders in the U.S. and other countries as far away as Mongolia. Alice is designed to bring that help to even more women, Rodz says.
“We found through the accelerator that the greatest value we were providing to founders is resource connectivity and getting them integrated into the existing startup ecosystem,” she says.