Business Technology

Sunday 17 December 2017

Only 3pc of tech funding goes to female entrepreneurs - new artificial intelligence system aims to boost success rate

Karen Quintos, customer care director and senior Vice President, Dell.
Karen Quintos, customer care director and senior Vice President, Dell.
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

A new artificial intelligence service has been launched to help female entrepreneurs find resources and advice to grow businesses.

‘Hello Alice’ is aimed specifically at women entrepreneurs and was developed by Circular Board with Dell and Dell-owned Pivotal.

“Under 3pc of venture capital goes to female entrepreneurs,” said Elizabeth Gore, Dell’s entrepreneur-in-residence. “We can change this together.”

The system, available at HelloAlice.com, is designed to source expert help on issues such as recruitment, funding, pitching and other issues facing young businesses.

“Only 2pc of women entrepreneurs have reached more than $1m in revenue,” said Ms Gore. “Alice and her partners will work to flip this stat to 98pc.”

Ms Gore was speaking at Dell EMC World, the tech giant’s annual conference with over 13,000 registered attendees.

Elizabeth Gore, entrepreneur on residence, Dell
Elizabeth Gore, entrepreneur on residence, Dell

In Ireland, a tiny proportion of available private venture capital funding goes to female founders.

A recent analysis by the Irish Independent showed that under 3pc of tech venture capital in Ireland goes to companies led by women, with the average individual investment ten times less than for male-run firms, an Irish Independent investigation shows.

And while almost one in eight VC-funded tech firms here has a female co-founder, only one in 20 has a female chief executive.

Read More: Enterprise Ireland announces €750k in start-up funding for female entrepreneurs

Despite rising numbers of female tech founders in Ireland, the research shows a lack of female participation in top executive roles. According to 2016 figures last year, two-thirds of the tech companies founded or co-founded by women also choose a male chief executive to run the business.

“The current startup ecosystem continues to cycle resources among a very small percentage of well-connected entrepreneurs, making it difficult for less traditional founders to navigate," Carolyn Rodz, founder and chief executive of Circular Board, the company that initiated Hello Alice. "Alice instantly filters millions of resources down to the personalised, verified content that enables founders to scale to the highest heights, no matter where they are located or who they know.”

Driven by data analytics, Alice is a virtual advisor that connects women entrepreneurs in real time with the resources needed to scale based on startup stage, location, industry, revenue and individual needs. As this system fills out, machine learning allows it to predict founders' needs to guide them to referrals, events, mentors and access points to capital and ecosystems.

Features offered by the system include a conversational user interface to express different areas where the entrepreneurs need help, such as financing, legal assistance, marketing or technology.

The system adopts machine learning based on user input and offers personalised dashboards with real-time modules based on user activity.

Read More: Paydays pay off for wages firm as it goes international

Caroline Rodz, founder and chief executive of Circular Board
Caroline Rodz, founder and chief executive of Circular Board

It has user profiles with data collection capabilities for personal and company demographics and search pages with stored results that sort and filter by location, industry, annual revenue, employee count, years in business and content publication source.

"Alice is a female founder's best mentor, guide and consultant,” said Ms Rodz.

In 2016, Ms Rodz’s company approached Dell with an idea to disrupt the startup world by building a new ecosystem for women founders. Dell took the project on.

"We're always looking for ways to bring entrepreneurs the best technology solutions to help empower them in the new world of digital transformation," said Karen Quintos, Dell’s chief customer officer and a senior Vice President at the company. "Through the power of the Dell Technologies network and the expertise of the Circular Board, we're driving innovation to help women entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level."

Circular Board has already helped 250 founders raise a total of over €25m in capital through the first virtual accelerator for women entrepreneurs. It has also built a community of more than 13,000 female founders around the world.

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