​Hello Alice: The AI-based virtual advisor for female entrepreneurs

On day two of the 2017 Dell EMC World conference, the tech giant launched Alice, an artificial intelligence platform for female entrepreneurs.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Dell EMC, in partnership with Circular Board, a "collaborative" accelerator for female entrepreneurs, has unveiled Alice, an artificial intelligence platform aimed at making it easier for more female founders to succeed in the tech world.

According to Dell EMC, female-owned businesses currently employ 7.8 million workers in the United States and generate $1.3 trillion in revenue overall, yet as reported by EY [PDF], only 2 percent of female entrepreneurs in the US have reached more than $1 million in revenues.

With Alice, Dell EMC wants to flip this stat to 98 percent.

"Alice is a female founder's best mentor, guide, and consultant. 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," said Carolyn Rodz, founder and CEO of Circular Board.

Driven by data analytics, Alice connects female entrepreneurs in real time with the resources needed to scale based on startup stage, location, industry, revenue, and individual needs, Dell EMC explained.

Officially available globally as of Tuesday, Alice offers its users a conversational user interface focused on areas such as financing, legal, marketing, and technology. It also offers a personalised dashboard, user profiles with data collection capabilities, a library of resources, a network of global experts and leaders, as well as an events calendar.

Circular Board approached Dell Technologies with the concept last year and the tech giant took it to market through its acquisition of Pivotal.

Speaking with ZDNet in October, Angela Fox, managing director for Dell Australia and New Zealand, said it is everyone's responsibility to encourage change and promote equality in the workplace.

Speaking about engaging more women in IT-related fields, Fox said it is important to keep the dialogue open, because the challenge lies with how to drive real outcomes.

"I think that can be as simple as the education of the people that are influencing those girls' choices," she said.

"Strong role models, healthy role models -- they don't all have to be female -- I think it's somebody that's advocating, and somebody that's got that person's best interests at heart."

Dell kicked off a new US-wide partnership with Girls Who Code last year, a non-profit organisation dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology, providing a $400,000 cash donation to support after-school computer science educational programs for an estimated 15,000 girls in underserved communities across the country.

In 2005, Dell became first in the IT industry to implement the Men Advocating for Real Change (MARC) Leaders pilot program, aimed at engaging men in championing the necessary changes in the workplace to create a more inclusive work environment for women.

MARC started at the top, with Michael Dell and his executive leadership team initially rolling out the program. It has now been rolled out to senior Dell leadership globally, and is forming a key part of the overall cultural change required to support the tech giant's diversity and inclusion strategy.

"The program is very simple, very effective, and really an education in the whole unconscious bias -- it's about making men in particular consciously aware of their unconscious bias," Fox said.

"That's a hugely valuable program ... it's about making it a balanced discussion.

"I think that having strong male role models, having men in general in the workforce advocating on behalf of women makes it clear that it's not just a female agenda."

Disclosure: Asha Barbaschow travelled to Dell EMC World as a guest of Dell EMC.

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