Significance of AI to Businesses in Today’s Economy

Jean-Francois Gagné, CEO at the AI-based software company Element AI, told Via News that in what AI is concerned, “the job displacement topic is a …

Emerging technology is a word very much thrown around these days. It is especially as most of the business sector look to not only cut their expenditure but also to improve the quality of their offering. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a leading emerging technology whose significance is growing by the day. A lot of companies are evaluating ways of leveraging the technology if not just thinking about it.

Integrating algorithms into the business model

Interestingly, there is nowhere AI seems crucial as in the entrepreneurial sector. Unlike established businesses, small businesses, which entrepreneurs run, lack stable economies of scale. It is to say that businesses are not established to deal with certain shocks, especially from the external environment. Further, they do not have the financial muscle to sufficiently deal with certain aspects of business like hiring the best talent available.

In this light, it is imperative that the entrepreneurs learn to improvise and also to make technology work for them. AI is doing just that! A lot of entrepreneurs are trying to figure out ways of integrating algorithms into their business model. Notably, this not only helps the small business maintain a lean staff but also to maximize output.

AI, alongside other emerging technological concepts like Machine Learning and Deep Learning, is defining most of the world’s business environment. However, it is clear that the new concepts are still a little bit technical for business owners who would like a go at it. In spite of that, there is an evident thirst for know-how and how to make the technology work for businesses.

“Entrepreneurs should have clear priorities and a clear framework on how the technology will be helpful.”

Vinita Bansal, social entrepreneur at Speaker City,

Clarity of purpose will unlock the true potential of AI

Vinita Bansal is a social entrepreneur who runs Speaker City, a Public Speaking startup in India. Bansal is among the new age entrepreneurs that are transforming the business environment, not just in India but globally. She finds it a blessing that AI came up at a time when she could make it work for her. Nonetheless, Bansal cautions that AI is beneficial if it aligns with your business model.

Regarding entrepreneurs who would like to integrate the new technology into their businesses, Bansal says, “Entrepreneurs should have clear priorities and a clear framework on how the technology will be helpful.” In this sense, business owners must be clear about the outcomes they desire from their business as a result of integrating AI.

“AI has great potential in terms of increasing the productivity of businesses, especially in the entrepreneurial sense,” she says. “However, knowing how best to deploy the technology will determine if it delivers the potential optimally. Basically, entrepreneurs should first figure out how the technology will grasp the concepts they want to implement.”

Mitigating job displacement

Interestingly, the intrigue does not end there. Evaluating the potential of the emerging technology points us in a direction that is coming up as a vital basis for debate. It is apparent that AI boosts efficiency, productivity and hence, it helps businesses substantially cut operational costs. However, it is also true that AI takes up more and more jobs that would otherwise keep the world’s workforce employed.

The manufacturing industry is at the center of this debate, given the number of people that depend on the jobs for livelihood. Tripti Gupta owns AADYA Fashions, a fashion house that sources materials and manufactures clothes in a variety of designs. Gupta unequivocally says that AI will revolutionize the labor market. For manufacturers like herself, it will be untenable to settle for human plant operators that are expensive to maintain and are prone to errors. Instead, she is more likely to go for intelligent machines that can accomplish her objectives fast, cheaply and with perfection.

“The business sector should begin looking for ways to mitigate job displacement as a result of the adoption of AI before it becomes a menace and disrupts the business environment,” Gupta concludes.

Jean-Francois Gagné, CEO at the AI-based software company Element AI, told Via News that in what AI is concerned, “the job displacement topic is a fair one.” In a five to ten-year time span, we can expect “AI taking on more the responsibility on regular mundane tasks and even some cognitive tasks,” Gagné concludes.

Jean-Francois Gagné, CEO at Element AI, an artificial intelligence software company. Photo by: Via News.
Jean-Francois Gagné, CEO at Element AI, an artificial intelligence software company. Photo by: Via News.

As for businesses wanting to implement AI capabilities, Jean-Francois Gagné, explains that “the first thing to do is have a clear idea of the objective. The second step is understanding how to get an AI system to learn about the context and the signal leading to the desired outcome.”

Via News TV

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New York’s growing ‘tech for good’ community

Their plan: Use blockchain technology to allow patients to reap financial … What’s different today is that blockchain and other emerging technologies …

When Andrew Hoppin and Christopher Sealey launched their blockchain startup this year, they weren’t dreaming of becoming the next unicorn or earning gazillions trading cryptocurrencies. Instead, the co-founders—who had first worked together upgrading technology and communications systems for the state Senate—had a compelling social mission. They wanted their new company, CoverUs, to help make health care more affordable and efficient for ordinary people.

Their plan: Use blockchain technology to allow patients to reap financial benefits from their own health data rather than have it sold by brokers to third parties such as insurers, hospitals and academic researchers.

Blockchains, which are commonly described as digitized, publicly disclosed ledgers, contain batches of transactions, which are time-stamped, linked to other blocks and safe from being altered after the fact. The technology is well-suited for health care, the duo reasoned, because it could allow consumers to control which data they wish to share as well as facilitate efficient and easy-to-track micropayments.

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“Our mission is to make a piece of the world work better for as many people as possible,” said Hoppin, who serves as CEO. “We’re inspired about what blockchain technology can do and how it can upend the power dynamics of complex systems.”

Hoppin had started—and later sold—the company NuCivic, with systems for making government data more accessible to the public. Sealey, an expert in consumer engagement, helped found an economic think tank and focused on the inefficiencies and inequities of the U.S. health care system.

The partners, who plan their next moves from NewLab, a tech coworking space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, hope to launch their first pilot in the fourth quarter of the year. So far they are still operating on the proceeds from the sale of NuCivic and raising $3 million in a seed round. They have no employees or revenue.

CoverUs is one of a growing number of New York–based enterprises for which technology empowers idealism. Like other socially conscious entrepreneurs, these “tech for good” startups aim to make both a profit and a difference—what’s commonly called the double bottom line—by addressing a wide range of social goals. What’s different today is that blockchain and other emerging technologies are making new solutions possible.

“We’ve seen an uptick in social ventures that use tech as an integral part of their business model in the New York City community,” said Sandra Navalli, managing director of Columbia Business School’s Tamer Center for Social Enterprise.

As a hub of diverse industries and nonprofits with a long tradition of philanthropy, New York is a natural fit for many of these ventures. And city-run programs, such as the nine-year-old NYC BigApps competition, which provides participants with access to municipal data sets to build tech products addressing civic issues, have contributed to the growth.

In fact, perhaps the most noteworthy feature of the tech-for-good world is its thriving universe of co-working spaces, meet-ups, hack-a-thons, like-minded professionals and startups. “We definitely see an ecosystem that’s becoming more vibrant as more people recognize there’s an opportunity to make a difference using technology,” said Bill Cromie, director of emergent technology at Blue Ridge Labs@Robin Hood, a Brooklyn-based incubator aimed at addressing income inequality.

That ecosystem could soon get a big boost if the city approves a 21-story, $250 million project to be built in the former home of a P.C. Richard & Son store near Union Square. The goal is to create a tech hub for underserved communities. First proposed by the city’s Economic Development Corp. and RAL Development Services three years ago, it’s now in the approval process.

Meet-up metropolis

For entrepreneurs including Brett Whysel, a former investment banker and the founder of financial wellness startup Decision Fish, the city’s many networking events provide an invaluable resource. His two-year-old company operates out of Impact Hub NYC, a coworking space for socially conscious ventures in Manhattan. He is beta-testing a platform intended to give middle-class users free financial planning and budgeting insights. People plug in their spending history and savings goals to develop a realistic plan. “It’s for the rest of America that can’t afford to buy this advice,” said Whysel, who is self-funding the company.

Whysel attends at least two events a week, including a recent forum held by Ideas42, a nonprofit design and consulting firm where he learned about several tech enhancements that could help his users feel safer about the privacy of their data. He hired his chief technologist after meeting him at a NYC TechBreakfast in 2016.

Blue Ridge, an initiative of the Manhattan-based Robin Hood Foundation, accepts 15 to 18 would-be tech founders every year for a four-month summer program, providing free office space in its 6,000- square-foot location on Court Street in Brooklyn. Entrepreneurs develop ideas for startups focused on moving people out of poverty by consulting with community organizations funded by Robin Hood as well as a group of 800 low-income New Yorkers who are paid to participate. Among those social entrepreneurs is Avi Karnani, who started the company Thrive to help millennials make better financial decisions. He sold it to Lending Tree in 2009 for an undisclosed sum.

“I’m focused on creating sustainable financial products for everyday Americans,” he said.

In 2014 Karnani met his business partner Paul Barnes-Hoggett at Blue Ridge, where they were both fellows. During their tenure, they interviewed about 150 people, including hourly workers, counselors and employers, about how to make commuting to work, school or day care easier and cheaper. Based on their research, the partners launched This Is Alice, a 12-employee company whose platform helps hourly workers sign up for and receive pretax benefits, such as commuting discounts and day care subsidies. “I knew about the technology and read all the research,” Karnani said, “but I hadn’t spent time in places, like Brownsville, where people lived and worked.”

While many tech-for-good startups utilize familiar platforms, such as GPS and smartphones, increasingly companies including CoverUs are turning to more emergent technologies.

Blockchain startups, for example, are seeing a growing roster of resources to draw from. In May the city’s Economic Development Corp. co-sponsored Blockchain Week, a series of events and conferences. CoverUs got its start last year at a hack-a-thon run by the Blockchain for Social Impact Coalition, an arm of ConsenSys, a tech-consulting firm that helps clients develop blockchain systems. CoverUs also recently took part in a five-week startup incubator dubbed Startup Boost NY, which is co-sponsored by Crypto NYC, a nonprofit offering both coworking space and a support community for blockchain startups.

In CoverUs’ first phase, consumers will be paid by insurers, government agencies and others to fill out surveys about their health, Hoppin said. Eventually the company plans to establish a marketplace where consumers will securely control the sale of their data. They’ll most likely be able to use those proceeds—perhaps as much as $2,000 per year—to pay for their out-of-pocket health costs as well as other expenses.

Like CoverUs, many tech-for-good startups target larger organizations as their primary customers rather than the individuals they ultimately want to help. This Is Alice, for example, markets to employers, which then offer its services as a benefit. Companies pay This Is Alice half of what they save on payroll taxes as a result of their employees putting more of their pretax income into flexible spending accounts and other programs.

The platform is now available in “most major cities” with “hundreds of employer customers,” said Karnani, who declined to share his company’s revenue figures. His local customers include Brooklyn Roasting Co., One Girl Cookies and healthcare.com.

Lessons learned

But that B-to-B approach can mean slower growth for some tech-for-good startups, a lesson the founders of six-year-old Kinvolved learned the hard way. Alexandra Meis, previously a program manager at a hospital in the South Bronx, where she worked with parents of children with special needs, and Miriam Altman, a former high school teacher, met as students at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

After completing their degrees, the two women resolved to form a company that could improve communication between parents and schools as well as reduce absenteeism. Their five-employee startup offers an app to help teachers communicate with parents about students missing days and other problems. Realizing that the human touch is as important as the technology, the company has introduced in-person coaching for teachers and a summit with workshops for parents and educators.

“Tech alone is not going to solve our country’s deepest-rooted issues,” Meis said.

The co-founders initially decided against selling the app directly to teachers, even though they thought that would have been a quick method for acquiring new customers. Instead, they figured the best way to ensure the platform’s place as a permanent fixture was to sell the app directly to schools and districts, charging them a licensing fee to use the software.

During their first fundraising efforts about five years ago, however, they found that many investors balked at their business model. But they have persevered, trusting that patience will pay off.

“We realize that lasting change is not going to happen overnight,” Meis said. The company has succeeded in raising several rounds of funding, but she declined to disclose how much.

Finding investors is a challenge, but some female founders who aim to create a for-profit tech-for-good venture report another difficulty: Potential funders often suggest they form a nonprofit instead.

“We’ve found women would share their ideas with their network, and then as soon as they revealed it was for-profit, people would back away,” said Natalia Oberti Noguera, founder and CEO of Manhattan-based Pipeline Angels, a funding network for female investors interested in early stage, women-run ventures. “But when guys talked about that, they wouldn’t get the same reaction.”

For social investors, funding tech-for-good startups provides a way to support causes they believe in while earning a return on their investment. Liz Luckett founded Brooklyn’s The Social Entrepreneurs’ Fund in 2012 to back startups in health, finance and social services that focus on low-income households. So far the fund has supported 13 companies, with a typical investment of $1 million. After its third fundraising round is completed, it plans to invest $2 million to $4 million in the next group of social enterprises.

“This is a way to fund companies with scalable business models so they don’t have to go with hat in hand constantly asking for money from donors,” Luckett said.

But raising capital isn’t the end of the battle for a social entrepreneur. Once a business model proves successful, the next big hurdle is figuring out how to scale up the operation for maximum impact in order to accomplish its mission and generate a profit to make it self-sustaining.

Hoppin of CoverUs is realistic about how long it could take for his company to reach critical mass so that it can really make a difference for both consumers and health care providers.

“We’re trying to overturn a massive industry,” he said. “I regard this as my life’s work.”

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Embracing Emerging Technology for Social Change

Embracing Emerging Technology for Social Change … Kristin Richmond of Revolution Foods, which is using data and technology to increase access …

Emerging technologies like biotech and artificial intelligence have the potential to transform so many of the systems that make up the world around us.


At our 2018 Frontiers of Social Innovation conference, Katherine Milligan, who directs the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship spoke with a few savvy social entrepreneurs who are harnessing these tools for social impact right now. Milligan speaks with Keller Rinaudo, CEO and cofounder of Zipline, which is using drones to deliver blood and medicines to remote parts of the world; Kristin Richmond of Revolution Foods, which is using data and technology to increase access to fresh, healthy food to underserved communities and schools; and David Risher, CEO and co-founder of Worldreader, a global nonprofit that provides people in the developing world with free access to culturally relevant, digital books via e-readers and mobile phones.

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Why Los Angeles Is The Silicon Valley of Social Impact

I do believe that the intersection of the creative scene, entertainment business and emerging technologies create a unique mix of entrepreneurs who …

Walking down Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice Beach is like walking down an alternative Rodeo Drive: one that is populated by high-end boutiques and restaurants, all featuring the latest fashions and food. But look a little closer and you’ll see that there is a common thread. Socially conscious fashion brands like Shinola, Warby Parker and Tom’s all have flagship stores, bursting at the seams with customers. The coolest restaurants like Gjelina, Felix (Esquire’s Best New Restaurant in America) and The Butcher’s Daughter are known for beautiful, ethically-sourced, plant-forward cuisine (one of the hottest menu items on the street is The Impossible Burger,a delicious meatless burger that tastes as close to the real thing as you can imagine). At Med Men, a sleek cannabis dispensary outlet, the design is more Apple store than smoke shop, all Ipads and blond wood, with patient ‘budtenders’ there to help the crowds of newbies with education and advice. Down the block at Bulletproof Labs (a spin-off of Bulletproof Coffee) fitness enthusiasts get to optimize their performance, biohacking themselves with cryotherapy, light therapy and float tanks. At Stretchlabs on Rose Avenue, trained yoga instructors stretch tired muscles into shape, easing the tensions of daily life. It’s not unusual any more to see a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket fly overhead after a launch from nearby Vandenburg Air Force Base, whilst below our feet Elon Musk’s The Boring Company is getting ready to transform traffic jams into a thing of the past. And as the gentle California sun sets, tourists and locals alike gleefully zip around on Bird electric scooters, grinning like ten-year-olds in delight (no wonder the company was the fastest unicorn to hit a billion-dollar valuation ever).

Living in LA is like living in the future. It’s a constant stream of crypto, cannabis, and content. I do believe that the intersection of the creative scene, entertainment business and emerging technologies create a unique mix of entrepreneurs who look at the future differently. Combine the technology with LA’s history of leading the country in wellness it all makes for a super interesting city. After being on the east coast for 20+ years it feels good to be a part of this energy,’ says James Andrews, Managing Partner at OpenNest, a brand accelerator and venture studio dedicated to social impact.

Paul Hanaoka

Los Angeles

In the words of Buffalo Springfield, ‘There’s something happening here’, a new awakening in LA’s zeitgeist, fuelled by cross-pollination amongst several tectonic forces colliding together. There is the new world of Silicon Beach, where companies like Google, Facebook, Snapchat and more have taken over massive spaces (there’s the internet down here as well, and you know, sunshine). That coupled with the historical industries of movies, TV, music and gaming have created for the new corporate juggernauts of our time. In addition to ‘golden age of television’ giants like Netflix and Hulu, companies like Apple and Amazon are taking over vast chunks of Culver City to build their own campuses as the content gold rush continues – at last count there were more than $21 billion dollars in new content budgets that didn’t exist a few years ago – and this is before Disney unleashes its ‘Disneyflix’ competitor to Netflix which is already gearing up to be quite an addition. Not to mention gaming companies like Activision in Santa Monica whose gigantic franchises like ‘Call of Duty’ can generate oh, just a billion dollars of sales in the first two weeks. And finally, the vanguard of virtual reality is represented with cutting-edge companies like supercool director Chris Milk’s Within, The Virtual Reality Company, Survios, and Emblematic Group, founded by Nonny de la Pena, dubbed the ‘Godmother of VR’. LA is a city built on story, and as our culture is more hungry for stories than ever before, on more devices and more screens, this is the place to be for creators of all kinds.

And those stories are increasingly taking a purpose-driven lense to the world. In addition to incumbents like Participant Media (who have a fantastic track record of producing films like ‘Spotlight’ ‘He Named Me Malala’ and ‘An Inconvenient Truth’) are new entrants like veteran producer and criminal justice reform activist Scott Budnick who has launched Good Films, a $150 million fund to create films with maximum social impact. And in the wake of the TimesUp movement, with a legal fund of over $21 million to help pay the legal fees of women who have been sexually harassed, more initiatives have been unveiled like the Evolve Entertainment Fund by filmmaker Ava Du Vernay, producer Dan Lin and Mayor Eric Garcetti to promote inclusion in the entertainment industry. And Compton which has long produced superstar talent from Dr Dre to Venus and Serena Williams has its latest champion in Pulitzer-Prize winning artist Kendrick Lamar (maybe Compton is the real Wakanda).

Perhaps it is Los Angeles more mellow, hippy roots, which lead this city to be less cynical but LA has also become a mecca for socially conscious companies of all stripes. Tom’s and The Honest Company are the OG’s in this space. But everywhere you look, examples of social enterprises abound. Swell is an impact investing company based in Santa Monica, which allows investors to simply and efficiently direct their investments into green tech, clean energy, renewables, and disease eradication amongst others. In their breezy offices overlooking the ocean (complete with office surfboards), Chief Marketing Officer Teresa Orsolini talked about why their financial start-up chose LA over Silicon Valley or Wall Street.

We always say that we were born in Southern California. One of the things that struck us was the momentum with social entrepreneurship- there was already this energy here. There’s also a movement around environmental and social progress – California is one of the most socially progressive states in the country and arguably in the world, so we think its the right spot for us to be right now,’ she says

Other socially impactful companies making Los Angeles home include #Goodtech start-up Pledgeling, which aligns brands and cause to increase business and social impact; Aspiration, which offers checking accounts, 401ks andother ethical financial products; andGifts for Good, which provide corporations with beautiful, sustainable corporate gifts.Dosist (formerly Hmbldt) is leading the way in the cannabis space with a beautifully designed and intuitive product that was named Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2016. And the celebrity-driven fundraising platform Omaze which has just raised over $100 million for good causes by partnering with stars such as Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, John Legend and more is in the heart of Culver City on the West Side.

On the agency side, shops like Enso (whose World Value Index tracks socially conscious brands), We First, In Good Co, and others are all spearheading the Good Revolution. MAL For Good, a spin-off off TBWAMAL has done sterling work for clients like Conservation International, NPR and The XQ Institute, the latter a bold attempt to reimagine what public high school would look like with talents like Laurene Powell Jobs, Marc Ecko and Yo Yo Ma involved. Progressive agencies like Anomaly and Sid Lee are all doing sterling work in the social impact space, and larger agencies like 72 and Sunny even have their own Brand Citizenship practice. ThinkLA, a collective whose mission is to inspire the LA creative community holds regular events, as does Conscious Capitalism LA which brings together the socially conscious business community.

Triarchy

Triarchy Jeans

On the fashion side are players such as ethical fashion darlings Reformation who make their products sustainably (for instance, using deadstock fabrics) as well as Triarchy, a jeans company dedicated to reducing the massively wasteful amount of water (2900 gallons) that goes into making a pair of jeans, and Apolis (meaning ‘Global Citizen), a brand with a cult following for their beautiful and ethical products like tote bags and t-shirts.

On the non-profit front, LA is home to the X-Prize Foundation which partners with brands to launch audacious crowd-sourced challenges to some of the world’s biggest problems, using technologies like robotics, 3D printing and AI. Other social enterprises include Two Bit Circus who are busy creating the future of STEAM education with their madcap circus which blurs the line between learning and entertainment. And Mick Ebeling and his team at Not Impossible Labs are doing frankly amazing work in helping use new technologies to tackle everything from 3D printing prosthetic arms to helping paralyzed graffiti writers use their eyeballs to tag.

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Millennial Moves: Woman Startup Founder Building Platform to Help Other Women Founders

VC firm First Round Capital found that teams in its portfolio with at least one woman outperform all-male teams by 63%. I set off to gain as much insight as possible by attending angel investing groups and business competitions. I noticed that 99% of the investment decision makers are older white males.

Roshawnna Novellus founded EnrichHER to empower female founders with the capital needed to build their businesses. Her platform leverages crowdfunding to source funding opportunities for women-led businesses. In addition to the funding platform, Novellus hosts EnrichHER Spark events around the nation; gathering female founders and investors.

Black Enterprise contributor Brandon Andrews spoke with Novellus about EnrichHER and her plans to get more resources into the hands of female founders.

Brandon Andrews: Every entrepreneur has a point at which the problem they see motivates them to create a solution and build a business around it. What was that point for you?

Roshawnna Novellus: Numerous people asked me this question either through consultations or my speaking engagements. As such, I knew it was a huge problem. A few years ago, I decided to take on researching why women-led businesses receive less funding than male-led businesses.

VC firm First Round Capital found that teams in its portfolio with at least one woman outperform all-male teams by 63%. I set off to gain as much insight as possible by attending angel investing groups and business competitions. I noticed that 99% of the investment decision makers are older white males. In a time where it is known that investors will only consider founders that they know, like, and trust it was more evident than ever that one of the reasons that women are underfunded is that they rarely have a seat at the table. As a result, I took action and created programming that would connect entrepreneurs of color and women with investors who have an interest in investing in them.

Every time I can help a women-led business succeed, I believe that I’m fulfilling my purpose. I believe that providing capital for women-led businesses provides economic empowerment, inclusive economic growth, and overall gender equality. As the number of sustainable women-led businesses increases, society as a whole will benefit from inclusive job growth, as well as products and services that better reflect the input of women. Once women have a larger role in the economies of our communities, we will be able to build a society that is more reflective of our needs, desires, and aspirations

You want to bring more resources to female entrepreneurs. Why don’t resources—capital, connections, and information—get to female founders?

The biggest problem is access and inclusion. It’s one thing to let a woman into a room, but it’s another to give her a voice at the table. Many of the programs that exist are not set up a way that women deem accessible. Women typically have many commitments in their daily schedule. As such, we need more planning and flexibly to commit fully to resources that can help us grow. Also, often, women need to feel more prepared than our male counterparts. All of the women who are in my Halcyon Cohort are older than all of the men. One simple fact is that we don’t apply to opportunities until we feel like we’ve worked hard enough to deserve these opportunities. The bar women set for ourselves tends to be much higher than our male counterparts.

Beyond the programs that EnrichHER provides female entrepreneurs, is a larger societal shift needed to ensure female founders have access to resources?

A platform like EnrichHER focusing on women-led businesses would mean many things including that women receive the same opportunities for funding as men. This issue is urgent because women deserve to grow their economic independence and power. Women can no longer wait for the existing set of politicians, tech companies, and development agencies to advocate on our behalf to make this change. Millions of women every day find it difficult to pursue their dreams because of limited access to capital. The time is now for EnrichHER to help those women.

Access to capital is the No. 1 need articulated by entrepreneurs. EnrichHER is addressing this for female entrepreneurs by building a debt crowdfunding platform. Why was it important for you to build a platform in this nascent space?

Most of the media hype focuses on venture investment. We know that less than 1% of all companies receive equity investment and less than 8% of that number is allocated toward women-led ventures. EnrichHER simply wants to focus on the 99% of women-led ventures who need financing. As such, we’ve decided to focus on a debt financing platform as studies have shown that debt financing is 75% of the financing market. Furthermore, the other significant women-concentrated platforms focus on equity or debt. As such, we believe we are delivering something that the market needs.

woman startup founder

EnrichHER CEO Dr. Roshawnna Novellus with attendees at the EnrichHER Spark Conference (enrichher.com)

Andrews: In 2017, Nielsen released a study entitled “African-American Women: Our Science, Her Magic.” The report lauds black women as entrepreneurs and trendsetters who control the majority of the over $1T in black buying power. Why is equity crowdfunding important for black women in particular?

Dr. Novellus: Studies have shown that 50% of all crowdfunding campaigns are women-led. As such, crowdfunding is the most efficient way for women to receive capital. We’re leveraging these statistics to help the highest number of women.

Although black women often don’t receive the credit, we are the international trendsetters across most industries. If black women show the world that we can break through the roadblocks set in place for our economic independence, we can show the world that we can create a society that is more reflective of our dreams, goals, and worldview. By doing this, we can capture more of the economic power that is often taken from us.

Andrews: How will the crowdfunding platform work, and what is the timeline for launch?

Dr. Novellus: The Funding platform allows women in the EnrichHER community to connect directly to investors who can help them grow. It will allow everyone to participate whether they have $100 or $100,000 to lend. We expect to launch the EnrichHER Funding Platform in April 2018. The platform will be open to unaccredited and accredited investors.

You were recently awarded the Halcyon Incubator Fellowship. The program is for social entrepreneurs. How are you integrating social good into your business?

Dr. Novellus: Non-financial success for us will ultimately be measured by the number of women who use EnrichHER as the inspiration to start and sustain their businesses. We have already achieved a measure of non-financial success in the form of positive comments and feedback from the entrepreneurs who have already become a part of the EnrichHER movement. In one instance, a woman founder stated that her participation in the first EnrichHER conference was the reason that she finally publicly announced her business and put it in a position to thrive. So many other women have personally thanked us for the valuable information shared at the EnrichHER conferences. The impact will continue to be measured by inspiration, feedback, and change in mindset.

How do you plan to grow your business in 2018?

Dr. Novellus: Our growth happens through partnerships. We’re looking for financial institutions, investment funds, entrepreneurship groups and other partners who share our vision. We believe that by working together, we can help women win nationwide.

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