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How These 3 Female CEOs Are Driving Workplace Change and Equality for Working Mothers

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In August, 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs, and according to Women in the Workplace, women are more burned out now than they were a year ago. In the past year, 1 in 3 women considered leaving the workforce, and the same study noted that 42% of women admitted that they are almost always burned out.

While working women, and especially mothers, have voiced and written about how to better empower women in the workforce, activists and CEOs Lisa Curtis, Virginia Klausmeier and Emily Stone teamed up to celebrate working moms, and most importantly, to compel employers to step it up to help drive systemic change. 

Related: Work-Life Balance Is Simple. To Succeed at Work, Get a Life.

Driving workplace change and equality for working mothers

The Unreasonable Group awarded a grant to Lisa Curtis, the founder and CEO of moringa-based superfood company Kuli Kuli Foods. Curtis and her team are using the funds to drive workplace change and equality for working mothers. In addition to sharing their own pandemic stories about parenting while running their companies, the three CEOs invited working mothers to apply for 50 Pandemic SuperMom Awards. By filling out a three-minute awards application, women were entered to win a total of $10,000 in cash, a year of free chocolate and luxury gift baskets filled with products from supporting female-founded or -led companies. 

Curtis is no stranger to the world of social good and driving change: She has served in the Peace Corps, written political briefings for President Barack Obama, served as a United Nations Environment Programme Advisor and has held multiple impact-leadership positions. “I had a baby in September of 2020 and for me, it was a self-realization that we need to change our mentality from having people on from 9-5 to having people on to when they are most productive,” Curtis explains in a video about how this led her to immediately change her company culture to offer a permanently flexible policy and “never require people to come in Monday to Friday from 9-5 again, making it possible for people to balance work and life.” Her goal is to encourage other CEOs to do the same and realize that ultimately, this will lead to more productive workplaces. 

Related: 4 Ways Working Moms Can Fight the ‘3 p.m. Disadvantage’ at Work

Virginia Klausmeier is the CEO and founder of Sylvatex, Inc, a company that utilizes bio-based, non-toxic nanochemistry to create affordable high-performance solutions that reduce the overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In simpler terms, Sylvatex makes batteries out of plants and seeks to expand these renewable-energy solutions to applications ranging from fragrances to fuel. A mother of two young children, Klausmeier also is vocal and active about driving workplace change. First, she shares her story of managing work and life and how she has adjusted company policies to allow for more human connection, transparency and flexibility. When lockdown began, Klausmeier moved back to her hometown to be closer to her parents and have family support in order to better lead her growing company and retain employees. She admits that she never really spoke about family or motherhood with employees, partners and investors because she “didn’t want people to think it would impact my performance.” Klausmeier explains, “I realized that we are humans first, then employees and that flexibility and empathy is necessary if we want to work as efficiently as possible, retain our teams and most important, reduce the burnout.”  She adds, “I intend to be part of the movement that helps women evolve and shape what the ‘Working Woman 3.0’ will look like.” 

Emily Stone, founder and CEO of Uncommon Cacao, ethically sources cacao globally for chocolate makers and stands behind farmer prosperity, having become the first transparent-trade cacao supply-chain company. Stone travels globally to meet with and educate cacao farmers and is a new mother to an almost 1-year-old. While it is difficult for her business to cover additional employee benefits, Stone chose to offer paid family leave for her company and has been an activist for this directly with Congress members so that more CEOs will offer paid family leave and flexibility.  Stone and her team produced a video to share her personal “Pandemic SuperMom Story” and discuss how she immediately adopted the new company value of “balance.” Stone explains, “Play and rest counterbalance grit and courage, and it’s crucial to prioritize what’s most important in both work and life and establish boundaries for these priorities. For my company, flexibility and remote work win, and I’ve noticed happier and less burnt-out employees, from women and families in the cacao supply chain.” 

Solidifying the progress made and celebrating those who deserve it 

Together with the grant from the Unreasonable Group and support from social-impact working-mother groups such as HeyMamaEntreprenistaThe UpsideTotem Women and Hustle Like a Mom, Curtis, Klausmeier and Stone are doing everything possible to ensure that the progress we have made with workplace equality does not rewind. In January of 2022, they will share trends and learnings from the campaign with other CEOs and employers. At the same time, the Pandemic SuperMom campaign will celebrate working parents who rarely get the recognition they deserve with cash and gift awards to help brighten spirits and alleviate stress. And there will, of course, be chocolate. 

Related: Embrace the Chaos: Navigating the C-suite as a Working Mom

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Rumors confirmed, Street Fighter 6 kicks off in June 2023

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Fighting Game fans are excited now that Capcom announced that Street Fighter 6 is coming to PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S and PC on June 2, 2023. The game was initially announced in February 2022, but that reveal did not include a specific release date beyond 2023.

The trailer at The Game Awards focused on new mini games and the international setting. In addition to the 18 previously announced fighter, the trailer also confirms that several new fighters — Dee Jay, Manon, Marisa and JP — that will join the game’s roster.

Notably, the June 2 release date for Street Fighter 6 may be a strategic choice for Capcom. June is the very beginning of Q3.

The last installment of the franchise — Street Fighter V — released nearly seven years ago so fans have been eager for another installment. A day before The Game Awards, the game’s June release date was leaked via the PlayStation Store.

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5 Things to Do Now to Propel Your Business in 2023

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Entrepreneurship is a daily leap of faith. In times of economic uncertainty, that leap may feel like a dive off a cliff. We are in one of those times. It likely will take months to fully re-adjust to the forces that have pummeled the world’s economy, and to entrepreneurs, months can feel like years.

With the right playbook, entrepreneurs can survive and thrive in whatever economic scenario. Here are five things you can do to propel your business ahead now and through the difficulties of business cycles for years to come.

1. Learn the lessons of more challenging times

A rocky economy presents a unique opportunity to make tough decisions about the business plan. Everything is open to reexamination. How has the market changed? Are your customers facing challenges that create new opportunities for your solutions? How do new conditions change your assumptions, and what actions do you need to take in response?

Critically evaluate your product roadmap. Is this the time to pivot or become more aggressive with your current plans? Prioritize the highest margin features that are achievable in the next twelve months. Push out projects that don’t make that list, and re-assign resources accordingly. Re-assess pricing. Even as inflation tiptoes back from the highest levels in forty years, raw material and transportation costs remain way up. What will impact your customers if you adjust the pricing or add surcharges to offset these costs, at least temporarily?

It’s been a rough year for hiring. Many companies took the talent they could get. If there are employees or gig workers who would fare better in a different job, now is the time to let them go. Make tough-minded corrections that will pay off overall — corrections that might be avoidable in less challenging times.

Related: How to Turn Inflation and Recession into Your Largest Business Opportunity

2. Tighten your grip on cash

Venture capitalists are pulling back. In the third quarter, Crunchbase reported that funding for startups in U.S. and Canada fell 50% year-over-year. Valuations are down across the board. If you are fortunate enough to be a later-stage startup that benefited from VC largess in 2021, make your last raise last longer than intended.

Keep your dry powder dry, and put off going for another round until the markets even out. Reemphasize the basics for early-stage companies with less market validation and greater distance between now and a potential exit. Delay all capital expenditures. Leverage the hybrid work model if possible, to reduce rent and other office expenses. Continue with Zoom or Google Meet. Now is not the time to rack up travel costs. Re-negotiate fees and terms with service providers. Seek credit terms with key suppliers, in a word, bootstrap.

3. Talk to customers, in person. Now.

How have the business needs of your customers — whether paying or beta — changed over the last 18 months? Are there benefits to your solution that have more recognized value now? Nearly every business, for example, from corporates to startups, has been forced to re-learn the lessons of supply chain management. Startups that can help their customers make better business decisions based on artificial intelligence (AI), reduce costs by improving inventory management or protect against out-of-stock scenarios by identifying and building relationships with new, more local sources of supply will have an edge.

Related: Finding Validation in Serving Customers

4. Non-dilutive capital

According to PitchBook, venture capitalists are showing greater interest in portfolio companies “whose satellite, robotics and software tools can do double duty” in military and commercial markets. International conflicts are one reason, of course.

Another is that the defense and military security industries are generally viewed as recession-proof. Our firm routinely encourages portfolio companies to consider non-dilutive funding from the Small Business Administration — grants to support cutting-edge technologies range from $150,000 to more than $1 million.

Navigating the application process isn’t for the faint of heart. A startup must be realistic about the work involved, but in many states, there are resources to help. Besides the funding, severe responses to agency requests for proposals are reviewed and evaluated by technologists. At a minimum, this can be terrific feedback and a great source of industry contacts.

5. Blue-chip cultures attract blue-chip talent

Company culture can be an asset or a liability. An inclusive, rich culture helps key hires say yes. Finding stakeholders that believe what you believe and are aligned with your team’s values significantly improves the odds that they will stick with you in good times or bad.

After months of “great resignation” fever, the over-heated demand for talent may be cooling off. Maybe offers aren’t as fast or grand as they were a year ago. Maybe Twitter won’t be the only advanced technology business to let people go. Regardless, the search for great talent isn’t a faucet that a young company turns off and on. A startup might modulate the timing or the number of hires but stand at the ready to recruit and filter for culture fit.

Related: 3 Ways to Stay Competitive in the War for Talent

With the right mindset and intentional approach, an entrepreneur can make 2023 a year to strive and thrive. As Yogi Berra, my favorite baseball player of all time, said, “Swing at the strikes.” In business, like baseball, the right swing can turn even the most challenging pitch into a hit.

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Akros Technologies, an AI-powered asset management platform, raises funding from Z Holdings • TechCrunch

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Artificial intelligence is taking over almost every industry. The investment and finance industry is no exception. In Deloitte’s 2019 report, the firm reveals that AI is transforming the financial ecosystem to reduce costs and make operations more efficient by providing automated insights and alternative data, analysis and risk management.

Technology such as AI has digitized the finance sector, ranging from payments and remittances to lending. However, asset management is still in the nascent stage of digitization, according to the chief strategy officer and co-founder of Akros Technologies, Jin Chung.

Akros Technologies wants to disrupt the current asset management industry via its AI-driven asset management software platform that mines market data for stocks. Akros just raised $2.3 million from Z Venture Capital, the corporate venture capital wholly owned by Z Holdings, which also owns the Japanese messaging app Line and internet portal Yahoo Japan.

Akros intends to strengthen strategic ties with Z Holdings via strategic investment, the startup said. The latest funding, which brings Akros’s total amount raised to $6.1 million since its 2021 inception, will help Akros to scale its software platform and asset management products and ramp up its users, including local and global financial institutions and fintech companies.

The outfit is already in discussions with potential partners to expand its AI-powered product called portfolio management as a service, or PMaaS, an all-in-one operating system for portfolio management. Chung explained to TechCrunch that PMaaS “enables B2B clients such as financial institutions, fintech startups and robot-advisors to launch their own exchange-traded funds (ETFs) without having to set up ETF teams and infrastructure.”

He added that it expects to secure more than five B2B clients in the first quarter of 2023.

The startup claims that its AI-powered portfolio management platform can reduce “the overall cost structure [of] the traditional fund development,” including management fees and unnecessary fees involved in the investment process, by more than 80%. The outfit aims to maximize the finance management performance of data-driven ETFs and offer a portfolio management solution via the PMaaS for Akros’s users to help them compete with global ETF institutions like Vanguard or JPMorgan.

In August, Contents Technologies launched Korean pop music, also known as K-pop, and Korea Entertainment ETF, on the NYSE Arca Exchange under the ticker KPOP, using Akros’s PMaaS solution to develop the ETFs. In addition, Akros listed an AI-driven target income ETF, called Akros Monthly Payout ETF (ticker: MPAY), on the NYSE in May with monthly distributions at an annualized target rate of 7%, according to the startup.

To build a slew of investment strategies that lower the cost of portfolio modeling and generate scores of investment portfolios, Akros applies a generative AI model based on a decision transformer, which predicts future actions through the sequencing model, Chung said, adding the company also employs GPT-3 natural language processing (NLP) to analyze unstructured language data.

Akros plans continuously to enhance its engineering technology by bolstering its business to disrupt the asset management market and attract new partners across the globe, including Japan, Singapore and the U.S., co-founder and chief executive officer Kyle Moon said in a statement.

Founded by CEO Moon, CSO Jin and chief marketing officer Justin Gim, Akros employs seven people.

Co-founders of Akros Technologies: (Left to right) Justin Gim, Kyle Moon and Jin Chung. Image Credits: Akros Technologies

Moon previously worked for Qraft Technologies as head of AI research and CSO and had experience listing four ETFs on NYSE. Before co-founding Akros, Gim had more than nine years of experience in the asset management industry; Chung did research work for Bayesian deep learning in autonomous driving cars at Oxford Robotics Institute.

In March, Akros raised $3.75 million in funding from PeopleFund, a South Korean peer-to-peer lending platform. The company declined to provide its valuation when asked.

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