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Your Answer to This Crucial Question Will Make or Break Your Business’s Growth



Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Do you want to be the Queen or do you want to be the Bank? In other words, as a business owner, do you want to have control or do you want cash? This is the question that all entrepreneurs must answer at some point. Running a business is a series of decisions, small and large, with each decision varying in its overall impact. Being an entrepreneur comes with its own set of unique decisions. And being a woman entrepreneur further complicates the choices that you make, as your decisions tend to receive more scrutiny.

I am now in the heat of running my third startup. My journey is like others’; the first startup was a disaster. The product was interesting, but without relevant experience, I had no credibility. I spent all of the money, learned a ton about what not to do and swore I would never start another business.

The next time around, I started a company with a mission that was squarely in my wheelhouse. Be Bold Now is a non-profit dedicated to promoting gender parity by showcasing women’s stories and hosting an International Women’s Day event. This time, we were wildly successful with rapid attendance and revenue growth. But five years into this venture, and just four days ahead of our annual event, the first Covid-19 death was reported in our home state of Washington. Needless to say, our business came to a crashing halt. By spring of 2020, it was clear that we needed to pivot. 

Related: What You Gain With a Growth Team

I started reading the news about the devastating effect that the pandemic was having on women and the immediate loss of economic ground. This, coupled with the increase in online shopping, led me to my next startup: TheWMarketplace. TheWMarketplace is an ecommerce marketplace for women-owned businesses on a mission to be the economic engine for women. I took the lessons I learned from both previous ventures and the passion I have around creating gender parity and started a mission-driven for-profit business.

Growth raises the important question: Queen or Bank? 

My cofounder and I launched TheWMarketplace to shoppers in September 2020, and we now have over 500 brands offering more than 3,000 products and services. It was clear early on that we would need to raise money to support the growth that we were experiencing. We opened a pre-seed round of funding five months after launch and closed it with one investor in three days. The Queen(s) and the Bank were thrilled!

We put the money into enhancing our business on Shopify, hiring a few similarly mission-driven staff at greatly reduced rates and building awareness for a viable shopping alternative to the leading online retailer. We created a place where people could support women-owned businesses and the communities they care about. 

Our revenue has grown over 580% and we have big plans for the future. We are now faced with the original question: Queen or Bank?

Queen means that we own the majority share of the business. We make the decisions without having to consult anyone else and can grow at the rate that our revenue enables us to: presumably slow and steady. As founders, we often are advised to bootstrap as long as possible in order to retain control of the business. And as everyone knows, “Early money is expensive.”

Bank means that we take on other equity partners in exchange for money to accelerate our growth. We may need to share the decision-making about how the business grows, but would also have the cash infusion to accelerate our growth and meet the market opportunity. Being a mission-driven business potentially makes shifting the decision-making to a larger group more complicated. What if our investors don’t align with or want to dilute the mission in pursuit of revenue?

With all of these considerations in mind, what it comes down to for us is: Do we own a large piece of a small business? Or do we own a small piece of a big business?

Related: You Cannot Cut Your Way to Growth

You can’t change the world if you’re satisfied with slow growth

The majority of the roughly 14 million women-owned business in the U.S. today are considered small. They employ fewer than 3 people and typically are considered “lifestyle” businesses. They are either self-funded or operate with small loans or grants. They grow slowly and generally stay in the small-business category.

On the other end of the size spectrum, in 2021, a record-breaking 1,057 U.S.-based companies raised capital through Initial Public Offerings (IPO). Of those 1,057, a grand total of four companies (Bumble, NextDoor, 23andMe and Rent the Runway) were founded by women. And of the thousands of companies that have gone public over the years, there only have been 31 that were founded by women.

The mission of my company is to be the economic engine for women. You cannot change the world and fuel growth for women by planning to be small or being satisfied with slow growth. So my answer to the question of Queen or Bank is clear: Bank. It is critical for us to have capital to grow this business and the 500-plus women-owned businesses that are using our platform. It simply is our mission. But in choosing Bank, we are also prioritizing the right fit in an equity partner. Anyone who shares in our decisions will also have to be fully committed to our vision and mission.

Related: Balance Growth vs. Profitability With These 4 Tips

We know that when we align our vision with partners who can fuel the economic engine for women, we will be on our way to becoming the 32nd women-owned business to IPO. When we ring that bell on the NYSE, we will be Queen for a day — but we would rather be the Bank for life.


Rumors confirmed, Street Fighter 6 kicks off in June 2023



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



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



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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