Entrepreneurs are the engine. Technology is the fuel.


I was among the masses at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas, last week. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. The energy of thousands of smart, creative and cool people converging on my hometown is pretty contagious. And it’s Austin after all…we like to keep it a little weird.

I had the pleasure of hosting a SXSWi panel focused on entrepreneurism. Joining me on stage were some terrific entrepreneurs—Jeffrey Housenbold, CEO of Shutterfly, Stephen Kaufer, co-founder and CEO of TripAdvisor, and Carley Roney, co-founder of The Knot.

Entrepreneurism is such an important catalyst for the global economy, and it was evident listening to these business leaders tell their stories. These are all web-enabled businesses that were founded during the Dot.com boom and grew up in the shadow of the bust. They more than survived; they thrived. With technology as their cornerstone, they invented new models and in some cases entirely new industries.

For my part, I spent some time talking about my own path, and how I’ve seen the power of an idea change the world. I started Dell in my dorm room when I was a 19-year old pre-med student at the University of Texas. We pioneered a business model that drastically drove down the price and increased the power and effectiveness of the PC and later, the server—accelerating the adoption of technology for people around the globe.

Thirty years later, the societal shift is remarkable. From 1985 to 2005 – the exact period of time that the PC/server model for technology spread worldwide—the number of people living in poverty was cut in half. Why? Because more power was available to more people than ever before.

A PC in the hands of a seamstress in South Africa became a thriving small business. A couple of workstations and a server enabled a manufacturer in Argentina to globalize. Affordable, accessible technology opened doors to one of the world’s most powerful forces for prosperity – entrepreneurs.

Today, studies show that startups account for about 70 percent of job creation globally; and in some emerging markets the number is as much as 91 percent. Furthermore, startups that use technology more effectively create on average twice as many jobs and are more productive and profitable than companies that don’t. The Internet alone accounts for about 20 percent of the GDP in developed countries. That’s amazing when you consider e-commerce began in earnest only about 15 years ago.

I was really pleased to share Dell’s story at SXSWi and to give a few of our customers a great platform for telling theirs. Hopefully it inspired some of the bright minds in the room to pursue their idea, to break out of the dorm room or the garage or wherever.

By taking Dell private, I feel like we’ve come full circle and that I’m once again at the helm of a startup. Our destiny is in our hands, and we’re laser-focused on our customers and driving innovation like only a private company can be. It’s liberating and exciting.

I am very proud of the role our industry has played and will continue to play in accelerating progress and prosperity on a global scale. Dell’s story, born in UT dorm room #2713, has helped power the big ideas and dreams of many entrepreneurs around the world. And we’ve only just begun.

(article by M.Dell)

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