Dell’s new entrepreneurial centre keeps innovative spirit alive and well

Woman at the centre of company’s new Dublin operation has a history of experience in innovation

Dell’s Ingrid Vanderveldt, with Sean O’Connor, StatSport, one of the founding members of Dell Founders Club. Photograph: Shane O’Neill/Fennells

Dell’s Ingrid Vanderveldt, with Sean O’Connor, StatSport, one of the founding members of Dell Founders Club. Photograph: Shane O’Neill/Fennells

 

But for the last few years, Ingrid Vanderveldt has been working with Dell, helping to build up the programmes it offers to support entrepreneurs, from access to expertise and technology to financing.

“Now, I can’t imagine being anywhere else but doing what we’re doing at Dell.”

Vanderveldt describes the chance to work with Dell as “an extraordinary opportunity”, and one that has allowed her to help shape Dell’s programmes for entrepreneurs from the point of view of those who need them – programmes by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, and driven by entrepreneurs. For example, she created and oversees the Dell Innovators Credit Fund for Entrepreneurs, which has $100 million (€73.1m) at its disposal.

When Michael Dell took to the stage at Dell World in Austin In December, he described the company as the world’s largest start-up, trying to encapsulate the atmosphere of the company after it became a private firm out of the financial markets’ glare.

It’s an assessment that Vanderveldt, as an entrepreneur, agrees with.

“The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well inside Dell. It’s always been, but now we’re really shining a spotlight on it and making investments,” she says.

Part of Vanderveldt’s role has seen the founding of the Dell Centre for Entrepreneurs, which began in the US and has gone from strength to strength.

The company last week announced that it was opening the Dell Centre for Entrepreneurs in Ireland.

“The idea of the Dell Centre for Entrepreneurs was always to build out a global ecosystem that would support entrepreneurs worldwide. To be able to do that it was really important for us to create an online environment where entrepreneurs could gain access to all kinds of knowledge, expertise, and of course tech and the financing,” she says.

“When I first came on at Dell, I came on as Entrepreneur in Residence and I was supposed to be there for six months. When I got inside Dell and saw Dell is the real deal in terms of it really wants to make a difference for entrepreneurs, and now having gone private, Dell continues to invest, with that in mind, I was really inspired to want to build out my next business related to Dell, which became the Dell Centre for Entrepreneurs.”

If the centre follows the same trajectory as it did in the US, it will have a noticeable impact on the business environment here.

“In six days we accomplished what internal planning teams thought we would do in four years. It just exploded,” she says. “When we set up the fund, the amount of money figured we would be lending out over a four year period we passed the lending amount within the first year. It just took off, and I imagine the same thing is going to happen here.”

The idea to open the centre in Ireland came from Dell’s Irish team, which Vanderveldt describes as focused on entrepreneurship.

Ireland’s reputation as a centre for innovation and entrepreneurship is deserved, she believes.

“There is so much happening here, and you have the other corporations that are here that want entrepreneurs to be successful, you have the policy leaders and investors that are active,” she says. “You’ve got an eco system here that really does fuel the success of what entrepreneurs need.”

The focus on entrepreneurship also forms part of Dell’s strategy to be an end-to-end solution provider.

Although other large corporations are also focusing on entrepreneurship, Vanderveldt feels that Dell still has the edge.

“The thing that differentiates us fundamentally is that there is no other programme that provides a 360 degree access to our people, resources, technology capital,” she says. “We’re the whole package, providing every critical element that an entrepreneur needs to be successful, including the capital.”

Working with Dell seems like a big change for the entrepreneur, who founded the Global Leadership and Sustainable Success (Glass) forum and has publicly stated her goal is to empower a billion women by 2020. The forum, which took place in Florida in 2011 has led to numerous partnerships and lasting alliances between women who attended the forum. But the job with Dell has allowed her to continue on this work, with access to the Dell’s Women Network.

“I’d been invited to be involved in the Dell Women entrepreneur network and through that, go really engaged with Dell. It got me this hands-on experience to see what Dell is trying to do not only to help entrepreneurs but to help women,” she explains. “As I got engaged with that I was really inspired by the philosophy Dell has which is basically if we’re going to get our global economy turned around, it’s not going to be the large companies that do it, it’s going to be the entrepreneurs and small business owners who do it.”

However, there’s another element to that philosophy – that the turnaround will happen through new eyes. It’s here that Vanderveldt feels that women can play an important role.

“Women are the fastest growing new business segment out there globally,” she says. “My commitment is to provide them with the tools technology and resources they need to be successful as leaders and entrepreneurs.”

Teaming up with Dell gave her the instant global reach and provide a tech platform to reach women around the world.

Another important element is getting young people involved.

This week, Vanderveldt will be taking part in the ITLG Silicon Valley Global Technology Forum, which will include a Young Innovators Day where school students will predict how we will live, learn, shop, play, travel or work in 2064.

The groups will be coached by entrepreneurs and mentors, and the entries will be judged by Vanderveldt, Gavin Duffy, Barry O’Sullivan, Peter Casey and Sean O’Sullivan.

“Every single person you meet is a person who on some level has a dream they want to realise and if you can make money doing what it is they love to do, there’s nothing better than that,” she says.

“When you’re in an environment when historically the mentality has been ‘go out and get a job’, entrepreneurship is a completely different type of experience. As more students can start seeing the possibilities of entrepreneurship, it’s very easy for them to come and connect in to places like the Dell Centre for Entrepreneurs.”



YOUNG INNOVATORS ON SHOW FOR SILICON VALLEY INVESTORS

Leadership, investment and technology are the key themes of the ITLG Silicon Valley Global Technology Forum, which will take place this week in Limerick.

The event, which starts today and ends tomorrow, will give technology start-ups and established companies alike the chance to meet experienced entrepreneurs and investors, and hear about their experiences of the technology industry.

The sessions will cover everything from investment to innovation in entertainment, cloud technologies to navigating the venture capital landscape.

Among the speakers are ITLG president and founder John Hartnett, looking at investment and the gateway between Ireland and Silicon Valley; Isaac Applebaum, who will discuss the success of Israeli firms in Silicon Valley; and Connect Ireland chief executive Michael McLoughlin, on raising investment for Ireland from international firms. Ingrid Vanderveldt will also be on hand to share how she has helped to shape entrepreneurship within a large global firm such as Dell.

Start-ups will also be given the chance to pitch their companies to panels of Silicon Valley investors, with 50 firms selected from more than 100 applicants.

The Young Innovators event will take place at Shannon Airport, providing the next generation of technology entrepreneurs with the forum to meet delegates from Dell, Intel, Google, Coder Dojo and more.

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