As we’re getting ready to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week, I wanted to provide an update on Dell’s small business “Think Tank” tour, which kicked off back in June with events in Miami and Atlanta. Since then we've traveled to San Francisco and Chicago to meet with local entrepreneurs, small business owners and leaders to help Dell be more responsive and better understand the unique needs of small businesses.
The “Think Tank” events are designed as interactive dialogue focused on how local small businesses and entrepreneurs plan to grow and succeed and what they need from the organizations that serve them (like Dell). In order to learn more about their prospects, priorities and perceptions, Dell commissioned local research in each city prior to each event. Results showed a bright local outlook for local small businesses and healthy expectations for growth. Full research results are available here:
Conversations with local business owners focused around what entrepreneurs need to spur growth. Key issues discussed included access to capital, finding the right talent, extending reach and investing strategically in technology. Key takeaways include:
- Community – Entrepreneurs understand the value of both mentorship and businesses networks and believe more interactions can help them make the right business connections locally while staying connected to a broader network. Initiatives like the Dell Social Innovation Competition and Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) are helping to connect like-minded business owners with one another for new sources of financial and human capital, expertise and markets. Dell’s Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program gives the entrepreneurial community a direct conduit to the company and expands the ways Dell is connecting with and learning from growing businesses so we can bring solutions and services to market that help them succeed.
- Capital – While most small businesses are still bootstrapping, they are encouraged by alternative funding options as they learn more about them. The number of devices, data movement and usage makes technology a crucial component of accommodating business growth. Dell Financial Services (DFS) eliminates a key barrier for small and medium businesses who can now move forward on long delayed purchases. Through DFS and the Office of the EIR, Dell has made a public commitment to spend up to $100 million to accelerate the expansion of entrepreneurs and startups of all sizes with the launch of the Dell Innovators Credit Fund.
- End-to-end technology solutions – Small businesses understand that applications can help manage their data, but are looking for a solution that provides a more robust, integrated management platform without the enterprise contracts and costs. For most small businesses, their IT departments are filled with IT enthusiasts not IT experts. Dell aims to be the trusted IT advisor – or “CIO in a box” as angel investor and Dell customer Lauren Flanagan of Current Motor calls it. Our products, services and solutions help small and mid-size businesses and entrepreneurs meet top business needs, adopt innovations that make a difference today.
- Talent and expertise – entrepreneurs have a different kind of currency, human capital. A lot can be gained by understanding how to maximize current and potential human capital within a business and extended entrepreneurial ecosystem. Through events like these Think Tanks, DWEN and the Founders Club Summit, business owners not only receive actionable advice from experts but also connect with entrepreneurs that have services and products their companies need.
- National policy – regardless of what happens in November, small businesses are still planning to grow and be successful. What they desire is a true vocal advocate in the government. Partnerships with likeminded organizations that share Dell’s commitment to entrepreneurs’ success and have a bias for action are amplifying our efforts. We’ve partnered with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the global sponsor of Global Entrepreneurship Week, Endeavor, Startup America Partnership and Startup Britain, among other organizations.
Dell’s committed to helping small and medium business grow goes well beyond the products and solutions we sell, and we will continue to engage with the entrepreneurial community and do business accordingly. I’m excited to hear from more local business owners about what we can do to better serve them. Next up on the tour is in Long Beach and Austin next month and Philadelphia in January.
Hope to see you there!