Tapping into the entrepreneurial mind-set

Ingrid Vanderveldt, Dell’s first entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR), helps visionaries access innovative technology that solves real business problems. Vanderveldt offers tools and resources for growing businesses and connects entrepreneurial start-ups with venture capitalist funds. She helped launch, and now oversees, the $100 million Dell Innovators Credit Fund and the Dell Center for Entrepreneurs. In a recent interview with the Dell Power Solutions editorial team, Vanderveldt shared her ideas for helping Dell better understand the needs of emerging businesses and how best to serve them.

Ingrid Vanderveldt, Dell's entrepreneur-in-residence

Ingrid Vanderveldt, Dell’s entrepreneur-in-residence

How did the Dell EIR program come about?

The early inspiration can be traced back to a Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) event that I attended in China in 2010. My friends and colleagues were truly impressed that Dell would put together an event with the sole purpose of simply listening to entrepreneurs and strategizing ways to help our businesses grow.

After attending a second event the following year, I had a big “aha” moment, realizing all that Dell was doing to help entrepreneurs around the world. I knew that by teaming up with Dell, we could create a win-win effort. After a meeting with Dell executives, the idea for the EIR position came to life. Now I oversee entrepreneurial initiatives globally for the company. It’s been an amazing journey.

What are your responsibilities as Dell’s EIR?

I serve as a voice for entrepreneurs worldwide, essentially bringing the outside in. We’re tackling the areas that entrepreneurs struggle with the most, which are access to technology and networks, finding capital and navigating the regulatory environment.

How do program initiatives support your work?

One initiative was the launch of the Dell Innovators Credit Fund, which provides venture capital–funded and angel-backed companies with the financial and technological resources they need to encourage innovation, improve speed to market and bolster job creation. Another initiative is the Dell Founders Club, a hand-picked group of CEOs and founders who see technology as critical to the growth of their companies, have immediate technology needs and are looking to scale quickly.

We help these CEOs and founders leverage technology to accelerate the success of their companies. They can use our credit fund to help pay for technology infrastructure, freeing up their own funds to hire marketing and sales people.

My team has also been clearing the pathway to success by helping make it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to work with government. In partnership with the Dell Government Affairs team, we have helped introduce federal- and state-level legislation with the goal of easing the constraining processes that may slow or prohibit the growth of new businesses.

What role do technology innovation and social media play in shaping the entrepreneurial vision?

Providing the technology that entrepreneurs need to be successful often starts with mobility and the cloud — helping companies acquire mobile technology and then getting them onto a cloud-based platform they can use to build and grow their businesses. Social media is also a critical element of this effort, because it is one of the least expensive but most effective ways to get a company’s message out there and empower the entrepreneur’s vision.

DWEN is a perfect example. Dell started leveraging social media as a way to listen to entrepreneurs and understand women’s challenges and opportunities well before the inaugural 2010 DWEN event in Shanghai. By merging in-person events with online engagement, DWEN has since grown into a powerful network that thrives offline and connects like-minded women through social platforms including LinkedIn and Twitter. This global community of female entrepreneurs in turn provides Dell with valuable insights on how to enhance the products and services Dell brings to its customers.

What do you and Dell have in store for entrepreneurs in 2014?

A big step forward in our global expansion was launching the Center for Entrepreneurs in the United Kingdom. This important development allows members of our EIR programs to strategize, form business relationships and connect with each other in countries all over the world. We’re looking forward to achieving great things in the coming year.

To learn more, read the Dell Power Solutions article, “Bridge builder.”

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Tags: Business,Entrepreneurship