Dell Creates Founders Club 50 Program For Promising Tech Startups

Dell Beginnings startup ad campaign

Since 2011, Dell has been supporting tech startups through several high-profile initiatives. So Dell’s announcement last week of its program for promising technology startups doesn’t come as a surprise.

Dell announced the Founders Club 50 program, describing it as “an exclusive group of emerging companies that have technology as a critical backbone and are poised for rapid growth.”

A 2-year Acceleration Program

Companies in the Dell Founders Club 50 are part of a two-year program. During the two years, the companies get access to technology, capital, marketing, sales enablement and networking opportunities to accelerate their businesses. That access is coordinated through the Dell Center for Entrepreneurs, the arm of Dell that works with outside startups.

“By serving as a trusted advisor to these companies at this crucial early stage, we hope they will continue to grow with Dell in the future,” said Ingrid Vanderveldt, Dell Entrepreneur in Residence and the public face of the Dell Center for Entrepreneurs.

“Dell has always seen the value in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, and the Founders Club 50 is the natural next step in continuing to help high-growth start-ups expand their networks, find valuable resources and use technology to transform their businesses,” she added.

Innovation from Outside — and Inside

At Dell World last December, CEO Michael Dell pointed out that now that his company is private once again, it has more freedom to focus on innovation.   The company launched a marketing campaign celebrating Dell’s roots as a startup founded thirty years ago by Michael Dell in college dorm room 2713 (see video of Dell Beginnings ad spot below).  The former Fortune 50 company began referring to itself as the world’s largest startup — reinforcing the mental association between innovation and Dell.

Also in December, Dell announced a $300 million Innovation Venture Fund under the wing of Dell Ventures, its venture capital arm.  The Dell Center for Entrepreneurs also has a $100 million debt financing fund to support startups.

You might wonder why a company like Dell would invest effort and money in outside startups.

While the company appears committed to mentoring entrepreneurs and giving back to the startup community, it’s more than that. There are business reasons behind the initiatives.

Dell Ventures and the Center for Entrepreneurs are both ways for the company to bring in innovation from the outside.  Dell may become an owner of these innovative startups, eventually acquiring some of them or licensing their technology, or partnering with them.

There’s also a desire to spur innovation from within.  Dell is undergoing a transformation from a hardware company to a hardware, software and services company. That’s a massive shift.  It will require many of Dell’s 100,000 employees to adapt.  They will have to learn what’s happening in today’s external tech landscape, spot opportunities, embrace risk-taking, and innovate from within.

How do you foster a culture capable of innovating from within?  Two ways are by supporting innovation publicly and exposing employees to today’s entrepreneurs with their ideas and dynamic attitudes.

How to Qualify for the Dell Founders Club 50

The Founders Club 50 is limited to high-growth tech startups that Dell will put effort toward helping grow.

The Spring 2014 class of the Founders Club 50 includes companies in the fields of data analytics, computer consulting, consumer electronics, energy, entertainment, enterprise services, healthcare, information technology, marketing, mobile, networking, security, software and telecommunications.

To qualify for the Founders Club 50, companies must have technology as a critical component of the business.  They must be innovative and disruptive in their industries.  Most will have received venture capital or angel funding, and while they are not yet household names, they must be poised for rapid growth and on the verge of making it big.

Dell expects to announce a new Founders Club 50 twice a year, and is accepting applications for the Fall 2014 group now. If you think your company may qualify, go here to apply.

Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.