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Business Leader of the Week: Meet Michael Dell, founder of Dell computers

IFM_Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell
Michael Dell started his business with USD 1,000 as start-up capital and earned a gross profit of USD 200,000 by selling upgrade kits for personal computers in 1988

Dell Technologies, earlier known as ‘PC’s Limited’ is an American multinational technology company that develops, designs and manufactures personal computers (PCs) and various computer-related products. Dell Technologies was formed in 1984 and it is one of the top computer brands in the world and suppliers of PCs. The headquarters of Dell Technologies is in Round Rock, Texas.

In 1985, the company launched its first computer named Turbo PC. It initially sold its products through marketing and mail-order catalogues. Dell was established on the idea of building and selling custom-built and high-quality computers directly to consumers at competitive prices, while avoiding the expenses associated with the traditional market. Dell placed a strong emphasis on customer care, sending specialists to fix PCs and implementing a risk-free return policy. The business strategy worked, and the company soon grew and entered foreign markets. In 1988, the company went public by the name ‘Dell Computer Corporation’.

In 1989, Dell introduced the 316LT, its first notebook computer. The following years were marked by the development of Dell’s mobile technology. In 1991, the first colour notebook computer went on sale, and the first long-lasting lithium-ion battery was made available by the tech company in 1994. In 1996, Dell started selling PCs online and used to offer customer services on the internet, which helped it to surpass Compaq Computer Corporation as the largest seller of PCs in the United States.

Expanding its product line in the early twenty-first century, Dell included televisions, digital cameras, and various computer-related products, in its portfolio. The company renamed itself ‘Dell Inc.’ in 2003, in order to signify a move into the broader consumer electronics market. In 2016, the company acquired EMC, an American corporation specializing in data storage. The merger was the biggest tech deal back then, with an estimated USD 60 billion in value.

Dell Inc. revenue for the twelve months that ended on October 31, 2022 was at USD 105 billion, a 14.7% increase year-over-year.

Being one of the most profitable ventures in the PC market to date, the brain behind this success story is 58-year-old Michael Dell, who is the founder and CEO of Dell. He repurchased his own company in 2013 with the private equity firm Silver Lake Partners for USD 25 billion and made Dell again a private firm. In 2018, the company once again went public.

    Who is Michael Dell?

  • Michael Dell was born in 1965 in Houston, Texas, United States to a Jewish family
  • Dell purchased his first calculator at an age of seven and encountered an early teletype terminal in junior high
  • When Michael Dell was 15, he got his first computer, an Apple II, which he disassembled to understand the device’s working mechanism
  • Michael Dell’s parents wanted him to be a doctor and to honour that, he took up pre-med at the University of Texas in 1983
  • To enter business early, Dell applied to take a high school equivalency exam at an age of eight
  • In his early teens, Michael Dell invested his earnings from part-time jobs in stocks and precious metals
  • In 1984, at age 19, he dropped out of the University of Texas to start his own business
  • He started his business with USD 1,000 as a start-up capital and earned a gross profit of USD 200,000 by selling upgrade kits for personal computers in 1988
  • In 1984, Michael Dell registered his company as ‘PC’s Limited’
  • In 1992, he became the youngest CEO of a company ranked in Fortune magazine’s list of the top 500 companies
  • In 1996, Michael Dell launched the company’s first server ‘dell.com’ and reported about USD 1 million in sales per day from the website
  • Dell Inc. reached a world market share of 12.8%, surpassing Compaq to become the world’s largest PC maker in 2001
  • In 2004, he stepped down as CEO of the company, but remained as chairman of the board
  • The New York Times in 2014 reported that Michael Dell paid USD 100.5 million for Manhattan’s One57 penthouse, which then a record for the most expensive home ever sold in the city
  • He was named the “Entrepreneur of the Year” by Inc. magazine, “Top CEO in American Business” by Worth magazine and “CEO of the Year” by Financial World, Industry Week and Chief Executive magazines over the years
  • According to Forbes, as of January 2023, Michael Dell’s net worth is around USD 52.6 billion

‘You Better Come Up With Something Unique’

In an interview given to the news website Fortune, Michael Dell has given some advice to people who want to start their own businesses and dream to be successful entrepreneurs.

The longer explanation from the founder and CEO of Dell Computer, once one of the world’s most well-known and successful PC manufacturers of the times goes like this, “Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Experiment. If you want to really make it big, you better come up with something unique, differentiated that nobody else is doing.”

Adding a few words of caution, he said, “And if you go and ask people if it’s a good idea, most of them will tell you ‘no’. So don’t go ask.”

In another interview with Times Magazine, Dell was asked about what kept him engaged in work in his tech empire, while many founders of his generation have moved on and are doing philanthropic work, or just enjoying retirements. To this, he replied, “It seems kind of like a funny question because I love what I do. It’s fun, it’s interesting, it’s exciting. What we do matters in the world, and if somebody took it away from me and said you can’t do that anymore, I’d be really sad.”

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