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Michael Dell: We Can Change the World Through Entrepreneurship

The Dell founder aims high in his new role as the UN Foundation's new global advocate for entrepreneurship.

I've been passionate about entrepreneurship for as long as I can remember. That passion has only grown as I've traveled the world and seen firsthand how entrepreneurs are launching cool businesses and finding new and better ways to solve problems that make a real difference in the world.

A farmer in Indonesia can dramatically improve sanitation and water quality for his small village by inventing a new way to make and install septic systems. An entrepreneur in India can develop a solar conduction dryer to help farmers minimize food spoilage and get more revenue from their crops. A biotech startup out of California can figure out how to take carbon from the air to make plastic. That's not carbon neutral. It's carbon negative! These are real innovations that are solving real problems.

And did you know it's these entrepreneurs who are creating the lion's share of net new jobs? Roughly 70 percent of new jobs globally--and as much as 90 percent in some emerging economies--come from new and small businesses. Those are stand-up-and-take-notice kinds of numbers, especially when you consider the economic health of the world.

We can't ignore the issues that affect these entrepreneurs. That's why I recently agreed to serve as the first United Nations Foundation global advocate for entrepreneurship--to be a voice for entrepreneurs and fast-growing businesses at the global policymaking level.

To start, we'll focus on four key areas: access to capital, to markets, to talent, and to technology. These are the conditions I believe are "must-haves" in order for entrepreneurs to thrive--wherever they are in the world.

There's a fifth priority, and it's even more foundational: to help countries develop their own culture of entrepreneurship. I had the good fortune of starting my business in the United States, a country that fundamentally embraces risk taking and experimentation. But if you travel as much as I do, you quickly realize it's not like that everywhere. There are parts of the world where risk and failure are simply not tolerated and, not surprisingly, entrepreneurship in those places is almost nonexistent.

Countries are starting to realize this. I was recently in Malaysia, a country that doesn't have a very strong entrepreneurial culture. It now has a countrywide program in place to foster startups. Not only are Malaysians figuring out how to incubate and finance them, but they are also trying to do away with some of the cultural stigmas that have prevented people from taking risks.

That's the first step in a sea change for these countries, and I'm excited about the effect it could have on society and the global economy.

I'm looking forward to shining a light on the issues of the world's entrepreneurs. As with any entrepreneurial venture, I fully expect we'll have some fun, break some rules, and hopefully make a big difference.

For those reading this column who are entrepreneurs or would like to be, I have a question for you. What's holding you back? I'm listening.

IMAGE: Redux
Last updated: Jun 16, 2014

MICHAEL DELL | Columnist

Michael Dell is the chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer of Dell, the company he founded with $1000 in 1984 at the age of 19. Notably quoted as saying,"Technology is about enabling human potential," Michael has led Dell beyond its PC roots to become a leading provider of end-to-end IT solutions that create value and drive better results for customers around the world.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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