If you are unaware, Dell, Inc. went private with a $24.4 billion buyout funded by Silver Lake Partners, Michael Dell, Microsoft, and some banks. The question Om Malik asked yesterday about Michael Dell is an interesting question. In short, why? Why is Michael Dell putting his reputation and personal fortune on the line to save the company that bears his name? Om’s answer is simple, and one any of us running a company we founded will understand:
Every so often people say that its not personal, its business. Nonsense! It is always personal and it will always be personal. If you spend your lifetime nurturing and growing a startup, it is nothing but personal. Outsiders will never understand — for a founder, failure, defeat and ignominy are always personal, just as success and fame. For founders, our identities are intertwined with the companies.
I can relate. By no means do I keep Infinity Softworks going for irrational reasons but here I am, 16 years later, running a business that doesn’t pay for itself. I’ve spent plenty of time asking myself why I keep going. I could have walked away at any point having felt good about what we attempted, even if we didn’t accomplish our goal of changing math education. We’ve distributed 20 million software calculators, helping students and professionals all over the world. I’ve kept a business running for a decade and a half. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
For me, I keep going because I still have hope to accomplish what I set out to do. We’ve been using the same tools to work with numbers since the 1970s but we now carry always connected computers around in our pockets. In 40 years the tech has changed; the products we use haven’t. I have one more shot, I believe, to re-invent the way we work with numbers and I’m going to take it.
Obviously Dell Inc. is a different deal. Here’s a company, and Dell a man, who accomplished his goals. But those goals morph as maybe they did for Michael Dell. His name is literally on the line. Here’s hoping, from all of us running the companies we started, that Dell makes it happen.