Dave Hanley: Growing Dell EMC's partnership with ESpark

EMC, which merged with Dell in July last year to create Dell Technologies, has always focused on innovation.

Dave Hanley says working with Entrepreneurial Spark has been a 'brilliant opportunity'. Picture: Contributed
Dave Hanley says working with Entrepreneurial Spark has been a 'brilliant opportunity'. Picture: Contributed

Just nine months ago we entered into a new innovative partnership with the world’s biggest free start-up accelerator – Entrepreneurial Spark Powered by Royal Bank of Scotland.

Entrepreneurial Spark is where new and established small businesses can come to grow and develop into highly investable propositions. There are now 12 locations across the UK with a London hub opening this year, and the Dell Technologies @ Entrepreneurial Spark team visit them all. Along with the rest of the team, I’ve had a fascinating few months spending time with the entrepreneurs of the future, both advising them and learning from them.

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ESpark and EMC team up on tech accelerator
Dell EMC teamed up with Entrepreneurial Spark last year. Picture: John Devlin

So what sparked the partnership in the first place? In late 2015, Dell EMC global account director Craig Reid and lead global architect Graeme Sinclair spotted that Royal Bank of Scotland – a long-time Dell EMC customer – was planning to increase its support for Entrepreneurial Spark by expanding the number of hubs it supports from 7 to 12.

With an idea forming in their heads that Entrepreneurial Spark could benefit from a proactive technology partner, they approached the bank’s head of entrepreneurship, Gordon Merrylees, and Lucy-Rose Walker, chief entrepreneuring officer (CEO) at Entrepreneurial Spark. They liked the idea, and in April 2016 a three-year partnership agreement was signed, and a very fruitful relationship began.

At Dell Technologies we want to encourage business growth and innovation in Scotland, but it soon became obvious that the partnership had benefits for us too – namely that we get to spend time with some wonderfully innovative and creative people. Early-stage Entrepreneurial Spark businesses get the opportunity to benefit from direct access to over 140,000 staff, not to mention the wider Dell Technologies network. We offer them mentoring, advice and guidance and also hold events that aim to accelerate start-up development in areas such as application development, scaling technology infrastructure and enterprise business development, sales and marketing.

Dell EMC teamed up with Entrepreneurial Spark last year. Picture: John Devlin

Dell Technologies’ strategically aligned business, Pivotal, with its foundations in Silicon Valley working for the likes of Facebook and Google, is taking a major role on the programme. For example, 45 Entrepreneurial Spark businesses recently spent a day in Pivotal’s Silicon Roundabout office in London to hear more about how software driven businesses are adopting what Pivotal calls the “Silicon Valley State of Mind” – the mindset required to be successful regardless of where you are starting your tech business.

On the other hand, we were also particularly convinced of the importance of engaging with early-stage technology businesses, as we believe supporting them can benefit the wider economy, as well as creating Dell Technologies partners and customers of the future.

I’ve been involved in IT for over 30 years. Working on the Dell Technologies @ Entrepreneurial Spark programme has been a brilliant opportunity for me to use my experience to help accelerate the growth of fledgling tech businesses, and one which I am really relishing.

The programme also offers fantastic development opportunities for Dell Technologies volunteers keen to work with early stage businesses to share their experience.

In 2017 the partnership will be further bolstered through the global “Dell for Entrepreneurs” initiative, which has a number of pillars aimed at supporting entrepreneurial growth. Dell for Entrepreneurs will help us expand the programme to uncover more benefits for early stage businesses. In addition to supporting entrepreneurs directly, Dell for Entrepreneurs also advocates on their behalf across a range of policy and diversity issues, under the leadership and example of Michael Dell, the UN Foundation’s current global advocate for entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurial Spark is always on the lookout for new start-ups or early-stage businesses to join. If you want to know more about how your business could benefit from free technology mentoring and advice from Dell Technologies, contact me or use this link to register your interest.

• Dave Hanley is programme director for Entrepreneurial Spark at Dell EMC