Michael Dell

Entrepreneur, innovator, and disruptor of the early PC industry.


Ranked #29 in 2005.

Previous positions:

#33 (2003), #25 (2001).


The youngest CEO ever to earn a ranking on the Fortune 500, in 1992.


Dell was recognized as a Most Admired Company by Fortune.


Dell’s revolutionary insights helped to turn the traditional PCs sales model on its head. With a mantra of “faster, better, cheaper” and by offering direct-sale, built-to-order customized machines, he disrupted the PC industry by avoiding retail sites, high-touch sales, and by minimizing inventory and depreciation costs. This just-in-time, low-cost production model took his company from college dorm room in 1984 to a $300 million business in just five years. Dell’s formula became known as the “direct business model.” He went on to pioneer virtual integration, a model that substitutes ownerships for partnerships by integrating suppliers through IT for tighter supply-chain collaboration, thereby meeting customer needs faster and more efficiently. Over the years, Dell methodically his company from a computer hardware manufacturer to an infrastructure solutions provider with significant positions in multi-cloud, software, and IT services.


Born in Houston in 1965, Dell began business life early. As a young teenager, he invested his earnings from part-time jobs into stocks and precious metals. At age 15 he bought his first computer, an Apple II, which he disassembled to see how it worked. At university he started his computer business, originally called PCs Ltd, and quickly reached $80,000 in sales. Dell dropped out of college to run the company full time, taking it public within four years. In 1996, Dell Inc started selling online and launched its first servers. By 2001, Dell Inc had become the world’s largest PC maker. In 2013, Dell took the company private to invest and shape it into an IT powerhouse, buying EMC for $67 billion in 2016. He re-listed the company in 2018.


Direct from Dell: Strategies that Revolutionized an Industry (with Catherine Fredman, Harper Business, 2006); Play Nice But Win: A CEO’S Journey from Founder to Leader (with James Kaplan, Portfolio, 2021).


Media picks


“What Henry Ford did for automobiles, Dell did for PCs.”

Stuart Crainer & Des Dearlove, Thinkers50

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