How Dell's Entrepreneur-In-Residence Wants to Empower a Billion Women
When Ingrid Vanderveldt approached Dell in 2011 about serving as its Entrepreneur-in-Residence, the program didn't exist. What did was Vanderveldt's incredibly ambitious goal: empower a billion women by 2020.
Fortunately, Dell liked Vanderveldt's aspiration and took her up on the offer at a time when only a handful of Fortune 500 companies had the position. The proposed six-month program stretched into a three year, global commitment, supporting projects and policy around the world.
"In five years, I want when people to think about the Entrepreneur-in-Residence to think of me," says Vanderveldt. "And think, this woman fundamentally redefined what an Entrepreneur-in-Residence can be."
Prior to working with Dell, Vanderveldt founded a number of companies and ventures including creating and hosting CNBC’s first original primetime series, “American Made,” founding Ingrid Vanderveldt LLC, acting as CEO of VH2 Energy Investments & Green Girl Energy, and founding the GLASS Forum.
Joining Dell meant taking her message of entrepreneurship and female empowerment global. Vanderveldt spends 90 percent of her time on the road. Her duties encompass everything from supporting startup incubators in the U.S. to visiting Kenya to check out a program crafted by Dell where women living in the trash-filled slums can dig out electronics to sell to a recycling plant.
As creator and primary powerhouse behind the $100 million Dell Innovators Credit Fund and the Dell Center for Entrepreneurs, Vanderveldt describes her role as trying to encourage and support entrepreneurs where ever they are.
"Michael Dell and the leadership team fundamentally believe if we're going to get our global economy turned around, it's not the big companies that are going to do it, it's the entrepreneurs and small businesses that are going to do it," says Vanderveldt. "And, they want to be part of it."
Global entrepreneurship, Vanderveldt argues, goes hand in hand with female empowerment worldwide. Her goal to empower a billion women – one-seventh of the world's population – is an incredibly broad and ambitious one. However, Vanderveldt says that entrepreneurs could be served well by creating loftier goals.
"You need to authentically own your calling. You stop worrying about, 'Oh my God, this is ridiculous, no one is going to believe me,' and start worrying about, 'Okay how would I do that?'" she says. "For me, that came down to business, policy and media, the three areas I focus on."
In the last three years, Vanderveldt says she has seen incredible progress as she's worked to help create opportunities for female entrepreneurs and leaders worldwide. Conversation about gender and entrepreneurship is growing, and change is in the air around the world.
While Vanderveldt is grateful for the part she has been able to play in promoting entrepreneurship for women worldwide, she is ready to pass the torch onto a new Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Dell this June. However, don't think this means she is letting go of her goal to empower a billion women.
While some aspects of her next gig are still confidential, she promises that it will deal with smartphones and financial literacy -- two topics she considers highly linked and game-changing for female entrepreneurs, especially in developing countries. So, the question continues to reach and empower worldwide, as 2020 nears.
"I grew up thinking I would be a missionary and ended up being an entrepreneur," Vanderveldt says. "[At Dell,] we often say that I am now a missionary of sorts."