Insights into Decisions: UTEWeek and SXSW Entrepreneur Conversations

What trends excite Michael Dell? The data economy and the possibilities of predictive analytics to turn insights into decisions he recently told two audiences.

Over the past couple of days Michael had the opportunity to answer this question when it was asked by aspiring business builders at both The University of Texas Entrepreneurs Week (#UTEWeek) and South By Southwest (#SXSW).

Michael Dell speaking at UTEweek“I’ve only had one job,” Michael joked when speaking last night at the close of UTEWeek. But then he went on to share how he started as a dish washer in a Chinese restaurant when he was only 12, quickly moving up to water boy, and then getting hired away by a Mexican restaurant.

One young audience member aimed to beat that, however, asking Michael what suggestions he had for an 11-year-old entrepreneur.

“Find an unmet need, or look for a problem that exists, among your friends and family, then find a way to solve it,” Michael said.

He also told the audience that entrepreneurs today have much more support than they did when he founded Dell. Michael knew of no one else starting a business on the UT campus while he was there, but his company today works to support them through our Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network and our Center for Entrepreneurs.

Michael was joined on stage this afternoon at SXSW by fellow entrepreneurs Carley Roney, co-founder of The Knot (XO Group); Stephen Kaufer, co-founder and CEO of TripAdvisor; and Jeff Housenbold CEO of Shutterfly, where listening to customers and turning that insight into decisions was again a theme across each unique business.

New Beginnings panel at SXSW Interactive

While each may seem different, they quickly found how complimentary their businesses are, laughing about how they help customers announce engagements, plan weddings and honeymoons, and require technology solutions for each interaction.

Mobility, storage, security, social media were apparent influences on how each of them grow their business, but the audience also wanted to know how they balance their lives as busy entrepreneurs.

“You’ll never have perfect balance at every moment,” Michael shared. “But, you work hard, play hard, recharge and do it all again.”

Both Stephen and Jeff spoke about setting aside time for family and friends, and the importance of “being present” and offline during that time. And, as “the parent of three children and three brands,” Carley noted, “You will give something up, but what you get back is extraordinary.”

You can see each of their businesses joining us to celebrate new beginnings in Dell’s commercial:

About the Author: Laura Pevehouse

Laura Pevehouse was profiled as one of five “social media mavens” in the March 2009 issue of Austin Woman Magazine and named an AdWeek’s TweetFreak Five to Follow. She has been part of the Dell organization for more than 15 years in various corporate communications, employee communications, public relations, community affairs, marketing, branding, social media and online communication roles. From 2014-2018, Laura was Chief Blogger/Editor-in-Chief for Direct2DellEMC and Direct2Dell, Dell’s official corporate blog that she help launch in 2007. She is now a member of the Dell Technologies Chairman Communications team. Earlier in her Dell career she focused on Global Commercial Channels and US Small and Medium Business public relations as part of the Global Communications team. Prior to that, she was responsible for global strategy in social media and community management, as well as marcom landing pages, as a member of Dell’s Global SMB Marketing, Brand and Creative team. When she was part of Dell’s Global Online group, Laura provided internal consulting that integrated online and social media opportunities with a focus on Corporate Communications and Investor Relations. She managed the home page of, one of the top 500 global web sites in Alexa traffic rank, and first brought web feeds and podcasts to the ecommerce site. In her spare time she led Dell into the metaverse with the creation of Dell Island in the virtual world Second Life. Laura has earned the designation of Accredited Business Communicator from the International Association of Business Communicators, and received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Louisiana State University. Before joining Dell Financial Services in 2000, she worked at the Texas Workforce Commission and PepsiCo Food Systems Worldwide.