Think back to your freshman year of college and the activities that ensued in your dorm room: Cramming for tests? Late night pizza? Perhaps some partying?

Great memories, right? At least until you compare your freshman year experience to Michael Dell’s. On May 3, 1984, from room 2713 in private dormitory Dobie at the University of Texas at Austin, Dell launched his computer empire and path to becoming a billionaire.

Dell’s beginnings

Dell’s unique blend of technical curiosity and entrepreneurship was evident from an early age. Growing up in Houston, he frequently stopped by the Radio Shack on the way home from school to check out the latest technology, buying an early Apple at age 15 for the purpose of taking it apart and putting it back together again. He made a reported $18,000 selling newspaper subscriptions at age 17. The secrets to his success: trial subscriptions for new residents at apartment complexes and condo communities, as well as recruiting friends to research public records of new marriage licenses at the county courthouse.

The dorm room-based computer business was called PC’s Limited and specialized in providing custom upgrades for PCs. Dell tweeted a photo of the company’s July 31, 1984, financial statements, showing $198,000 in gross profit. He used that data to convince his parents he should drop out of college (he was a pre-med student) and pursue the business full-time.

The company made $6 million in its first official year of business and became known as Dell Computer Corporation in 1987. The company focused on direct-to-consumer sales with an emphasis on customer support. The company’s initial public offering in 1988 raised $30 million. By 1992, at age 27, he was the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company. In 1996, the company began selling computers and offering customer support online. Dell Computer Corporation has gone through various corporate transitions, including a five-year stint as a private company in the 2010s, and is now Dell Inc.

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Kate Johanns

Posted by Kate Johanns

Kate Johanns is a communications professional and freelance writer with more than 13 years of experience in publishing and marketing.

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