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Dell's Once-Secret Venture Capital Arm Grows

May 1, 2018
After a string of high-profile IPOs, the fund promises a rising pace of exits this year.

Dell Technologies Inc.’s venture capital division has boosted its investments and ambitions since emerging from stealth mode a year ago. Now, after a string of high-profile IPOs, the fund promises a rising pace of exits this year.

DocuSign Inc., MongoDB Inc. and Zscaler Inc.’s initial public offerings, which had a combined market value of $11 billion, may have been most noteworthy, but Dell Technologies Capital had an additional eight exits last year. Expect that number to jump, as several companies in its 81-strong portfolio mature.

The tallies by the 6-year-old fund provided rare insight into Dell’s investment arm, a growing part of the company. Michael Dell, known for his love of deals, has maintained close oversight of the division, which is run by Scott Darling in Palo Alto, Calif. While Darling said his boss hasn’t asked him to cash out on the investments to boost returns, the proliferating exits have come amid the company’s efforts to spur cash flow as it contends with more than $40 billion of debt.

“I don’t think we have a unifying philosophy” about whether to sell the shares after a portfolio company goes public, Darling said in an interview. “If they’re strategically aligned with us and we’re working very closely together, maybe we want to hold something for the long term. If it turns out that even if we invested early thinking we were very symbiotic and ships have drifted apart, then maybe there’s no reason to hold and we might sell.”

Dell is still in a lockup period for DocuSign and Zscaler, while the freeze on selling MongoDB shares recently ended. The early-stage investor has made bets on everything from hardware to cloud companies, and has recently put an emphasis on companies with artificial intelligence capabilities.

Still, one element of secrecy remains: Dell Technologies Capital doesn’t disclose the size of its stakes in the now-public companies.

Dell touted the VC division at its annual conference, which kicked off Monday in Las Vegas to spotlight the company’s new products.

By Nico Grant

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