When a $40,000 investment returns tens of millions of dollars, it is a story worth telling. How did it begin? By identifying a highly qualified, albeit unconventional, audience and driving production, interest and awareness using unique methods, we bring you this tale.\nIt all began four years ago with the crazy idea of creating a Linux-based developer laptop by directly engaging the developers themselves. At Dell, the thought of creating a \u201cniche\u201d product, for an \u201cobscure\u201d audience, and doing it publicly, was a bit out of the norm to say the least. Given the uniqueness of this approach, if it weren\u2019t for an internal innovation fund intended to ferret out wacky ideas, the project would never have gotten off the ground.\nWhen the project was pitched to the Dell innovation fund committee, its goal was described as raising Dell\u2019s profile with one of IT\u2019s most influential constituents, developers. The idea proposed was that by pairing a powerful operating system with a top-of-the-line ultra-svelte laptop that \u201cjust worked,\u201d Dell could gain mindshare with this powerful group.\nThe three guiding principles presented to the committee were:\n\nDirectly engage and involve the developer community.\nConduct the project out in the open via public blogs and forums.\nRaise visibility: While driving revenue was important, the main goal was raising Dell\u2019s visibility in the important and influential developer community\n\nAfter a period of deliberation, the innovation committee gave the avant-garde effort, christened \u201cProject Sputnik,\u201d the thumbs up. The team was given a small sum of money, the above mentioned $40K, and a countdown of six months, to determine if the idea of a developer laptop would take off.\nGoing public\nRather than using a traditional press release, the effort was publicly announced via blog. In the post the community was asked to let Dell know what they would like to see in a developer laptop. The announcement made no promises, but said that if there was enough interest, Project Sputnik might become an actual product.\nAs soon as the blog posted, feedback began pouring in. Based on the response, a beta program was subsequently announced. The Sputnik team had no idea of what to expect when they announced the beta program and were therefore shocked when they received over 6,000 applications from around the world clambering to participate in the beta program. That response was the tipping point and soon after that reception, it was announced that Project Sputnik would become a product. Eight months following the initial Power Point presentation, the XPS 13 developer edition was launched.\nThe program grows\nAs the project has progressed, the team has continued to solicit and incorporate feedback from the community. This continuing interest has helped drive the program forward and the XPS 13 developer edition, now in its fifth generation, has gone from one to multiple configurations. The program also added a larger, more powerful laptop to the line-up which, over the last couple of years, has grown from one available system to five available developer systems.\nLessons learned\nAlong the way, the team took their share of internal and external lessons, some the hard way. Looking back, here are the team\u2019s five major takeaways:\n1.\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 Get a champion, be a champion\u00a0\u2013 You need high level sponsor, someone people listen to, to go to bat for you and provide the necessary air cover internally. At the same time, the ground war is yours to wage and you must be ever vigilant.\n2.\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 Leverage, execute\u00a0\u2013 It doesn\u2019t matter if it\u2019s not your idea, delivery is what counts.\n3.\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 Start small\u00a0\u2013 Don\u2019t over promise, err on the side of caution.\n4.\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 Speak directly and be transparent. When interacting with the community you need to be both human and humble.\n5.\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 No one is perfect\u00a0\u2013 It\u2019s not\u00a0if you\u2019re going to make a mistake, it\u2019s how you recover when you do.\nGet the details \nFor additional information, visit: Dell.com\/Sputnik\nBarton George is a Senior Technologist in the Office of the CTO at Dell.