AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ Dell Computer Corp. announced a partnership Tuesday with two venture capital firms to help startups get access to computers, Web hosting and other services.

``One of the significant challenges facing small businesses is their ability to manage resources for early success,'' said Frank Muehleman, senior vice president of Dell's home and small business group.

Dell, which runs its own venture capital company, has partnered with The CIT Group and Intel Corp. to help startups once they have money in the bank.

``Dell has done its research and put together a strong portfolio of products and services,'' said Kevin Compton, general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers. The California-based venture capital firm has already signed on with Dell.

``VC Direct matches up well against the problems facing startups, particularly in the area of Internet infrastructure,'' Compton said.

VC Direct will offer quick leasing options for newly funded companies that want to get set up with hardware and services without spending a lot of cash, Dell said. Perks include access to Web hosting, consulting services that focus on common problems facing young firms and special prices on Dell hardware and services.

While securing funding for new high-tech companies has gotten harder recently amid market turmoil, analysts predict opportunities for investors remain.

Nationwide, venture-backed investments in the second quarter of 2000 hit a record $19.58 billion, exceeding the previous record of $17.14 billion in the first quarter of 2000, according to the consulting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Shares of Dell were up $1.06 to close at $40.56 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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