Q&A: The Garage Executive Director Mike Raab discusses past experiences, goals for the entrepreneurial space

Q&A: The Garage Executive Director Mike Raab discusses past experiences, goals for the entrepreneurial space

Pavan Acharya, Campus Editor

Mike Raab (Communication ’12, Kellogg ’22) assumed the role of executive director of The Garage in October, following the resignation of the entrepreneurial space’s founder, Melissa Kaufman.

Prior to working for The Garage, Raab worked in venture capital for Sinai Ventures in Silicon Valley. He left in 2019 to join The Garage because he wanted to work for a place that would support a large group of students and young founders, he said. 

Raab has since served as The Garage’s associate director and as founding director of its San Francisco branch. He also wrote a book with Kaufman, “Founded: The No B.S. Guide for Student Entrepreneurs,” a reference guide for first-time entrepreneurs.

The Daily spoke with Raab about The Garage and his goals for the innovation hub.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

The Daily: What drew you to work for The Garage?

Raab: I’m a Northwestern alumni. The Garage was not around when I was a student, and entrepreneurship was not a big thing on campus. I first heard about (The Garage) when I was working in venture in San Francisco and was so excited and impressed that the University had built this resource for students to explore and experience entrepreneurship. 

The Daily: How has your past experience as a student at NU influenced your work at The Garage today?

Raab: When I was a student, there was even more of a culture of a fear of failure. Students felt like there was a specific course they were supposed to be on, and it felt like fewer students were taking risks or starting their own things. What I’ve seen change coming back and working with The Garage is the normalization of being excited to (take risks), less fear of failure among the student body (and students not) taking the typical paths that have existed in the past. 

The Daily: Why should NU students interact and engage with The Garage?

Raab: The Garage is a resource for any student who’s interested in bringing something new to life. It doesn’t have to be a venture backable scalable technology company. It doesn’t have to be software. It doesn’t have to be an app. We have all sorts of projects, from nonprofits to art space to food and beverage. For anyone who has an idea they think should exist in the world, The Garage is both a community to support you doing that and (has) some resources to help you take those first steps. 

I think the community of The Garage is very positive and collaborative. No matter what you’re starting, you’re gonna run into a bunch of hurdles and obstacles. The students that are a few steps ahead of you who’ve been here for a while are (some) of the greatest resources.

The Daily: What is the biggest difference between the previous positions you’ve held at The Garage and the executive director position you hold today?

Raab: When I was the director of (the San Francisco branch), I was by myself in the Bay Area wholly focused on supporting Northwestern alumni, founders, operators and investors. 

(In) the associate director role I directly oversaw our programs. We’re actually launching an 11th program this quarter, which is for first generation students. As the executive director, I oversee the entire team, as well as setting the vision for the future of The Garage. 

The Daily: What are some of your goals as The Garage’s executive director? 

Raab: Continuing to make The Garage more accessible and inclusive for every student to feel welcome to walk into the doors. To invite in and to support more students and the projects that they’re working on with the resources that we have, as well.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @PavanAcharya02

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