Mike Raab has been named executive director of Northwestern University’s hub for student entrepreneurship and innovation, The Garage, following an international search, Provost Kathleen Hagerty announced today, Oct. 5. Raab has served as the hub’s interim director since May.
Three years after being recruited by Northwestern to expand The Garage to San Francisco’s Silicon Valley, Raab took the helm at its flagship on the Evanston campus, effective Oct. 1. He said he is committed to “equipping students with the entrepreneurial mindset, confidence and resilience to reach their potential, no matter which path they choose.”
The Garage offers students unique opportunities to build the knowledge, grit and network needed to bring new ideas to life. Since its inception in 2015, The Garage has served more than 3,000 students a year, incubated more than 1,000 startups and created a network of more than 500 mentors and experts.
“Mike is a dynamic and visionary leader who will drive an exciting next chapter for The Garage, putting bold ideas into action and fostering the evolution of student entrepreneurship on campus,” Hagerty said.
Young leaders from The Garage have gone on to join startups and innovative firms. They also have established companies such as Flyhomes, Zcruit, Brinc Drones, AMA, Stable, Rhetoric, Lendtable, Acorn Genetics, Beni, Coast, Hubly Surgical and Amper, among many others.
Raab has been instrumental in their success.
A double Northwestern alum, with a bachelor of science degree from the School of Communication and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Raab has put his education to use in support of The Garage. First, beginning in 2019, as founding director of The Garage SF; then as associate director of The Garage on the Evanston campus starting in 2020; and finally, as interim director following the departure of Melissa Kaufman, founding director, in May 2022.
Through his various roles, Raab and his team have cultivated a collaborative culture that supports and empowers students to bring their ideas to life, motivating students through the ups and downs of their entrepreneurial experience. He organized VentureCat 2022, Northwestern’s signature startup competition; implemented programs focused on increasing representation and accessibility of The Garage’s resources for underrepresented students; grew and managed a network of volunteers, mentors and speakers to connect to student founders; and kept resident teams safely involved and engaged during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to joining Northwestern, Raab was a principal at Sinai Ventures, a venture capital firm founded by alumni, where he provided support and mentorship to entrepreneurs and evaluated more than 1,000 early-stage startups for potential investment.
“Since inception, The Garage has become a strong, supportive community of ambitious students from across the University working to bring their ideas to life and solve the problems that they see in the world,” Raab said. “I’m incredibly honored and grateful to continue building on The Garage’s success and empowering Northwestern students to discover their potential and increase their impact.”
Raab was selected by a search committee comprised of faculty, students, staff and alumni and chaired by Associate Provost for Strategy and Policy Roma Khanna. Reporting up through the Office of the Provost, Raab leads a team of six and focuses on developing relationships with the Northwestern and Chicago entrepreneurial communities and building new communities around the world to support Northwestern student founders.