After attending last September’s Detroit Homecoming, Scott Raskin changed course in the planned expansion of Mindjet, the software innovation company he has led since 2006.
Before beginning his career and eventually becoming the president and CEO of San Francisco-based Mindjet — a platform that helps companies develop successful innovation strategies — he lived in metro Detroit.
Instead of opening a Midwest office in Chicago, he switched to Detroit, where his family has had a long history.
“We are now looking at the tech scene in Detroit (which I was amazed by), and considering how we might leverage talent and infrastructure,” Raskin said. “It’s such a crazy contrast to here in San Francisco where there is a shortage of people and the cost of everything is so much greater.”
Rooted in Detroit
Raskin’s family roots in the area began with his grandfather’s immigration from Russia in the early 1900s.
“He was a fireman in Detroit and eventually started one of the first auto repair garages [there]. Unfortunately I never met him, as he died in 1919, the year my father was born,” he said.
“My father, Danny Raskin is fairly well known in the community, as he has been a columnist writing about Detroit-area restaurants and sharing his view on where to eat since 1942,” he said. “He started his career writing for The Detroit News and then joined Detroit Jewish News,where he has not missed a weekly column in 73 years. At 96, he is still going strong.”
Raskin joked that he grew up eating very well, and still does every time he visits Detroit — about every six weeks or so.
After graduating from Southfield High School in 1979, Raskin had no idea where to head with his life, he said, as most of his teenage years had been occupied by a love of cars and sports.
He left Michigan for New York at 17 to enter a criminal justice program, thinking he wanted to become a New York City police officer. But that idea didn’t stick.
“I came back to Michigan and went to school at both Central [Michigan University] and Western [Michigan University] before finally ending up at The University of Texas in Austin,” he said. “At Texas, I studied business; and during my last semester, I did a co-op with IBM.”
This was at a time when the computer industry was taking off, with Apple releasing its first Mac at the Super Bowl, and IBM launching its first PC with a hard disk drive, he said.
Raskin said that at the time he wouldn’t have described himself as being a “techie,” but he knew he wanted to work with intelligent, passionate, creative people who were doing breakthrough work.
Starting a career in technology
“I started in sales, moved around a bit; and while living in Atlanta, started a software company with two friends who were living in California,” he said. “With $20,000 of credit card debt, the company was born; and by the time the business was sold, we had grown to over 500 employees, and I moved to Southern California in 1999.
“Shortly after, I joined a small Swedish software company called Telelogic as president, and after acquiring more than 10 other software companies over a five-year period, that business was sold to IBM.”
Looking back, Raskin said his greatest career move began with a simple call from a recruiter in San Francisco.
“The recruiter told me about the company [Mindjet] and how the flagship product is used to capture our thoughts and ideas in a visual way,” he said. “I told him I would check it out and let him know if I was interested. That weekend it rained in Southern California, which does not happen often, but as a result, I downloaded a copy of the MindManager software and began ‘Mind Mapping’ everything going on in my life. I kept entering my thoughts into the computer, organizing them on the screen and eventually had built a visual map of my life.”
He called the recruiter back, met the investors of the company and signed on.