“I wanted to break out of my given career trajectory. Venture capital was what I was passionate about.”
Rakestraw passed (an unofficial) Olin loyalty test with flying colors. Days after his wife gave birth to their first child, daughter Danielle, he answered questions about his business school experience thoughtfully and thoroughly, like he had all the time in the world.
From engineering to entrepreneurship
“I was born to be an engineer,” he says. “My father was an engineer. It was in my blood. My family even gave me tools to play with in the crib.
“But, despite my training and DNA, I wanted to break out of my given career trajectory. Venture capital was what I was passionate about.”
Rakestraw didn’t break out of engineering; he exploded out. During his two years at Olin, he was an Olin Cup finalist, an Arch Grants finalist, a business strategy intern for Freiezo, a finance intern for SunEdison (formerly MEMC Electronic Materials Co.), and diligence associate for FinServe Tech Angels. He led the business school’s Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Association, turning it into one of most active organizations. And he was part of the first MBA class to benefit from the entrepreneurship platform.
If these accomplishments weren’t enough, Rakestraw also was a Charles F. Knight Scholar, and he received the Dean’s Special Service Award – not surprising from a man who has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, graduated magna cum laude from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, and was valedictorian of his high school class.
What he liked about the Olin faculty
“Olin professors are well respected in their fields and have ongoing relationships with companies, which helps students acquire real-world experience. I particularly like the way their classes marry research and application.”
His favorite courses
Full disclosure: Rakestraw helps teach adjunct professor Peter Finley’s two-part course on venture valuation tools and the Skandalaris Student Venture Fund. As an MBA student, however, Rakestraw’s favorite courses were Introduction to Entrepreneurship and Introduction to Strategy and Management.
Making time for what matters
Rakestraw worked with fellow MBA student Mike McLaughlin on the student-run Unite4Kids, an advocacy group McLaughlin founded to provide clothing and education resources for at-risk young people and to help them find jobs (read post in the Olin Blog).
Ryan Rakestraw, MBA 2013
Venture Principal, Monsanto Company, St. Louis
Post-MBA: Principal, Cultivation Capital, St. Louis
Internships: FinServe Tech Angels, St. Louis; SunEdison (formerly MEMC Electronic Materials), St. Louis; Freiezo, St. Peters, MO
Pre-MBA employment: Northrop Grumman, Baltimore
Education: BS, electrical engineering, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology; MS, electrical engineering, Johns Hopkins University
Hometown: Bridgeport, WV
Olin Cup business plan competition (finalist)
Arch Grants business plan competition (finalist)
President, Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Association