Jeff Raikes resides in Seattle and has spent three-plus decades on the West Coast, but take some time to pick Raikes’ brain and you’ll find he’s still a Nebraska boy in many ways. Raikes, formerly a manager at Apple Computer and senior executive at Microsoft is now the CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and, as of 2008, is the namesake of the University of Nebrsaka-Lincoln’s Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management. In addition to his involvement with the University, Raikes is an investor in Lincoln-based companies Nebraska Global and Hudl, and he sits on the board of the latter.
Last Friday, Raikes was in the Omaha area to deliver the keynote speech at the Metro Rotary Luncheon, and he made time to visit with Silicon Prairie News afterward. The video above is the first portion of our interview with Raikes, in which he discussed entrepreneurs leveraging technology to help solve the world’s problems and talked about where the Raikes School stands and where it’s headed.
There’s a bit of background noise, so we’ve also included a transcript of the conversation below.
Silicon Prairie News: Entrepreneurs at the lower levels, how can they leverage technology to help solve some of the big picture problems that you see and deal with on a daily basis?
Jeff Raikes: I think one of the great things about our country and one of the great things that’s happening here in Nebraska and being covered by your publication is the entrepreneurial spirit, you know, the ability to use innovative approaches, whether they be science-based, technology-based, engineering-based, to really make a difference in the world. Now, I always say to the entrepreneurs, the No. 1 thing you need to do is take care of business. You know, like if you take for example how Bill (Gates) thought about his work at Microsoft, he was focused in on building Microsoft. The idea of using his private wealth to be a part of change in the world, that was something that really came outside Microsoft, it came outside his business. I would say the same thing to all of your entrepreneurs: focus in on building your business. There’s a lot of good that’s done for society in building businesses, but it’s also great to be involved in those things where you can be connected to the community, to the world, and think about how you can use what you’re creating, both in terms of your personal skills as well as your products or services to do good things for others.
“I would say the same thing to all of your entrepreneurs: focus in on building your business. There’s a lot of good that’s done for society in building businesses …” – Raikes
SPN: Curious about the Raikes School down in Lincoln. In the three or so years now that it’s held your name, what most pleases you about what’s gone on down there?
JR: I’m particularly proud of how the Raikes School has been a magnet for incredible talent. You know, if you look at things like ACT scores — which I wouldn’t say are the most important but it’s an indicator — you’re talking about kids that represent about … the top one half of one percent of all kids in our country in terms of ACT scores. The idea that you can have a program like that, that brings in that kind of talent and then can spawn, you know, businesses like Hudl, that’s a fabulous contribution. And so I’m particularly proud of what the students are doing, and the University has set up a great program to prepare those students.
SPN: As far as your involvement, looking ahead, what’s the direction, what are some points of emphasis moving ahead for the school?
JR: The most important thing for the Raikes School is to represent that idea of interdisciplinary education where you’re bringing together computer science with business management. I think that’s one of the things that I learned at Microsoft and that Bill Gates and I used to talk about frequently. You could find people who are really smart on the technology but didn’t have much awareness of business. You’d find people who really had business but didn’t have the technology. I conceived of the Raikes School as that intersection, and so that’s the most important thing. Now with that as a foundation, what you have to do is you have to make sure that it continues to be relevant. Information technology’s constantly changing. So how is it that we make sure that those students are getting exposed to the leading edge advances in information technology?
Check back later this week for more from our conversation with Raikes, including his take on some of Nebraska’s top startups and how Nebraska football factored into his vision for the Raikes School.