Ray had started Mavenlink with a certain vision, but had to pivot to find market traction. The pivot was handled skilfully. The original vision remains, and Ray hopes to be able to launch it in the next couple of years. Very good, deliberate execution.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your personal journey. Where are you from? Where are you raised? What kind of background do you come from?
Ray Grainger: I was born and raised in Southern California. Though I’ve lived, traveled, and worked in many places around the globe, I’ve always called Southern California home. From an upbringing perspective, I’m from a middle-class environment. One of the key things that is fundamental is, I grew up in the 70s. In the 70s, divorce was a growing trend especially in California.
By the time I was 18, my mother and father had been divorced five times. I was moving from one house to another. What that really instilled in me as I became an adult was an independent mindset. You really had to be responsible for yourself and really own your own life from a very early age. That’s essentially what I did.
Sramana Mitra: Did you have early interest in math, science, and engineering?
Ray Grainger: I did. In high school, those were always my favourite subjects. I liked things that were concrete. I like to take things that were abstract and then somehow make them concrete. Right out of high school, I didn’t go directly to college. I went to work for the National Science Foundation on two expeditions to the South Pole. I just called my own shots, did my own thing, and charted my own course. While all my friends were applying to college, I was applying to the National Science Foundation to go on an expedition to the South Pole.
Sramana Mitra: What did you get from that? That’s a unique experience at a very early age. What was the takeaway nugget from that?
Ray Grainger: It was one of those foundational building blocks to my own identity in life. Down there, there were very limited resources. I had a job that had to get done. I participated in building an emergency camp. If something happens, you have to be very innovative and very adaptable. You can’t just go to a hardware store. You have to invent and make things up along the way. Schedule was paramount. There was no turning back. The other one was adaptability. There were people whom you’ve never met and you can’t just leave. You have to find a way to work together.
Sramana Mitra: You came back from the South Pole and started college?
Ray Grainger: Yes, I reaffirmed my interest in math and science while I was there. I went to engineering school. It was another great experience in helping to understand how I wanted to leverage my interest in Math and Science. It was really around the application of technology to business. It became very clear to me in the kinds of projects I got involved in. I have an interest also in Economics and Business in general. I decided that I was going to pursue a career in building and applying technology to business problems.