Civic News

From founder to candidate: Baltimore entrepreneur Mike Rosenbaum is running for governor

The founder of Catalyte and Arena Analytics is seeking the Democratic nomination in the 2022 race. The cornerstone of his campaign: economic mobility.

Mike Rosenbaum.

(Courtesy photo)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mike Rosenbaum found himself shaking his fist at the sky.

As a tech entrepreneur who started and ran Baltimore talent tech companies Catalyte and Arena Analytics and as an economist on the U.S. Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton administration, Rosenbaum has worked on economic mobility and security. His guiding principle to work on fixing: “Talent is evenly distributed and opportunity isn’t.”

With the pandemic, Rosenbaum told Technical.ly this week that he became increasingly frustrated about the overall economy, and notably how the disparities that exist along race, gender and class only became exacerbated.

“It certainly didn’t work for most people and COVID only accelerated that, and in COVID, I frankly just got angrier and angrier,” he said.

That led him to dig into the state budget. Rosenbaum said he found that it was possible to guarantee pathways to a career for every Marylander, without spending more money.

“You actually can build a system that enables pathways of economic mobility for every single Marylander, if only we question those assumptions and those systems,” he said. “I don’t want to be just someone who is shaking his fist at the sky.”

So, he’s running for governor.

Rosenbaum announced Tuesday that he will run for the Democratic nomination for governor in the 2022 election. It comes two weeks after Rosenbaum said he would step down from the CEO role at Otterbein-based Arena.

"You actually can build a system that enables pathways of economic mobility for every single Marylander, if only we question those assumptions and those systems."
Mike Rosenbaum

Tech doesn’t speak with one voice, but it’s surely significant to the state’s growing community that a leader of one of its most-touted growth companies is running for governor, and centering economic issues. It’s also a look at how a startup’s mission and entrepreneurship can apply to a government context: Rosenbaum said he wants to apply that entrepreneurial experience and approach to creating systems that grow economic opportunity as governor of Maryland.

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The companies he ran over 20 years have long focused on new approaches to creating economic opportunity. Catalyte identifies candidates from all walks of life with ability to become software engineers, provides training to enter the field and employs them to complete software work for clients. Over more than 20 years, it has data to share of big income boosts, as average annual salaries for folks went from making $25,000 a year in other industries to $98,000 a year following training at the company. Arena, which spun out of Catalyte in 2014, uses predictive analytics to identify job candidates for an organization and match them to the right role. Both systems aim to use data tools to reduce bias in the hiring and team formation process.

Entrepreneurship, Rosenbaum said, is about questioning systems and underlying assumptions, then building a new kind of system — and doing so in a way that’s still resource-efficient and attractive to the people who ultimately want to implement it. Instead of a client, in this case it would be the voters.

The state’s approach to getting its citizens out of poverty is an area that’s due for a rethink, he said. Given that Maryland is among the richest states, he thinks there shouldn’t even be poverty here.

“You actually can build a system that enables pathways of economic mobility for every single Marylander, if only we question those assumptions and those systems,” he said.

And it applies to other issue areas, as well. Bringing change in healthcare and criminal justice, for instance, relate back to questions of what current spending is doing, and how economic security is interrelated.

"We can actually position Baltimore and other parts of the state that have historically been undervalued, untapped, and neglected and unlock talent and superpowers that enable this massive economic mobility."
Mike Rosenbaum

When it comes to the race itself, Rosenbaum said he believes voters will be seeking “someone that knows how to build an economy that can thrive and grow at rapid pace, but can also unlock the populations and talents across the state that have been neglected. I think that will unleash massive amounts of growth.”

He joins what is expected to be a crowded field for the June 2022 primary. Gov. Larry Hogan is term-limited, so it is an open race to become the state’s top executive. Among Democrats, announced candidates so far include Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and former U.S. education secretary John B. King and former PG County Executive Rushern Baker. Other potential candidates include entrepreneur and author Wes Moore, former DNC chairman Tom Perez and former state attorney general Doug Gansler. On the GOP side, Maryland Secretary of Commerce Kelly Schulz became the first candidate to enter the race this spring.

With the announcement this week, Rosenbaum is set to travel the state as he looks to build coalitions. He said a campaign has many similarities to a startup, with some of the dynamics applied in a different context. One constant is the importance of team.

“The key to the campaign is having a set of exceptional people who are a lot better than you are who don’t always agree with you or each other,” he said. “I found that to be incredibly helpful at Catalyte and Arena. … It feels incredibly familiar to me.”

Rosenbaum, 49, is originally from Montgomery County. After serving in federal roles and practicing law, he said he “made a bet on Baltimore,” maxed out his credit cards and started Catalye.

“By making bets on Baltimore we can actually position Baltimore and other parts of the state that have historically been undervalued, untapped, and neglected and unlock talent and superpowers that enable this massive economic mobility,” he said. “That’s the bet that we need to make in order to build the economy we want to build and that’s what I think needs to be core to the next governor’s belief system and plan to make everything work.”

Companies: Arena, Catalyte
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