Friends, colleagues, fellow investors and entrepreneurs who benefited from direct, sage advice will gather in the Triangle tomorrow to say remember Paul Rasmussen.
An entrepreneur, investor and veteran executive who was a driving force in RTP’s technology industry for 15 years, Rasmussen died April 28 after a battle with prostate cancer.
The First Flight Venture Center in RTP will be the site of a memorial service for Rasmussen on Friday, May 9, from 4-7 p.m.
“He was an institution,” said Scott Albert, managing general partner at venture capital firm The Aurora Funds. “We’re going to miss him. He was a good guy.
“He was a friend, was a partner and investor in Aurora, and we worked with him on several investments. He was a tremendous asset, and he will be sorely missed.”
John Draper, president of the First Flight Center, offered the Rasmussen family the use of the building for the memorial service.
“Paul gave straight, useful, fastball advice,” Draper recalled. “Maybe the entrepreneurs didn’t want to hear it, but they needed to hear it. He brought his company into the building two years ago, and while working with his own company he would walk around the building offering advice.
“He had ‘been there, done that.’ He had made investments, made deals, built companies. He was a real experienced guy.”
Rasmussen, 65, founded intraFLEX, a software-as-a-service company focused on the packaging industry, along with his son Ian. (His other son, Eric, is a venture capitalist in Philadelphia.) They based the company at the First Flight Center. The firm proved to be the last of 29 companies he either built or ran. Rasmussen also was an active angel investor and was one of the early supporters of the Council for Entrepreneurial Development. Companies he worked with over the years included Accipiter and MicroMass Communications.
“His passion was business,” Ian said, “and part of his passion was to impart knowledge to others. He found that very, very satisfying.”
Rasmussen got his start in business in Chicago and became very interested in scanning systems for grocery stores, Ian recalled. He also developed an interest in mainframe computers and software. That interest triggered a move to California, where he became involved in two startups that were later sold. One of those firms, TGV Software, skyrocketed to $15 million from $30,000 in annual revenues between 1990 and 1992 before Cisco Systems bought it.
Deciding to strike out on his own, Rasmussen bought assets of Beame & Whiteside Software in 1993 and moved it to the Triangle from Canada. He told the Triangle Business Journal that he picked RTP for its quality of life. In 1995, Rasmussen sold the company to Hummingbird Communications.
Rasmussen became interested in other Triangle startups, including TriNet Services, which was run by serial entrepreneurs Frank Taylor and Andy Schwab. He helped them sell the company to Interpath Communications. Rasmussen later worked with Schwab and Taylor to sell another venture they launched. Schwab also was involved with Rasmussen at intraFLEX.
“I had enormous respect for him and I will miss him,” said Schwab, who worked with Rasmussen for more than 12 years. “He did so much for the entrepreneurial community. He mentored dozens of firms. He was a tenacious guy who wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
Rasmussen grew up in Chicago, attended the U.S. Naval Academy and earned an undergraduate’s degree at Loyola University of Chicago and a master’s in business administration at Roosevelt University. He is survived by his wife, Suzanne O’Hanlon, two children, two stepchildren, and six grandchildren.