I learned about the passing of Rajeev Motwani, one of the most influential people in Silicon Valley the way I learn most news these days, from the world of social media. SAJA co-founder and leading tech journalist Om Malik, posted the following on his Twitter feed:
And he followed up with a blog post about Motwani, whose Stanford students included the Google founders:
It is hard for me to write this post — this morning the news of Steve Jobs’ improving health put me in a good mood. My day is ending with a broken heart and tears in my eyes. It is the day which reminds you of the unpredictability of life. Rajeev and I had been swapping emails, hoping to get together for a cup of coffee and discussions about technology. Alas, that shall never be.
After working tirelessly in anonymity, his tutelage of two Stanford University young grad students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, made him a household name in Silicon Valley. He started the Mining Data at Stanford project (MIDAS) and was one of the earliest backers of Google. He was an early investor in Paypal and a special advisor to Sequoia Captial.
Sergey Brin, one of those famous Google boys, posted the first item in nine months on his blog:
Officially, Rajeev was not my advisor, and yet he played just as big a role in my research, education, and professional development. In addition to being a brilliant computer scientist, Rajeev was a very kind and amicable person and his door was always open. No matter what was going on with my life or work, I could always stop by his office for an interesting conversation and a friendly smile.
<snip> Eventually, as Google emerged from Stanford, Rajeev remained a friend and advisor as he has with many people and startups since. Of all the faculty at Stanford, it is with Rajeev that I have stayed the closest and I will miss him dearly. Yet his legacy and personality lives on in the students, projects, and companies he has touched.
Here's News.com's report, Valley investor and Google adviser Rajeev Motwani mourned:
Reading all this, you'd presume Motwani was an old man. He was 45 47, a 1988 Berkeley PhD and a 1983 IIT-Kanpur, grad. See his personal site here.
TechCrunch's Michael Arrington posted two documents co-authored by Motwani, from the proto-Google days in 1998.
Here's how Brin ended his post: "Today, whenever you use a piece of technology, there is a good chance a little bit of Rajeev Motwani is behind it."
UPDATE: Cause of death was reportedly accidental drowning in his home swimming pool.
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