Updated, June 7, 2009: Rajeev Motwani, one of the savviest angel investors in Silicon Valley, a Stanford professor and most importantly a close and personal friend passed away earlier today. He was 47 and is left behind by his wife Asha and kids.
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 adviser to Sequoia Captial.
That success never came in the way of Rajeev’s quest for knowledge and innate desire to help others. There wasn’t a startup he didn’t love. Like his chosen specialization of search, Rajeev was searching for the unknown. He was still active as a professor and was teaching a couple of classes as recently as the last semester.
I have known Rajeev, his wife Asha and their family for a long time. Rajeev, like me, was from New Delhi. In my professional career (and personal moments of crisis) Rajeev was only a phone call away, sharing his vast rolodex. Just like a true friend. Only a few weeks back, I had a simple Indian lunch in his house with his family. I am sure, I am not the only one who has benefited from his generosity of time and knowledge and his ability to create connections and help others.
My prayers go to his young family. I hope god gives them strength and courage to navigate through these rough seas of life.
Update, June 7, 2009: The San Jose Mercury News reports that the Artherton police are waiting for an autopost report on Rajeev’s accidental drowning.
The Silicon Valley chapter of TIE is planning a memorial service on Wednesday. Details of a memorial service to follow.
In addition, there were will be a visitation event on Monday June 8th at their home between 5-and-8 pm. Instead of flowers and gifts, family would like you to make contribution, please mail checks made out to “Rajeev Motwani Foundation” c/o Ash Chopra, Merrill Lynch, 101 California Street, Suite 2100, San Francisco CA 94111.
Tributes from around the tech community:
Sergey Brin pays his tribute on his blog. “…Yet his legacy and personality lives on in the students, projects, and companies he has touched. Today, whenever you use a piece of technology, there is a good chance a little bit of Rajeev Motwani is behind it,” he writes.
David Hornik of August Capital writes: Rajeev just wanted to be helpful. And he was. To so many of us. Perhaps that is why so many of us thought of Rajeev as a friend. It is one thing to be friendly with someone in the business world. It is another thing altogether to consider them a friend. Rajeev genuinely liked people and people genuinely liked him.
Dan Gould, co-founder of Newroo, emailed this story about Rajeev and wanted me to share it with you: “I didn’t know Rajeev well, but he was a great guy who helped us quite a bit. We were the classic two kids with some software who had just moved to California. I only knew him from using his Randomized Algorithms book in school, but he spent a bunch of time with us. He helped us improve our algorithms and ideas and introduced us to Ron Conway and to other folks which led to the acquisition of our startup. I ran into him several times since and he was always both kind and brilliant. I had hoped to work with him on a future project. While that’s not to be, I imagine dozens of other computer scientists-turned-entrepreneurs can tell the same story.”
If you have a Rajeev story you would like to share with rest of us so we can all remember and grieve together, please leave it in the comments section or email me.
203 thoughts on “Goodbye Old Friend. R.I.P. Rajeev Motwani”
Very very tragic. He was an extremely gracious person. Condolences to his family.
I read on so many blogs about raJeev
no one actually cares to state cause of his death 🙁
very sad that he was so young, i read about this story on http://www.allvoices.com/rewards/aaa
Om, thank you for sharing this. I met Rajeev and Asha at TiE and found both to be sincere, intelligent and generous. I shared a long bus ride with both of them in Malaysia and we talked about everything from startups to the meaning of life. I won’t forget that.
All of us at TiE, who have had wonderful times together with Rajeev and Asha, feel sad and want to share in the sorrow of this loss.
Rajeev was a special person and will be remembered fondly, always. Asha and the children have our deepest condolences….Kalpana and Raj Jaswa
It is surreal as I type this, I met Rajeev at TiE 2009 as I did TiE 2008, in the lobby on the second day. He had just sauntered in that Sunday afternoon when the conference was thinning out, wearing a light purple cotton shirt (or was it pink) and his trademark work-out Brahma boots, and characteristic gait. Unassuming, to most Valley newbies..and likely, making good on word he may have given an entrepreneur.
It is clear now Rajeev was handed a mission from above. There is no doubt he over-delivered. Lets cherish a bit of Rajeev in things we do henceforth – selflessness, excellence, trust, patience.
He was my prof at Stanford. What happened?
Om, I saw it on Twitter and couldn’t believe it until you tweeted it. A brilliant researcher and a Silicon valley icon. I will miss him, as will the entire startup ecosystem.
I couldn’t agree with you more. It is such a tremendous loss to our little ecosystem and to the humanity at large. One of the true good guys. A day later, the shock of it is finally setting in.
I was shocked when I read about this on the bscs list. I took a complexity theory class from him just last spring. Brilliant guy with a very sharp wit and was always willing to stay after class and explain things to us — he would ask challenge questions after explaining something to make sure we truly understood.
He seemed like a really good guy and will be deeply missed — this really makes you think about how unpredictable life can be.
Om–I am very sad to hear that you have lost a friend. It is never easy losing a friend/colleague…I am reminded of my own experience losing James Kim during my time at CNET. Please let me know if there is any way I can help–as you know in our tradition, we usually bring food to those in mourning. Send me an email if there is any way I can help out.
Condolences to his family and friends. Still can’t believe it.
Was sharing his website and discussing research topics with couple of budding computer science students. What a loss.
🙁 Wish life was not so unpredictable.
The guy was a total tool and ego manic.
Not only is this not cool, it’s completely unfounded. Prof. Motwani was one of the clearest and best professors I’ve ever had. He was a very intelligent man and a devoted teacher.
“Lou” — that was classless. We are all entitled to our opinions, but you chose a poor moment to express your rancor.
I’ve had occasion to talk with Rajeev. He was opinionated but effortlessly brilliant. He elevated the state of the art and science in Information Retrieval and left it on a much higher plane than where he found it, not the least of which was his participation in the genesis of Google.
My sympathies to his family, to his friend Om, and to his friends in Search.
And how exactly did he elevate the state-of-the-art? This is not a rhetorical question; I am just curious.
Anyhow it is interesting how people suddenly start overly eulogizing someone after their death. I doubt if they would ever sing such praises if he was alive now.
I did not know him but know a couple of of his students and knew of him by reputation. By all accounts, he was exceptional, both as a data-mining Guru as well as a human being.
So Prakash, what is bugging you ? Are you jealous, cynical or just plain ill-bred ??
get a life
not cool at all
Thanks for you candor and courage. But perhaps not a good time as everyone is grieving.
Om, very very sorry to hear it. Like every one, in total shock…Our condolences to his family.
Very Very Hard to digest the news!!
Rajiv was my class mate at IIT Kanpur.
I rememmer him for his brilliance and quest for knowledge.
I prey for his soul …
Still can’t believe it. Rajeev had such a profound impact on the valley and so many people in it – including me. He’ll be sorely missed.
Really shocking! I gave the final exam of his course (CS154-Automata) today from 12 to 3 PM, and did not see him in the exam room. But never imagined this… Just met him day before yesterday, and saw his lectures online all night. His lectures are still so fresh in my mind. Wish life is was more predictable.
Saddened by the news. Hope the community provides support to his family. One of his kids is quite young.
this is sad :(… a person with such an intelligence and hunger for start-ups will surely be missed in the days to come…
Shocked by the news. He was a rare combination of academic brilliance with a strong startup intellect. He will be dearly missed by the entrepreneurial community in the valley. Our prayers are with Asha, kids and family.
Extremely, extremely sad news. Rajeev was the head of the PhD program committee when I started my degree at Stanford way back when– he was a brilliant, giving, generous person. As I mentioned in the acknowledgements in my dissertation, “he watched me grow in many roles– as a PhD student, as an engineer, and as an entrepreneur; I thank him for keeping an eye on me,” and I extend my deepest condolences to his family. We have lost an exceptional researcher, professor, angel investor, and mentor to many who have helped shape our world.
This is really sad.
Rajeev is a superstar. We are going to miss him.
Does anyone know how he passed? There is no mention.
I didn’t know him, but anytime you hear about someone helpful and bright passing away unexpectedly is like getting punched in the teeth.
Condolences to his family and friends.
I am so deeply shocked! What a loss to the world. He was my mentor…we considered technical projects together. He got me into entrepreneurship. Rajeev was one of the kindest, nicest, sweetest guys I’ve known. Despite his crazy schedule he was always there for me to talk, meet, help, guide on the shortest notice. We were to meet for coffee next week. I just cannot believe… My sympathies to Asha, his young ones, and his family. Rajeev, you will be missed. I thank you for being such a champion for my company and being so much more.
I am grieved to hear of this loss! I pray to the Almighty for giving strength and forbearance to his wife and other family members to bear this loss!
Great loss for Stanford and Silicon Valley. I am having a hard time believing that Rajeev is gone. He was a true gentleman and a scholar. Just saw him last Saturday and as usual he was very excited about companies he was helping and his travel plans for summer. May God give Asha, their children and the extended family and friends courage to deal with this untimely loss.
Very sorry and shocked to hear the news. Rajeev was so easy to converse especially when it came to new technology and startups. Shared a few days with Rajeev and Asha on a trip to India and have fond memories of the conversations on the road trips. Deepest condolences to Asha and the kids in this difficult time.
A great friend, I got the opportunity to work with him in a previous startup and he was also involved in my current startup. Rajeev was an amazing individual, he will be dearly missed. Condolences to his family, kids and wife.
Very very sad news, one of the finest IIT alumnus, its a big loss for community as well as for his family. may god help his family.
I had the chance to meet Rajeev on a couple of occasions and I am sad to hear of his passing. I wish his wife and family my condolences. He was a giant in search technology.
This is a very sad day for all of us. Aside from his brilliance, he was a wonderful person at heart. He genuinely enjoyed every aspect of life and touched anyone who was fortunate to come in contact with him. Go in peace, Rajiv. We will miss you!
Asha, our condolences to you and the family.
Rajeev, was always very generous with his time and advice. He helped numerous startups including mine…My condolences to the family.
Just IM’ed him a few weeks ago. Great researcher and a very good person. Extremely sorry and perplexed to hear this news. Had several interactions with him when he started his small incubation fund few years ago.
I pray to God and offer my hearty condolences to family
Rajeev was one of the friendliest people to ever cross my path at the Google Cafe as well as my current restaurant calafia cafe. He and asha and family in tow frequented the restaurant on a regular basis.
He always had a brilliant smile on his face and encouraging words to me when I was seemingly busy and distracted.
You will be missed my friend.
Very sad to hear this. Condolences to the family.
Surprised and sad to hear of the sudden demise of Rajeev Motwani whom I came to know thru my b-in-law who studied with him at IIT, Kanpur. Strange are the ways of the creator to take away a great soul so early. Our condolences to Asha and the family.
Just saw him talk informally a few days ago — really a shock and a great loss. He was a rare combination of a set of talents — will be hard to find the equivalent.
How old was he when he died? Google tweeted to me as I followed them recently.
This is such a shocking and tragic news. May he rest in peace and my condolences to the family. No words can fill this void.
I worked closely with Rajeev during my PhD at Stanford. His was one of the most brilliant minds I encountered there, and he was a splendid teacher to boot.
This is a huge loss for the Computer Science community. My condolences to Asha and her family.
So sorry. He will be missed.
I can’t believe it that, Prof Rajeev Motwani has passad away. One of my friend told me that he fell down in swimming pool accidentally, and unable to swim. Very sad news.
I pray to God, for peace for his soul. Mai bhagwaan se prathana karta hun ki Asha ji ko aur unki 3 saal ki beti ko ye sadma sahane ki shakti mile.
Really sad to hear this.
One of the best professors to have taught us. A great, simple and an inspiring person. The news is shocking. This is indeed a great loss for all of us. 🙁
What a tragedy! I am really sad to hear the news. He will be really missed.
Even though I never had the good fortune of meeting Rajeev in person, I’ve heard and read great things about his professional brilliance, and feel a sense of loss on his untimely demise!
May god give his young family and loved ones strength and courage, to remain positive in these challenging times.
Rajeev was a brilliant man, deepest among theoreticians, most visionary among technologists, most savvy of investors. He helped me at every stage of my professional life. Dear friend, dearest of colleagues, rest in peace.
Hm, ‘most’ literally means more than any other. Can you give me a clear explanation of how he was more visionary than any other technologist, deeper than any other theoretician? I haven’t heard such superlatives applied even to Einstein. Rajeev himself would cringe at such lavish praise, him being such a logical person.
We Indians tend towards such servile adulation, it is embarrassing. Please try to keep it eulogies sensible and closer to reality.
Personally what i remember impressive about Motwani is when I first encountered his Randomized Algorithms book. First of all randomized algorithms is a very difficult subject and quite mentally taxing. It is a deadly combination of the 2 tough problems of algorithm analysis and probability problems! When I saw the book, I couldn’t beleive that someone has the awesome patience and mental energy to devote their research time to and write an entire fat book on this frustratingly difficult subject! All this when the fact remains that the results-to-effort-ratio in this difficult subject is very low. As far as I know randomized algorithms do not lead to any siginficant performance leaps in most real-world situations. You end up greying a lot of your hair but your work doesn’t impact society much in the short or long term. That makes devotion to this subject all the more awesome 😉
On the contrary, randomized methods can be proven to be more
efficient than algorithms for some classes of problems. Whether this
is true in general — known as ‘B=BPP?’ is an open research problem
at the time of writing (2009).
That is the theory; in practice, randomized
data structures such as Bloom filters that were invented in the days when
computers didn’t have enough RAM to store everything are now being
re-tooled to solve problems so huge and difficult that even Google’s
half-a-million cluster of machines cannot address them with traditional
means. An example is statistical machine translation, where many teams
now use randomized statistical models learned from data.
Another two high-impact examples from technology is Web search, where the Random Surfer notion in PageRank is directly related to randomized methods, and fast Web duplicate detection using shingling and randomization.
You need to get your head examined, buddy. Are you angling for the role of “Mr Spock” in a Star Trek movie or a play ? “Eulogies” are supposed to be “sensible” ?
And are you trying to kill ( a deceased ) man with faint praise, as the saying goes ?
Man, get off this board please. Else, you wouldn’t receive any eulogies after you depart this world.
I do sincerely examine my head very often and find some things good, some things bad. I suggest everyone do the same. It’s an exercise in honesty about yourself.
Adulations and exaggerated praise whether of living or dead has no place in my life. When we talk of other people, we must be truthful. Anything else is vulgar gossip.
> Are you angling for the role of “Mr Spock” in a Star Trek movie or a play ? “Eulogies” are supposed to be “sensible” ?
If you prefer nonsense to sense, you have a serious problem.
> “Man, get off this board please. Else, you wouldn’t receive any eulogies after you depart this world.”
You sound like a childish teenager in a chatroom. I suggest it is you who must kindly vacate the premises.
I am probably way older than you.
This is not the time or place to practise your misplaced principles of “honesty”. Remember the famous Sanskrit proverb:
“Satyam vad, Priyam vad,
Ma vad satyam apriyam”.
When you get ready to pen his unauthorised biography, feel free to tear him to shreds. Nobody is perfect (neither Dr Mortwani nor you nor Mahatma Gandhi). Take your cue from Christopher Hitchens’s biography of Mother Teresa.
Show a modicum of respect to the dear departed.
Rajeev exemplifies what makes this valley tick… gave his time freely, invested where he thought there were intriguing possibilities, and introduced entrepreneurs to venture capitalists whenever they asked. Probing questions, a professor’s patience, and a belief in startups made him invaluable to so many of us entrepreneurs. I hope each of us who had the benefit of his intellect, inputs, and friendship carries his work forward the way he would have. He is of this valley – will always be here.
Very sorry to hear this tragic news. He made us Dilliwalas proud, a true inspiration to us budding entrepreneurs. He was a nurturing force for many startups. Silicon valley pays tribute to a real life hero!
I just saw this. This is devastating. I spoke to Rajeev a couple of weeks ago. Shattering news. He was a truly good, kind, generous, thoughtful man. There’s a huge hole in the universe today.
All my love, thoughts and prayers are with Asha and the family.
I am shocked, really inspiring investor and an icon to the Indian community, just exchanged emails with him a couple of days ago… My condolences to the family.
Rajeev was a wonderful supporter of entrepreneurs. He was exemplary as a board member of jaxtr. And such a nice person. He will be remembered by many in the valley for a long, long time it seems.
I am not known to Mr Rajeev n Family…..Its a very tragic event.. From all people of INDIA condolences to his family
“May his Soul Lie in Peace” …. If the family needs any help let us know… we can try our best…
This is extremely sad and unbelievable. I have been wanting to meet him on many of my trips but unfortunately ended up just exchanging mails or talking on phone. My memories go back to Hall V quad and the CS classes…it all seems so recent.
I am sure all of us will cherish our memories of him. May God give all the strength to his family to bear this great personal tragedy.
May his soul rest in peace.
I am in shock and disbelief about this really sad piece of news. I met with Rajeev a couple of times and was touched by his enthusiasm for startups and new technologies and his eagerness to help. His immense base of knowledge and experience was a great support for so many of us.
I want to extend my condolences to his family in this tragedy.
You will be missed my friend, RIP.
First of all thank you for sharing your thoughts and emotions here with me. We should all learn from Rajeev – he left behind a legacy of doing something for others all the time. Perhaps that is why we remember him so fondly – caring and giving.
Maybe we can take this opportunity and become more helpful to each other. Sharing knowledge, lending a helping hand and more importantly, just listening. I am sure we can find ways to do that.
I know I am going to try and be that way.
Correct, Om. I learned directly from Rajeev => “simple”.
Good sentiments. Sergey Brin has also posted a blog here for Rajeev. http://too.blogspot.com/2009/06/remembering-rajeev.html
e ai como vai ?
It is with deep sadness and eyes full of tears that I type these words…
My heart goes out to all of Rajeev’s family and especially to Asha and his children. Rajeev’s tragic passing has shaken many to the core. It was much too sudden, so not fair and yet so true.
May his legacy live on in the hearts and minds of those he touched personally and those who have and will continue to benefit from his contributions.
A bright star in the universe has dimmed from his passing, but his light will continue to shine in our hearts.
May his legacy live on forever and may the universe heal the hearts of those who loved him dearly.
I think he drowned in his pool with accidental causes, though they are investigating. Very nice guy who was gracious and kind even to his servants. Never looked down upon people lower than him.
He was a great friend to all entrepreneurs
May his soul rest in peace.
You will be sorrily missed, my friend.
My heart felt sympathies to everyone,
Yogi says in Hindi:
“I pray to God, for peace for his soul. Mai bhagwaan se prathana karta hun ki Asha ji ko aur unki 3 saal ki beti ko ye sadma sahane ki shakti mile.”
This was a beautiful way to say that we pray from the bottom of our hearts for his wife Asha and her young daughters, that in this time they find strength. Om, my translation is lacking right. Hindi to English is not easy.
Reading all these comments was very moving. As Om says we should learn from his legacy. I hope that the world acknowledging this great loss is at least a tiny seed of strength for his family and friends in these terrible times. God bless his soul. Anyone that knew him was clearly honored.
I would personally like to thank someone I never knew for being such a huge inspiration. I hope in your absence we make you proud. I promise to do my very best every day, in your memory and those of friends we have each lost. RIP Rajeev.
Stay strong OM. Jai Shri Krishna.
Om, I’m so sorry for your loss. I didn’t know Professor Motwani or even much about him, but I know how much you value warmth and your friends and also how busy you are, so I can tell that he must have been an amazing man. My condolences also to his wife and children. What a terrible thing to happen right before father’s day. I hope when those children grow up and they can still read all these blogposts and comments and know their father through them. And to all his students, my condolences—there is something so tragic about losing a great teacher, especially a young one—because every future accomplishment is tinged with sadness, not being able to show it off to them. I hope they carry his work on.
I did not know him personally but obviously heard of him. My condolences to you and his family.
Rajeev was a year senior to me at IIT Kanpur. He was a very likeable person. I remember him making significant contributions to student activities at IIT Kanpur as the audio secretary.
My condolences to his family.
We have lost a fine human being who also happened to be brilliant mathematician.
I’m very sad to hear about Rajeev’s sudden death. I met him for the first time in the early 90s, when we briefly collaborated on a real-time scheduling problem. He was generous with his time for a new researcher. In the following years, it was exciting to see his success as professor and investor. I’d like to express my deepest condolences to his family and friends. He is leaving a big hole in many lives.
Great people like Rajiv makes the difference in our world, he leaves behind a legacy which we all will celebrate. Although I have never met him , I did know of his influence in Silicone Valley.His success will always be measured by those he touched and helped become successfull. God bless his soul and my condolences to his family
Thank you so much for your thoughts. Everything you wrote is exactly how I left when I heard the unbelievable news yesterday. Rajeev’s heart was so big and his help was endless. He was so instrumental to the success of Baynote from the very beginning before the name of the company was even formed. 2 weeks ago, just about 5 years after I first met him, I had the fortune and luck to sync up with him one last time. He was so live, full of energy and ideas. Our one hour Palo Alto coffee talk went on and on. He was so excited about his planned trip to Wimbledon with his family this summer… And as usual, he was there to give unconditional help and made 7 connections after our chat…
It is completely not fair that he is gone. He is too young, too smart, and with too good of a heart not to be here with us in Silicon Valley and with Stanford. My thoughts and the thoughts of entire Baynote team, advisers and board go to Asha and the kids. Rajeev will be greatly missed but he will be in our heart forever!
As Om said, we are all inspired by Rajeev to care and help the world. Let’s do more of it together.
Rajeev Motwani – We will miss you…very very much.
My Tribute to you – http://tinyurl.com/n65t4p
Om: This could be the best tribute to him – to try and emulate him in ways he helped out everybody.
My Tribute to Rajeev Motwani – http://tinyurl.com/n65t4p
I knew Rajeev before he was famous….After his IITK days and my IITD days and before he became a Silicon Valley legend. We were together at a software company in Delhi for a few months before he decamped to UC Berkeley and I went to Washington State. Sadly, I lost touch him with him after his Berkeley days, but have followed his awesome accomplishments through mutual friends and press. All the warm tributes I’ve been reading — no one deserved them more. “Moat-wane” as we used to call him — I will miss you so dearly. You’ve left a lasting legacy in probably the most competetive arena in the world and I can never google anything anymore without thinking of your seminal contribution to the underlying search engine.
Motwane, rest in peace….
Om, Thanks for a wonderful tribute. It is shocking and it is hard to come to grips with the news but may he serve as an inspiration to us all in reaching out and making a difference in lives other than ours. RIP Prof. Motwani.
Rajeev has been very helpful to both my wife and me.
He got my wife her job at Google.
He helped me and my co-founder with our startup – giving us great intros to any VCs we wanted to talk to and spending time brainstorming with us.
All this without ever expecting anything in return and without having any old connections with us.
I will miss him.
Very Saddened by this news. I have not stayed in touch with him over the last few years. This brings back the memories of our UC Berkeley days. I was one year senior to him at iit K and when he arrived to Berkeley, I picked him from the SF airport and had a run down room ready for him ( next to our run down room above Pasand resruarant). 4 of us lived above Pasand.
He and His success was admired by so many of us. So many of us looked up to him and refered to him as an iit Baap. In our own ways, we were proud of him.
Sad it ended this way. This is not how it is supposed to be!!!!
“Motwane” is how I remebered him at IITK. He was in the likeness of his elder brother Sanjeev, a schoolmate and friend of mine who also shared a passion for physics. It was Motwane’s younger brother’s (who was at IITD) left over application forms that I used to apply to college and get to the US.
To misquote Arundhati Roy “Life seeps out of us like tea from a tea-bag. Sometimes we are discarded early when there is still tea left in the bag”
47 is too young. Way too young.
Rajeev was always a smiling, passive, “hang-loose” guy in those days.
Although I dont know this great person, its clear that he has had a remarkable impact on so many. Hope he is remembered in a way that reflects his personality and values.
the same day that brought good news about Steve Jobs also got this piece of news.
My condolences. I heard about this from a friend. I had the honor to meet Rajeev a few times @ Stanford and have the deepest respect for his knowledge and humility.
I had met with Rajeev on a few occasions. He was a gracious and friendly person. I am shocked and deeply saddened by his sudden passing away at such young age. May God rest his soul and give strength to Asha and his family to bear this tragic loss.
Rajeev was a technology visionary. He was always gracious with his time, advice, and guidance to young entrepreneurs. He had provided invaluable help when we were starting our venture and always helped us along the way. For someone so accomplished, he was in a league of his own. Irreplaceable. He will be missed.
Om, thanks for the tribute. The valley will miss him; my condolences to his family…
Condolences to his young family.
I have known Rajeev and Asha over the last nine years. Rajeev was an advisor to our fund and helped us in innumerable ways. My partners and I have lost a genuine friend. As I write this, I feel a certain vacuum and anger at the cruel ways of nature. Perhaps, his services were required in another world for designing the next best thing.
Asha, we join you in mourning our loss.
My condolences to the family. Saddened by the news. Hope the community provides support to his family. One of his kids is quite young. the same day that brought good news about Steve Jobs also got this piece of news.
This is so untimely and he will be deeply missed in the silicon valley. I’m saddened to hear the news.
I am very sad and deepened to hear that Rajeev is no longer with us. Though I did not meet him or studied at Stanford, Being in Silicon Valley, I heard a lot about him and I read few of his papers and course notes.
I did not know Rajeev, but I feel the loss as well. I had reached out to him in November 2008 for help on behalf of someone via Facebook (we were not even connected) and he took the time to respond to me with guidance. Very approachable and humble. I am in shock and had tears in my eyes when my husband (Dr. Subir Varma IIT Kanpur ’85 batch) gave me this news.
My prayers and sincere wishes are with Rajeev’s family.
Rajeev had a down to earth personalty; he was a humble man and had a enviable human side while dealing with the issues in early stage ventures. He was a terrific listener – his few words meant a lot in setting some directions at the early stage of development stage ventures.
I came to know him when he was an adviser and investor at enScaler where he brought in a wealth of resources and network to the table. Most importantly when the going got tough it was Rajeev who spent more time with genuine interest to see the company succeed. He has been on my list to call upon first if I were to found a start-up. I cant believe that I will not get a chance to meet him again.
My deepest condolences for Asha and the Kids and the Board members at the portfolio companies that Rajeev used to mentor.
Rajeev, you will be missed. May your soul rest in peace.
My deepest condolences for the visionary…:(
I only wish i had taken his graduate level course in Randomized Algorithms while at Stanford – I only wish i had gotten to know him more – growing up in college reading his books – it was almost a dream come true to watch him in real life at Stanford – it wouldnt be exaggeration to say that the human race might be pushed back a few years by his death
Though I have not met this genial soul, I can understand from the number of condolence posts..Just inspired by this soul, I have written a small note in my blog…
May his soul RIP…As I had told in my blog post too,we need to take a cue from life and try to carry it forward..
His contributions to seach will always be remembered.
Lost a great friend and a fellow IITK alum. We were engaged in 2 startups together: (1) Centrata, which he convinced me to run it (2) Vdopia (iVdopia), where I and founders brought him on board as an advisor. Will miss his brilliance and friendship. A great soul!
Very sad news. Never met the man in person, but have read a lot about him. My heart goes out to the family. May God give them the strength to bear the loss.
Rajeev’s contributions to the world of technology and the advancement of mankind, likely pale in comparison to the joy he brought his family. Rajeev’s brilliance and enthusiasm to translate ideas of passion into meaningful tools for everyone, is truly the essence of entrepreneurship. Passion, drive, joy and genuine intention……You will be dearly missed but never forgotten.
Truly sad and tragic.
But the most important thing is that: Though a person passes away, his character lives on.
We should all try hard to emulate the character of Rajeev Motwani.
I have not met him personally or heard of him before today, but from reading the condolences here, his character has already made a sticking impression on me.
His contributions to seach will always be remembered.
Rajeev was a formal technical advisor to our company Mobissimo.
He and Asha have opened their house to us to help us brainstorm on strategy and technology and improvements.
He has made several introduction for us to venture capitalist and other entrepreneurs.
My special thoughts go to Asha, the family and closest friends.
I feel such a deep sense of loss. Rajeev was a friend and adviser. I just met him recently and we talked about getting together socially. My heart goes out to Asha and the young kids.
Rajeev contributed so much to so many, both through his technological inventions, as well as by advising so many entrepreneurs. He was always ready to help and had great insights. Rajeev will be dearly missed.
This is really shocking news to me.
I’ve not met Rajeev in person but over the last several years, I did read a lot about him and his contributions to the community.
Only when we see people like him will we know how much a single individual can accomplish in his life and contribute to the advancement of intellect and the community.
It is a tragic loss to the scientific community. Life well lived Rajeev.
May your soul rest in Peace.
I had met Rajeev in 2000 when I consulted for one of his startups. I was impressed at his ability to explain the
concept clearly & succinctly. I had also worked with Asha in the startup. It is shocking news to hear Rajeev passing away at such an young age. My sincere condolences to Asha and the young family.
http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/mercurynews/obituary.aspx?page=lifestory&pid=128158296 may be helpful for those who want to know more specifics about Motwani’s death.
It sounds like Silicon Valley is a lonelier place today with Motwani’s absence. May all touched by him be the remembrance for his immortality by preserving the gift that he was while here.
I first met Rajeev Motwani at TiEcon in 2003. He was one of the nicest and most helpful friends one can have. I am shocked and saddened. Silicon Valley has indeed lost a great one.
It’s a very sad end for such a scholar and humble person!
but I can’t stop thinking, such a strong(in the contemporary context) individual didn’t think of learning swimming and hits the mishap leaving his family behind, what can possibly explain those two young daughters?
I have known Rajeev for over 10 years and through out the times, he was always just a phone call or email away. He advised and introduced me to a lot of people in the Valley when I started PlaySpan and during times of crisis through previous start-ups.
Despite his brilliance and overwhelming success, he was probably the most unassuming and generous person I have ever met. He had the touch of divinity and it reflected in everything he did and he touched. Our deepest condolences to Asha and kids. Rajeev- you will live forever in our hearts!
This is truly tragic – our hearts go out to Asha and the girls. May his soul rest in peace.
“Whom the gods love dies young”
I met Rajeev only a couple of times, and had a few email exchanges with him. Beyond his obvious intelligence, he was incredibly down to earth, and went out of his way to help me, opening up his vast network of investors in the valley to me and my cofounder.
Despite having a pretty hectic schedule, he was incredibly curious and willing to taking the time to meet with strangers, particularly enterpreneurs of technology start-ups, and share his valuable insights freely. I deeply regret that I did not take advantage of his generosity to meet with him more often and learn from him.
Rajeev helped me start Vhayu Technolgoies, as he was an early investor, advisor and a board member.
I will remember him as an out of box thinker.
Was shocked to hear of the news as it all reminds us how fragile we are.
May God rest his soul and give strength to Asha and his family to bear this tragic loss.
I find the whole circumstances leading to Rajeev’s death very suspicious. There must be a proper investigation.
Point 1. Didn’t Rajeev had two small kids, in that respect, will he allow his swimming pool depth to be more than 5 feet deep at any point. As Om has visited his home, could he please confirm the length, breath and depth of the pool.
Point 2: At what time did this happen, where were his family members. Didn’t he shout for help, what were the neighbors doing.
Point 3: It is typical of western corporate media to hush hush the matter without checking the facts. I find it hard to believe, a person with such a high education, would construct a swimming pool and for all these years did not learn to swim.
Point 4: Depending upon the breath of the pool, even with no swimming experience, he could have reached to one side, no matter what the circumstances were. Common it was his home.
It is very hard to digest the news that Rajeev must have fell into his own swimming pool late at night. This is too simplistic and sounds like covering the facts.
It is really a tragic moment for all those who were close to Rajeev. Yet, for the sake of finding the truth, will someone in America, do please think in these lines to find the TRUTH.
Maybe he was drunk. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Btw, Rajeev Motwani ranks high in the list of people who impressed me when I was a PhD student.
I read about his work 3-4 months ago while i was doing the Google search on some topics which filled my mind with great respect for this genius…. and read about his death in today’s TOI which was really astonishing . I don’t know much about him but i know he was an excellent computer scientist,mentor and most important a wonderful human being . …… God give peace to his soul and strength to his family to survive this major loss
My condolences to the family of Rajeev for his unnatural and untimely death. A great loss to technology indeed.
My Batchmate from IIT Kanpur. Lectures together for first 3 years (I was in Mechanical), since we were both in the same B section. Same halls of residence for all 5 years, as far as I remember. Both of us from Delhi. Did not know he had touched so many lives after leaving IIT. He was regarded highly even back then.
Could not write this earlier even though came to know of it quite early.
My condolences to Asha and children,
Sandeep Pal Singh
A very sad news. May God rest his soul in peace and guide his family in this hour of grief.
i am really moved . i dont know what to tell, i have read about him, its a great loss to all of us, HE HAS MADE EVERY INDIAN PROUD..may u leave in peace sir..
Very sad news. May the departed soul rest in heaven!
We were deeply saddened to learn of Rajeev’s death and we would like to express our sincere sympathy to his family. Rajeev’s contributions to the field of IT in the past many years of dedicated and selfless service has been many and varied. We are sure he will be missed by many. Let his soul rest in peace.
I am just shocked to hear of the sad and untimely demise of Rajeev Motwani, well-known angel investor and professor of Computer Science at Stanford. He was an adviser to the Google founders from the start and invested in several start-ups. After graduating from IIT, Kanpur in 1983, Rajeev joined EECS at UC Berkeley and got his Ph.D. Then he joined the faculty at Stanford and has been teaching/researching for last 20 years. His special interest was in data mining, computational theory, and algorithms.
Back in 2003, at the suggestion of a few friends, Rajeev and I started a technology think-tank group to share new ideas. It did not last very long due to our hectic schedules. But the first meeting was held in San Jose, where Rajeev spoke of his work in “data streams” and Eric Brewer of Berkely talked about his CAP theorem and BASE theory. We had several very smart folks who enjoyed listening to Rajeev’s passion for new technology. I was fortunate to have been invited to a few of Rajeev’s investment companies as an informal adviser. I always enjoyed talking to him and was impressed with his inquisitiveness to ask many real-world questions about new technology.
He will be missed in the silicon valley technology circles. I pray for his wife Asha to have the courage to sustain this terrible loss.
I feel extremely humbled at this moment on the ephemeral nature of life.
Rest in peace my friend.
One can’t even begin to count the stories to share. Very sad and extremely tragic. There is no other way to describe this.
Thanks for this post and giving us friends a place to grieve together. For those several of us grieving in our own quiet way; those who knew Rajeev as a fellow alum, a colleague, a mentor, an investor and most importantly as a friend. A friend you could trust with technology, business, personnel or personal challenges, anytime, anywhere.
Rest in Peace – Rajeev my friend. We all carry a piece of you in our hearts and minds – especially your enigmatic smile. http://www.tinyurl.com/mots-aka-rajeev
This weekend I was too sad and shocked to write anything.
Today I managed to put together some thoughts: http://ifindkarma.wordpress.com/2009/06/08/thank-you-rajeev-motwani/
I will truly miss Rajeev Motwani. He was a kind man.
Adam – It is eerie as to how similar one of our “Rajeev stories” is.
During the dark days of the dot-com-bust of 2002-2003, he and Asha (with dot edu) patiently stood behind us at Vialto while other investors were getting cold feet. Long story short – we survived the winter and were acquired by Cisco in 2004. It was no questions asked, only support (financial, cajoling other investors) and counsel on staying the course…
Simple, but a powerful ending to your blog post – “thank you Rajeev.” Indeed.
My heartfelt condolences to Asha and the kids at the sudden and expected loss of Rajeev Motwani.
I am still under shock and cannot believe that he is no longer with us. He was a brilliant and an incredible human being, who loved connecting people and making things happen. As Om mentioned Rajeev opened up his rolodex to anyone who asked him for help, including my husband in whose startup he was an advisor and investor.
It was just a few weeks ago that I met him and Asha at the TiE annual dinner and spoke to him. And then he asked that predictable question: “I am looking for Asha…have you seen here?”
I realize now how lucky I was to get an opportunity to interview him. He had given me 45 minutes, but graciously extended it an hour. This was a no-holds barred interview where he answered questions about the early days of Google, MIDAS, data mining and his involvement with startups. In the interview he recounted the early days of how Google started and how the co-founders of Google set up their computer and got their project underway.
As some wise person put it: You just need one person to believe in you and and your idea. Rajeev was that one person who believed in your idea and vision as many, many people will unhestitatingly tell you.
Rajeev leaves behind a huge gaping void in many people’s lives.
Thank you Rajeev in believing and helping so many people that knocked on your door.
a young and brilliant professor just ‘accidently’ drowned himself in his own swimming pool? i don’t buy that. did he have health problems?
This is very sad and shocking, although I did not know Rajeev personally.
May his soul rest in peace. May the Almighty give strength to the family members to weather this tragic loss.
Regarding POOLS at home:
Please protect pools with very inexpensive Safety Nets (approx cost $1,200 to $2,000) …. if anyone in your home is not a swimmer, the safety pool or some other form of covering is a MUST. Safety net can be taken off within 5 mts if you need to use the pool and reinstall takes less than 10 mts.
The news of Prof. Motwani’s untimely death shocked me. I was introduced to him via email by a friend few years ago regarding my start-up. I don’t live in the valley (I live in Madison, WI) and wasn’t sure he would care to return the email. To my pleasant surprise, he not only returned my call; we set up a conference call, talked and he followed up with an unsolicited introduction to another valley entrepreneur.
I have been to Standford’s CS dept to meet some other people many times since then. I crossed his office on the 4th floor (I think) many times, hoping to see him to thank him personally for his help. It was not to be.
My heart goes out to his family.
To pay my respects to Rajeev, his family, and his legacy in Silicon Valley I’ll just say this:
I met Rajeev almost 20 years ago, and since that day I’m not sure I’ve met anyone with a stronger intellect and business acumen.
At the time of his death, Rajeev was a member of our advisory board at Rocket Fuel Inc. One of my fondest memories of our early days was pitching the company concept to him — when we described our technological ambitions, he said “That’s going to be hard!” It meant something, coming from him.
He was a great advisor. As others have said he went out of his way to be helpful.
We’ll miss him.
very sad news, and a big loss to data mining society
have read many papers by you
best wishes to your family
I am not at amazed to see the overwhelming feelings that all of us have. I have known him personally since almost 8 years and almost every time, I needed to discuss something, he was definitely there and for looking at all this response and how many people he touched, I don’t know where did he get time to be so personal to so many of us during such short life? A lot to learn.. I am sure all of us will miss you Rajiv. Thanks for your tribute to technology, business, entrepreneurship and most importantly to all the people you met and made them feel special.
With mixed feeling of sorrow and pride, I know that I will remember you still sitting in that University Ave. café during many of our meetings.
A great loss to all of us .
Rajeev was perhaps my closest friend in UC Berkeley. We arrived in the same August of 1983 and I remember spending countless evenings at his Durant apartment going through his full collection of Isaac Asimov, having tea and ending the evening with fried chili and rice. …and then we went our separate ways.
10 years later – one email and we were connected again. His first request to me was to see if I could help a budding entrepreneur who was looking for some technology. So was Rajeev.
For me it was like growing up with Greatness. Rest in Peace my Friend.
I read an obituary of an Indian professor who was 47 in New York Times and wondered about him and wanted to read more about him.Today I heard about him on BBC. I read Om’s post and all the comments here. He might have gone physically,but he would be here forever, in the hearts and minds of so many people.His influence,help,kindness would be remembered by so many people.May his soul rest in peace, and may God give strength and courage to his wife Asha to take care of herself and those 2 small kids.God Bless those 2 Angels.
Respect from Jammu. You did the city proud.
What a pitty, we will not have too many people like him. all good wishes to his Familly
A shock. I was not able to skip thinking about him for last 24 hrs…there are not so many people who dedicate themselves to research and teaching…back to one year i read about him for the first time and i was very very happy to know that he is young, brilliant and i was sure that he will contribute to world and india for next 30-40 years…what a great loss…Is there is any chance of foul play?? i cannot get any information about the reason of his death….i am searching and searching in internet but still i cannot find anything…
Rajeev was a teacher and a friend, and I wanted to share a story as well:
Asha and Family,
Our hearts go out to you in this time of hardship and loss. May you all pull together and remember and appreciate all you have been so blessed to share. Paul and I were touched by Rajeev, and would like to extend our deepest sympathy to all of you.
Certainly will be missed. You did the Tech world proud.
I read on so many blogs about raJeev
no one actually cares to state cause of his death 🙁