Rob Williams, co-founder of one of the UK’s leading online companies Dolphin Music, died in a skiing accident yesterday evening while on holiday in the Swiss Alps. Mr Williams, 29, had been part of a group break for UK entrepreneurs in the ski resort of Verbier. He became separated from his group during very harsh weather conditions. His family and work colleagues have now been informed.
Although several members of the holiday group of entrepreneurs had left by Monday night, Williams and his co-founder and friend Jason Tavaria had stayed on to ski, but visibilty was reduced to near zero as a blizzard descended. The two men became over-due for return to their chalet and a search was launched. The two became separated in deep snow, but Jason was found by a mountain rescue team. Rob remained missing until his body was discovered later.
The hunt for Rob and Jason has been well documented online and involved his friends frantically attempting to use Twitter, GPS and iPhones to try and pinpoint their location. Although the technology used may well have been of some help to the search party, it is likely that Verbier’s Mountain Rescue team was far more instrumental in Jason’s rescue. Whatever the circumstance – and no doubt more details will come out in due course – tragically, Rob had become separated from his friend in harsh blizzard conditions that any technology probably became useless.
I just got off the phone to one member of the trip. They said: “Everyone literally said they’d just had the best time on the trip. And then it went straight to the opposite. We are all in shock.”
I never knew Rob, but on behalf of myself and TechCrunch, we’d like to pass on our deepest sympathies to his family. Below, I have put together a small tribute to Rob’s considerable achievements at Dolphin. We give thanks for Jason’s safe return. Our thoughts and prayers are with Rob’s family and with his friends in Verbier right now.
[This post will continue to be updated if there is any further information to impart].
Rob launched Dolphin Enterprises – today one of the leading providers of musical equipment on the internet in the UK – with Jason while they were still at university in September 1999. Rob was originally responsible for creating Dolphin’s original php/MySQL web application and running its platform thereafter.
The pair had been friends since school in St Albans, selling everything from computer games to magazines to the other kids in the playground.
The two friends used their student loans to start the business. Like many typical startups they ran the business from home, but it has since grown to a staff of over 65 with turnover of £13m. In 2007 it was ranked Britain’s 11th fastest-growing company. They also opened retail stores in Liverpool, Gateshead and Huddersfield and had plans to expand into Europe and the Far East. Along with Jason, Rob was profiled in The Daily Telegraph in December last year. Dolphin Music was also presented with an award for Best Performing Business at the Kick Start Awards.
In December 2007 Dolphin Music was named in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 list for the second year running. The Liverpool-based musical instrument retailer was listed as the 37th fastest growing company in the UK, and was the only retailer to appear in the list. Dolphin is also on Twitter.
Rob was a great supporter of schemes to help young people into the entrepreneurial life, supporting the government’s Make Your Mark initiative. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends and colleagues.