Rajeev Motwani, a leading light in Silicon Valley, passed away on June 5, 2009. Close friends immediately spoke about the greatness of the Stanford professor who guided Google in the early days always and always made time for people who sought his advice.
For my part I crossed paths with Motwani only a couple of times. But he gave his time generously to me nonetheless. In 2007, for example, he spoke at our inaugural TechCrunch50 conference, giving his time to our community without a second’s thought.
On September 25, 2009 there will be a celebration of Motwani’s life at Stanford University, and you are invited. Details are here – the event is free but you must RSVP by September 21. Thousands of people are expected to attend.
A memorial service opens at 3:30, followed by a reception and concert. The celebration ends at 8 pm. If this man touched your life, this is a wonderful way to say goodbye. I hope you can attend.
I spoke with Rajeev’s wife Asha last week, the first time she has spoken to the media about her husband’s legacy. Asha spoke passionately about him, and sometimes tearfully. Rajeev was a brilliant academic mind who, she says, was able to build bridges to the busines/real world like few others (which explains his deep influence on Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin). His abilities increased dramatically, she said, as he worked closely with students.
“He leaves a void in Silicon Valley.”
Asha also mentioned that in recent weeks, several people have made pilgrimages to her Atherton home to just sit and think by the pool where Motwani died. “I don’t know these people, but I was so touched by this,” she said.
I asked Asha about Rajeev’s legacy. There is much unfinished work, she said, and it is too painful for her to go through it now. But she said that he was doing cutting edge research into privacy issues and next generation social networks, and that there are others at Stanford who may eventually pick up these projects where Rajeev left off.
I also asked Asha about Rajeev’s thoughts on immigration, since he came to the U.S. from India as a student, and remained here afterwards. She said he felt strongly that immigration is what makes Silicon Valley strong. “He believed the U.S. has attracted the best minds on the planet,” she said, and that he supported any policy which allowed more intellectuals and entrepreneurs to come and live here.
“What he cherished most about the U.S. and Silicon Valley is the freedom, the intellectual freedom, that you don’t have in India and other places. The system here unleashes your creativity. Young minds from across the planet come here to unleash their individual potential. Nothing compares to Silicon Valley.”
When I asked what Asha misses most about Rajeev, her hesitation told me I’d asked too personal a question and I apologized to move on. She stopped me though, and said “The papa. We are missing the papa in the house.” At this point I think we were both crying a little. Rajeev and Asha have two daughters named Naitri and Anya, who clearly miss their father.
I did ask one last question about what else we should remember Rajeev for beyond his contributions to academia and business. She laughed a little and said “Rajeev was a big fan of rock and roll, and he always wanted to be a rock star.” He played keyboard in a local band. when I asked if he was any good, she said “Rajeev thought he was really good. I think he was…ok.”
So there it is. Come celebrate the life of an intellectual giant, an Indian adopted into Silicon Valley. As I aid above, Rajeev was a leading light of our community. He may not have been much of a musician, but that just makes him more perfect, doesn’t it?
Don’t forget to RSVP for the memorial and celebration concert by September 21.