four years ago today, rajeev motwani passed away, but his spirit lives on.
a few weeks ago, i was emailing with a friend in the valley, about mentorship and our times through the valley. we may be young, in one sense, but we’ve been around the valley and technology now for some time. as we discussed mentorship, my friend asked a curious question: “who filled the hole once filled by rajeev?”
i didn’t have an answer. there isn’t an answer. there is only one rajeev.
the “rajeev” he meant was rajeev motwani, famed professor, mentor, investor, and advisor to some of the valley’s biggest and brightest computer science minds. like many others, i was lucky to not only call rajeev a friend and mentor, but had the added luxury of having him as an investor and advisor in my first company, composite software. it was funny how we met — when i was raising money for composite, three different venture firms asked rajeev to conduct tech due diligence on my work.
i was intimidated of rajeev’s intellect at first, but as we spent time together, rajeev invested in me and, in the process, i got to know him and his family very well. he was a very trusted advisor. he helped me think through financings. he encouraged me not to bring in an external ceo. he also encouraged me later on to move on from the company, as i’d lost control of composite and needed to move on. those were tough decisions, but having rajeev there made them much easier. i went up to microsoft, and rajeev connected me with great folks there. when i’d come back to visit, i’d always see him.
a good number of people reading this will know rajeev and probably nod their head as they’re reading this. they’ve felt his mentorship and, in some way, still do. and, there’s a younger set of you who will have to google him and read his wikipedia entry. but, those entries don’t do him justice. he was taken from us too young, and i still think about him when i’m driving home on el camino. and, i wonder who does, in fact, fill rajeev’s shoes these days? who is out there mentoring for the sake of giving back, for the sake of pushing talented people to the limit, to achieve their potential and be there when things aren’t rosy as it all seems. can anyone fill his shoes, let alone just one toe?
how did rajeev have all this time to help me and countless others? i’m trying to fill in a small part of the hole left by rajeev, just a little. it’s impossible to do so, to the level he did. i’m hoping more of my peers do as well. and i’m hoping that, somewhere, out there in the world, the next rajeev — if that’s even possible — graces us in the valley with his or her presence. these days, we need it more than ever.