Google Mentor Found Dead


Tributes pour in for Sergey Brin’s mentor, who died tragically on Friday


Stanford computing professor Rajeev Motwani, who advised Google’s Sergey Brin as well as other online companies, has been died unexpectedly.

Professor Motwani, 47, who advised PayPal and a variety of other Silicon Valley startups, as well as Google, was found dead in his swimming pool on Friday, reportedly from a drowning accident.

According to the Stanford University Web site, Motwani’s areas of research interest included databases, data mining, information retrieval, Web researching, and privacy and security “particularly in the context of databases and informational retrieval.”

The weekend saw an outpouring of grief from Silicon Valley giants, many of whom had relied on Motwani over the years as an advisor and counsellor to students and tech entrepreneurs.

“Officially, Rajeev was not my advisor, and yet he played just as big a role in my research, education, and professional development,” Sergey Brin wrote in a June 5 blog posting. “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.”
Brin also recounted how Motwani helped both him and Larry Page as Google developed from graduate-student project to corporate behemoth:

“Rajeev was there to support us and guide us through challenges, both technical and organisational,” Brin wrote. “Eventually, as Google emerged from Stanford, Rajeev remained a friend and advisor and he has with many people and startups since.”

Tributes poured in from across the Web.

“Success never came in the way of Rajeev’s quest for knowledge and innate desire to help others,” Om Malik, founder and senior writer of Gigaom, wrote on the site on June 5. “There wasn’t a startup he didn’t love. Like his chosen specialisation of search, Rajeev was searching for the unknown.”

“For those of you who didn’t know Rajeev, you might get the impression that he was your typical Silicon Valley insider – loud, brash, full of bravado,” David Hornik of August Capital wrote on VentureBlog on June 5. “He was anything but. Rajeev was soft spoken and gentle. He was self-confident but didn’t feel the need to prove anything.”

Those startups also included PayPal. Motwani, who earned his degrees in computer science from IIT Kanpur and U.C. Berkeley, is survived by a wife and two daughters.