Monday, June 8, 2009

Rajeev Motwani co-founder of Google, found Dead in Palo Alto

Rajeev Motwani (Hindi: राजीव मोटवानी; March 26, 1962 – June 5, 2009) was a professor of Computer Science at Stanford University. He died on June 5, 2009 in a swimming pool accident that occurred at his home. He was an early advisor and supporter of companies including Google and PayPal, and a special advisor to Sequoia Capital. He was well known for his research in theoretical computer science and was a winner of the Gödel Prize in 2001 for his work on the PCP theorem and its applications to hardness of approximation.

There is a bit of Motwani in every technology you use! That is how ex-colleagues recalled Google co-founder Rajeev Motwani. Motwani was found dead in a swimming pool at his Palo Alto home on Sunday. Almost instantly, Net was abuzz with tributes to Google’s mentor.
A much-loved Stanford University professor from India, Motwani wanted to be mathematician, opted for Computer Sciences out of compulsion and discovered that his love for numbers found perfect expression in machines. The success stories at Google, Paypal, Sequoia Capital are all a reflection of what the man stood for. Born in Jammu and Kashmir, Motwani’s schooled at Delhi’s St Columbus, graduated at IIT- Kanpur and acquired his doctrate from University of California, Berkeley. He won Godel Prize in 2001 for his work on the PCP theorem and its applications to hardness of approximation.
"Officially, Rajeev was not my advisor, and yet he played just as big a role in my research, education, and professional development," Google co-founder Sergey Brin wrote in his blog Friday hours after Motwani, 47, was declared dead. "In addition to being a brilliant computer scientist, Rajeev was a very kind and amicable person and his door was always open. 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 wrote. Inspiration for GoogleMotwani relocated to the US in the mid-1980s, later serving as the director of graduate studies for the computer science department. It is here that he mentored many start-ups and proved to be a major catalysts in the Silicon Valley developments.Silicon Valley gurus credit Motwani with impacting products and companies significantly. Michael Arrington, a serial entrepreneur and founder of the blog TechCrunch said Brin and Page always gave Motwani significant credit for helping them create what would eventually become Google. It was a 1998 paper called ''What Can You Do With A Web In Your Pocket'' by Brin, Motwani, Page and Terry Winograd that became the basis for Google. In the paper, the quartet said they intended to ''take advantage of the link structure of the Web to produce a global 'importance' ranking of every web page.'' They said this ranking, called PageRank, helps search engines and users quickly make sense of the vast heterogeneity of the World Wide Web.

Mentor of Google co-foundersMotwani, who was best known for mentoring numerous Stanford graduate students, including Google co-founders Larry Page and Brin, was also a special adviser to Sequoia Capital and invested in companies including PayPal and Google. Silicon Valley angel investor Ron Conway said in a video tribute: "He shared my attitude that the more entrepreneurs you can help, even if you only give them five minutes, go do it. He never refused a meeting with an entrepreneur that I suggested he meet just to give them some quick advice." His success, however, "never came in the way of Rajeev's quest for knowledge and innate desire to help others," wrote his friend, blogger Om Malik. "There wasn't a start-up he didn't love." Condolences poured out over the Internet as news spread about the sudden demise of Motwani.The mood of a TechFellow event in San Francisco Saturday night turned from cheerful cocktail-sipping banter to stunned silence as the news of Motwani's death spread quickly throughout the couple of hundred attendees, wrote Michael Arrington of "Most everyone who was there is his friend. And most everyone there had a story to tell about how Motwani had helped them at one time or another, asking nothing in return. I have a couple of those stories myself," he said. Versatile tech mindMotwani's research spanned a diverse set of areas in computer science, including databases, data mining, and data privacy; Web search and information retrieval; robotics; computational drug design; and theoretical computer science. He authored two books, "Randomized Algorithms" and an undergraduate textbook published by in 2001. Among other honours, he won the prestigious 2001 Godel Prize, which is awarded for excellence in the field of theoretical computer science. Motwani sat on the boards or advisory boards of Google, Mimosa Systems, Neopath Networks, Revenue Science, Stanford Student Enterprises Ventures, and Vuclipa, among others. He was also active in the Business Association of Stanford Engineering Students.

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