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Expressing Grief for Mots. Not writing an Obituary.

June 21, 2009

The edge is finally coming off the pain and I can turn to some fun and memorable moments with Rajeev. The last time we chatted was at the Jagjit Singh concert, just a few days before the ill-fated accident. We reminisced about the first time each of us had heard the maestro. Prompted by the editorial team at Indogram to write, not an obituary, but a personal anecdote or two, I’ll begin with my very first recollection of meeting Rajeev… in 1978. The mind is a strange muscle indeed when it comes to sifting through gobs and gobs of data. Ironically, Rajeev would have enjoyed this analogy.

The first encounter was a very typical one during freshman ragging season at IIT Kanpur. Here was this nerdy-looking, bespectacled guy with a great (low) JEE rank that we sent to the mythical IIT Simla. (For those who may not know, there is no IIT in Simla. This is the moniker given to the crawlspace between the top of the dorm-room closet and the ceiling). The only way to get out of there was to answer a few really crooked math problems, or sing the corny, obscenity-laden IIT anthem (Gungoo mochi and oil bottles, anyone?). Needless to say, Rajeev chose the math option, and you guessed it – answered any and all problems thrown at him. Now, in hindsight, it seems obvious. At that time 30+ years ago, who would’ve imagined that I was ragging someone who would become a world authority on algorithms!

ramneek-mailbox-rajeevLife moves on, and we fast forward to circa 2000 — way before angel investing had become a passion for Rajeev. We had both been in the Bay Area since the mid 1980’s, so our paths would cross socially every now and then. However, it was not till Gautam Bhargava (Rajeev’s IITK batch-mate and a mutual friend) and I teamed up to form Vialto, raised an angel round, and started exploring VC-funding that I got to know Rajeev at a professional level. I am taking the liberty of posting a snapshot of my mailbox from those early days of forming the company. I chanced upon this gem as I flipped through my mailbox, much like reviewing a scrapbook in search of memories. The text is self-explanatory. Rajeev is exhibiting simple purposefulness — to advise, help, invest and offer any associations he can. He and Asha (DotEdu + Deutsche Banc) were the first institutional investors in Vialto and the catalyst for us eventually securing a VC-round. Rajeev joined our advisory board and continued to help the company through its multiple ups-and-downs, all the way to the acquisition. There are now several such similar stories that are emerging [See Renkoo, Adchemy, Chingari as examples].


Rajeev's FB wall on Jun 21, '09. Wall post at bottom by Sunil Singh (IITK 78-83)

Over the years of my professional friendship with him, rather than struggle with some ill-conceived ideas about technology and incomprehensible Greek, I would shoot off an email to Rajeev. He would reply, often within minutes, sometimes during the wee hours of the morning. He always had an insightful point of view, or a link to a referred contact.

Our email exchanges slowed a little as he amassed his massive portfolio of emerging startups. However, not surprisingly, some exchanges moved to Facebook. It is social media that he used, characteristically and unassumingly, that truly showed the way he viewed the world – one big connected universe of entrepreneurs and friends. Whether it was household names Larry and Sergey, or the wannabees Gautam and Ramneek, he was a connection, a channel, and never hesitated to foster the links.

What a phenomenal legacy he leaves behind. The 30+ years blur in to one giant memory – what an honor to have been a small part of his large life, incredible legacy and – in all humility – to just know him.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Ashish Asthana permalink
    June 23, 2009 2:44 pm

    Like you, I have had this unbearable sadness about Rajeev ever since I heard that friday. The reason, I think, it hurts so much is that we all felt that he was one of us. We were proud of his successes because he reflected our own youth,the journey into middle age and the dreams that we carry-both fulfilled and unfulfilled.

    Rajeev was just a great guy. I had got to know him slightly at IIT (I was 2 batches junior to him) and my wife and I got to know him quite well through his Berkeley/Stanford grad school peers (Tarun Verma, Neel Madhav, Munnu, etc.). He was just a kind, gentle guy that you could hang out with, share a smoke with or discuss the arcane “smoky” qualities of one single malt over another. We spent many nights partying, talking up any and all subjects (he was a voracoius reader and seeing the bulging bookshelves in his place always elicited a question from someone whether he read all the books on his shelves)..

    Then when he got busy with his VC activities and startups, our paths crossed less often but whenever we met, he was just the same.

    May Peace be with you, Mots!


  1. Rajeev Motwani – Forever Etched in our Minds and Hearts « Ramneek’s Musings
  2. Onwards…. « Ramneek’s Musings

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