With the sudden passing of my father a month ago, this has been a tough Summer on the personal front. And since Friday, I have been grieving for a great friend and mentor that has been in a deep coma. Tragically, last night Keith Benjamin passed away. Debra, Rachel, and I knew Keith and his wife and children. We recently had dinner with them at their new San Francisco home in June on our way to Hawaii to celebrate our 12-year anniversary. I made a point to call Keith to catch up over lunch on almost every visit to the Bay Area. He was even kind enough to invite me and my co-founder, Brant, to stay at their home on our fundraising trips to the Bay Area when starting Bazaarvoice.
Keith’s partnership posted information on his passing on their home page today.
As a friend and mentor, Keith was a truly amazing person.
First, as third-generation Wall Street, he was always right on with his market predictions. He was “the guy” I went to for all market advice. I remember him telling me that Amazon.com was an incredible buy during a period where all of my Wharton MBA alums were telling me that it was a sell. Analysts were reporting that Amazon.com would never become profitable, no matter the scale. I think this was 2001 when everyone in dot-coms were panicking. Keith told me “I’m putting a huge part of my mother’s retirement into Amazon.com”. He wasn’t telling me to do the same – that wouldn’t have been his way. He was just sharing the information with a good friend, who was younger and confused by the dot-com carnage. Truthfully, I thought that was a crazy move. But he was right. And I started to really listen to his advice after that. And he was always right. He was a contrarian, which made him a good VC too.
Second, Keith was an incredible mentor to a young CEO (me). He joined my Board of Directors at Coremetrics in February of 2000, one year after I founded the company. Keith was my go-to resource for heavy issues. I could always count on him to give me his best advice. He was a true sounding board. And he really knew how to encourage me. He was the type of person that you wanted to shine in front of, and he brought out the best in me.
Third, Keith reinforced the importance of family to me. He was a very caring husband and father. Debra and I were younger, without children yet, when I started to work with Keith. He and his wife were role models to aspire to. Keith was a Total Leader (see what that means), with extraordinarily strong performance in career, family, and self.
I am incredibly humbled to have known and worked with Keith. He was an amazing man and incredible mentor and friend. I am a better man for having known him. And I will miss him very much.
You may want to take some time to read his bio and his blog posts. He was exceptionally smart. From my perspective, he was one of the founders of the Internet movement that we all financially benefit from now.
Our prayers and thoughts are with his wife and children now. We will be attending the memorial service.