Rajeev Motwani

Rajeev Motwani, 47, the Stanford University computer science professor who mentored Google's co-founders when they were graduate students, has died from a freak accident at his Atherton home.

Motwani apparently drowned Friday morning in a backyard swimming pool at the home he purchased three years ago. Friends said he did not know how to swim, but was planning to take lessons. While little official information was available, friends speculated that Motwani may have slipped and fallen in the pool. Paramedics were called when his body was found, and he was pronounced dead at the scene at 12:28 p.m., according to the San Mateo County coroners office.

He is survived by his wife, Asha Jadeja, and daughters Naitri and Anya. The family will hold a private funeral, according to the university's news agency, but a memorial service will be held at a later date.

The news of Motwani's death struck like a thunderclap in Silicon Valley. Blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter communications were filled with testimonials to a brilliant, kind man who was never too busy to help a budding entrepreneur or struggling graduate student. He helped many valley startups gain a foothold, but none so famous as Google, whose cofounder Sergey Brin mourned him Saturday.

Reached on the phone, Brin said the many conversations he had with Motwani helped inspire his thinking and research.

"I want him to really be remembered well. It's a rare combination to have somebody who is so smart and also such a nice guy." Motwani, he added, "had a lot of interest in computer science theory. He's primarily a theoretician, and it's incredible the amount of impact he has had directly on products and companies."

Brin also wrote in his blog on Friday: too.blogspot.com/2009/06/remembering-rajeev.html.

Silicon Valley's "ecosystem" has suffered a major blow with Motwani's death, said a friend, angel investor Ron Conway.

"He's a great example on how the Silicon Valley ecosystem works," said Conway, "which is why everyone is so upset at this tragedy. We've lost one of the best contributors to the Silicon Valley ecosystem."

"Everybody in Silicon Valley talked to him," said David Hornik, a valley venture capitalist. "Rajeev was an incredible resource to everyone."

Popular at Stanford

Born March 26, 1962, in Jammu, India, Motwani grew up in New Delhi, earned a computer science degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur in 1983, and his doctorate from the University of California-Berkeley in 1988. As a Stanford professor, he also served as the director of graduate studies for the computer science department and founded the Mining Data at Stanford project (MIDAS).

His work had a major impact on the field of algorithms, and he used his knowledge of that field to develop methods for searching almost infinite archives of data by randomly selecting subsets of the data. It was in the field of data mining that he made some of his seminal contributions. The field is the basis of much of modern Internet commerce and the operation of search engines such as Google.

Motwani won perhaps the highest honor for theoretical computer science, the Göedel Prize, as well as earning an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship. His contributions ranged over the computer science fields of search and information retrieval, streaming databases, data mining, robotics and even drug design.

Though he was not Brin's official adviser at Stanford, the Google cofounder wrote in his blog Friday that "he played just as big a role in my research, education, and professional development. In addition to being a brilliant computer scientist, Rajeev was a very kind and amicable person and his door was always open."

In 1998, Google cofounders Brin and Larry Page, Motwani and Stanford computer science professor Terry Winograd wrote a paper titled "What You Can Do With A Web In Your Pocket," describing the development of a global ranking of Web pages called PageRank and "a novel search engine called Google."

Brin wrote that when he became interested in data mining, a technology at the heart of Google's enormous success, Motwani helped coordinate a regular meeting group on the subject. After Google's founding, Motwani "remained a friend and adviser as he has with many people and startups since," Brin wrote. "Of all the faculty at Stanford, it is with Rajeev that I have stayed the closest and I will miss him dearly."

A rare gift

So will hundreds — perhaps thousands — of others whom he counseled or assisted with technical advice and encouragement, observed a colleague, Balaji Prabhakar, a Stanford computer science professor.

"People, when they speak to him, soon their vague and fuzzy ideas get transformed into crisp articulations," recalled Prabhakar. "There's nobody who has spoken to Rajeev who hasn't benefited from the experience," he said. "It's a rare gift."

"He enabled things," Prabhakar said. "He brought out the best in people, not by yanking at them, but things just came out. It was a little bit more magical an experience. People somehow found out something they didn't know they knew because they spoke to him — an idea they had that they didn't see, or an ability they possessed that he drew out."

Contact Pete Carey at [email protected] or 408-920-5419.

Published by Mercury News from Jun. 7 to Jun. 12, 2009.
No memorial events are currently scheduled.
To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
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50 Entries
It is now dark in Silicon Valley.

S. Kalpakjian, Boise, Idaho.
January 28, 2016
Dear Asha
Although we lost touch after our days at USC and being single, probably because I moved far, I was completely shocked to read the sad news of Rajeev's sudden demise.
Please accept our heart felt condolences and hope you find strength in the days ahead.
Renuka Apparao
December 13, 2009
Dear Ashaben,

Our heartfelt belated condolences. My warmest regards to Resp. Jadeja Saheb and Resp. Maa Saheba.


Chandrakant Amin
Sunnyvale 408-746-0390
December 3, 2009
As part of the Stanford alumni family this was a great shok to me and teaches me we must live eah day as if it were our last. May God protect his family.
Judy Myers
August 14, 2009
Sincere condolences to Rajeev's family. His many contributions will surely outlast us all.

June 17, 2009
.Please accept our condolences to Rajeev's Family
Gope & Meena Advani Orange county ca
June 16, 2009
I have met Rajeev and Asha only once almost 5 and half years ago, great couple. What ever happned to Rajeev is very sad and shocking. I pray that God will give strength to his family to face this situation. May Rajeev's soul rest in peace.
June 15, 2009
What a sad end to the life of a brilliant mind. Please accept my heart felt condolences to Rajeev's family.
June 15, 2009
This is the first time I'm hearing about him. But, his success story inspires people like me who come to this country carrying big dreams and aspirations with similar background as that of him. May his soul rest in peace.
Gopi Yarla
June 14, 2009
I never knew the guy personally. But I am amazed by how many lives he has changed by his work. May his soul rest in peace and he will surely be missed.
Anand Iyer
June 14, 2009
felt an indian diamond missing from universe.
Murli Manohar Pd. Jaiswal
June 14, 2009
Rajeev touched the heart of so many of us. He will be missed.
Adam Au
June 14, 2009
Silicon Valley has prematurely lost a quiet leader.

May God grant peace to the departed soul and strenth to the family to bear this shock!
Nick Pal
June 14, 2009
A very tragic ad premature end to the life of an amazing person. He will be missed by many. My thoughts go out Rajeev's family.
Ben Dubin
June 14, 2009
Stanford and Silicon Valley would not be same without Rajeev. Our deepest condolences to Rajeev's family.
Venkat Pal
June 14, 2009
A very tragic and premature end to an amazing person. My thought go out to his family. He will be greatly missed.
Ben Dubin
June 14, 2009
May God bless you and give your family strength to cope with the loss !!
Rajeev Bishnoi
June 14, 2009
Our thought and prayers are with you and children. Let the Almighty God give courage to bear the unrepairable loss in your lives to come.
Rajendra Prasad
June 14, 2009
Very sad news. May he RIP. Rajeev Motwani was a knowledgeable professor and kind human being.

Student from Stanford
Karachi, Pakistan
Irem Saleem
June 11, 2009
Our thoughts and prayers are with you in your time of grief. May your memories bring you comfort.
Nik,Nikki,Natasha, Prachi Singh
June 11, 2009
Dear Asha,
Our thoughts and prayers are with you and children. May The Lord give you strength and endurance to go through the processing of grieving.
Hema Sesham from Palo Alto Family YMCA
Hema Sesham
June 10, 2009
World Lost a great visionary and Great son of India. God May give rest to your heart and soul.
Vijayakumar Kannan
June 10, 2009
Dear Asha Jadeja,

This news has left us numb. We pray that you and your family will find solace in knowing that the whole community is holding you close in our hearts.

May the Lord grant you peace.

Veronica Hausman
June 10, 2009
Thanks for your contribution to computer science and for helping so many entrepreneurs - you will be missed!!
Rahul S
June 10, 2009
I had spent at least 2 summers in IITK with Rajeev Motwani where he used to spend his holidays doing research work. In 1982, One thing which stuck me down was the work he was doing on Pattern Recognition. He specifically told me that it will take another 20-25 years to develop the standard hardware and computers to run the programs he is working on. Wow! that was VISION!
Gopal Sambamurthy
June 9, 2009
My prayers and thoughts are with the wife and two daughters of Rajeev Motwani at his untimely death.His imprint on the field of algorithms will impact generations to come!!!
Lesa Houston
June 9, 2009
I am in a state of shock and disbelief about the happening of which I happened to know accidentally. No words to describe what he was. I recall my meetings at 14 Bungalow. My condolences to Ashaba & children and I pray to god to give strength to all in this time of grief.
Narpat Jadeja
June 9, 2009
I am really shocked by the untimely demise of such a talented professor and great computer engineer. Though i do not know him personally, I had read his research papers on data mining during the time i was doing my doctorate in association rule mining. Similarities between him and me are with the Motwani surname we share, Profession as I am also professor of computer science and the country we are born. I express my condolence and grief and pray god for keeping his soul in peace and to provide courage to the family members to bear the great loss.
Mahesh Motwani
June 9, 2009
May you have Rajeev's memories guide you during your difficult times.
We all pray for his soul and the family's wellbeing.
Raj Dutta
June 8, 2009
I am really shocked, and pray that the Motwani family find courage to tide over the grief and loss. Rajeev's achievements will benefit generations to come!
Ganesh Gopalakrishnan
June 8, 2009
Rajeev was a selfless and dedicated advisor to me, Stanford entrepreneurs, and several of our startups.

He was not only a great listener and mentor, but also a personal friend who cared very much about his students and family.

I will truly miss him. May you rest in peace, Rajeev.
Sergio Monsalve
June 8, 2009
I always remember the days with Rajeev in the Hall V quad of IIT Kanpur with late night teas, talking about wide range of topics, watching his radiant smile, and experiencing his brilliance on a daily basis. A great hall mate, friend, inspiration in my life. He will be sorely missed!
Suresh Singh
June 8, 2009
Even though we never met, but heard a lot from Suneev and Anu Motwani.
My condolences are with the family and extremely sorry to see a visionary and a leader not amongst us anymore.
Raj Navani
June 8, 2009
I don't know Motwani family personally, but heard about Prof. Motwani from friends. With some common factors(Indian, Sindhi,living in Bay area, Engineer), there was always a wish to meet him some day. I feel really sad at the loss of Indian pride. Reading through more about him it feels a loss of great opportunity to meet a brilliant and kind person. May his soul rest in peace. Heartfelt condolences to his parents, wife and family members. May God give them courage to face this harsh reality. His memories will always be cherished with pride.
June 8, 2009
I am sorry for you loss. I send condolence to his children, I hope that the understand how much of an impact their father will have on many generations to come. The world needs more people like you!
Americo Garza
June 8, 2009
Rajeev was my friend, mentor, role model and former boss (Dot Edu Ventures). He was kind to me and I learned a lot working with him on an almost daily basis, albeit in short snippets. He exemplified what Silicon Valley was all about. Rajeev inspired me to pursue my Ph.D. in Edinburgh in entrepreneurship, and do the same sort of stuff he did! We'll all miss him greatly.
Michael Clouser
June 8, 2009
May Rajeev's memory be a blessing to his family, students, friends, and colleagues. He will be forever remembered for the value of his research, the wisdom of his counsel, and the clarity of his insight.
Arthur Keller
June 8, 2009
Loss of a great visionary! He will always be remembered as the best persoN the Silicon valley has ever seen.
Sai Chandra shekar Khanapur
June 8, 2009
What a sad day for all of us..a good man called home so soon..terrible loss to friends, students and family..
Krishna Seshan
June 8, 2009
I am in state of shock, Rajeev you are what every human being should aspire to be - a genuine human being, time for everybody, sharing your thoughts and intellect and adding value to every minute of the conversation. And last but not least, the brilliance which is difficult to duplicate. We, the class of 79 from Columbas are shocked and will miss you one hell of a lot. CP
C P Jeyadev
June 8, 2009
I did not have the fortune to meet Mr Rajeev Motwani but would like to say that what I have read and heard about him is that he was a rare human being, a beacon to aspiring professionals, and a loss to the whole community that he touched. I pray that his family finds the strength and courage to carry on bravely despite this untimely loss.

Vivek Chhabria
June 7, 2009
This is very shocking...and is equally hard to believe!! May God give family the courage to bear the loss of a father, brother and son.
Gurvinder Sareen
June 7, 2009
Rajeev played volleyball with us on Sunday mornings in Sunnyvale. Several HP Labs people with interest in theoretical computer science have had a chance to work closely with Rajeev on randomized algorithms. Many of us here in Silicon Valley and in the broader computing community have lost a mentor and a close friend. We extend our condolences to the immediate family. May you continue to find pride and solace in his tremendous accomplishments.

pankaj mehra
hp labs
June 7, 2009
I met Rajib once in Palo Alto and felt as though in the shadow of greatness I was washed in humility. A smart man who inspired others to find the potential with-in their ideas. My thoughts go out to the entire family
David Harris
June 7, 2009
God be with you Rajeev. You are missed and will always remain in my heart as my mentor, friend, co-founder, and one whom I owe so much towards becoming an entrepreneur and supporting of our venture. I share and continue to grow from the many strong friendships formed as a result of your vast and freely given introductions. Thank you for being there for me whenever I needed...always generously offering wise and kind advice.

I am saddened to not have an opportunity to thank you again in-person over a cup of coffee, as we often shared, for all you have given me. I am tearing as I remember how your smile and gentle voice always calmed, reassured, and brought me optimism. You elevated my career and gave me strength to always pursue my passions, as I know you have done for so many others. Thank you for caring, believing, supporting and most of all for being the one person I could always come to...you always made time for me no matter how busy your schedule... You are one of the kindest, most warm-hearted individuals I have ever been blessed to know. I will miss you very much!

My deepest and heartfelt condolences to dear Asha, Naitri, and Anya. I hope I and scores of your close friends can give you some comfort and assistance during this time and anytime... I am always here and my prayers are with you all.
June 7, 2009
This is very shocking and unbelievable; our prayers for his family.
June 7, 2009
I did not know Rajib personally, but through my daughter who was a collegue and guest faculty at Stanford. I heard of his kind nature in spite of his deep insignt and intelligence in the subject matter. Rajib had a special gift of finding talents and nurturing them. What can be a better reason to celebrate his life? We may have had many plans, but God had a different plan for him. May his soul rest in peace.
Indubhusan Mishra
June 7, 2009
My Deepest Condolences to Rajeevs Family.
Joshua Menezes
June 7, 2009
Please accept my heart felt condolences to Rajeev Motwani's family. I had heard a lot about Rajeev Motwani from his brother Suneev Motwani in Delhi, India during 1992-1994 while working with Suneev Motwani and how Rajeev Motwani was incubating technological innovation in heart of silicon valley back then. It is so sad to see such a respected and talented Stanford faculty member die at such a young age. Please relay condolences to Rajeev's immediate and extended family (Rajeev's brother Suneev). May God rest Rajeev's soul in peace.
Ashish M
June 7, 2009
By looking at this message every Indian is shocked in the world.One of the best educated and the good person is not with us in the world to enjoy the best part of life after struggling to be educated well and good person ( I mean of giving his good effort, time and money).He did not even live to be 50 years old.Very sad.As an Indian I am writing this knowing that the departed soul is respectable Indian.Please accept my heart felt condolences to his family and also for his parents. Thank you very much.
June 7, 2009
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