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Does Silicon Valley Have a Soul? It Did -- As Well as a Heart -- In Dave Goldberg.

When I heard the terrible and tragic news thing morning, there really was only one reaction to have: No.


That is the only response one can have to untimely death of longtime Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Goldberg. The news thudded in the most mundane of ways, in a text this morning and then in a flood of sorrow over Twitter.

The accolades about Dave — no one who knew him called him David, and he was often called Goldie — were many, describing the man in glowing terms: Kind; humble; smart; modest; funny; wise. I can confirm — and, trust me, I would tell you if it was not the case — those were all much deserved and not nearly enough to explain what an important role Dave played in the ecosystem of Silicon Valley.

Because Dave was exactly the kind of leader that we need more of here and the kind of quiet conscience critical to transforming the community and its people into the better version of ourselves. We so often fail in doing the right thing and that is why icons of admirable behavior, like Dave, are so important, but — sadly — so lacking.

How so?

To begin, he was a tireless supporter of his wife, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. She, of course, has become her own iconic figure across the globe regarding the important issue of gender in the workplace as well as the difficulties of women in balancing work and family in her famous book, “Lean In.” Sandberg sometimes spoke of her own personal challenges, which were drastically minimized by the constant support of Dave and their balancing of roles as parents and partners.

There was not a moment I can recall when Dave did not mention a new accomplishment of Sheryl’s, especially around this important issue. That’s because it was his issue too — he clearly understood the importance of diversity and fairness in all things and how it made everyone stronger.

It takes a confident man to take what some would consider a back seat to his better-known wife, but that was not the way Dave saw it. Instead, they rode together in the front seat in a way that was unusual and lovely. I’d often joke about it with him — Dave always got the joke — and he’d laugh, but always in a way that was steeped in pride for her.

It was the same with this two kids, upon whom he lavished so much love and care and attention. Today, I have a vivid picture of Dave sitting in his kitchen working with both on homework before one of Sheryl’s events for women of Silicon Valley. Let it be said, I am not the most patient of homework-helpers for my two sons; in contrast, Dave was calm and helpful to them and yet not even slightly pushy as so many parents in the pressure-cooker world of Silicon Valley can be. I recall thinking at the time that I really needed to get a grip on my own attitude and schedule, because here was a very busy man who never seemed busy and that manifested it so clearly with his kids.

Dave was indeed busy throughout his now too-short life, racking up a series of entrepreneurial wins that were impressive. Starting from Minnesota (no wonder he was so nice!), he went to Harvard (where Sheryl also went, although they did not meet and marry until much later) and then Los Angeles. He was director of marketing strategy and new business development at Capitol Records, but soon co-founded an online music service called Launch in the mid-1990s.

That was around when I met him covering the nascent digital sector. Launch, with Dave, was one of the pioneers in the Web content arena, and he pushed through a lot of early concepts about how consumers would shift from traditional media when others had no idea what was to come.

I always liked to talk to Dave then, because he was one of the few who would take the time to explain what he was up to in the most straightforward and cogent of ways. As the Internet sector became more frothy and its players more hype-prone and grandiose, Dave could always be relied on to tell it like it was in a way that was both sensible and, well, right.

He was truthful without being snarky and hopeful without being deluded. For anyone involved in the evolution of the Web and its many characters, this is rare. Humility is not something common this world, as you might imagine. Even when he aced other players in poker, a game dear to his heart, he was nice about it.

“Watch Dave,” one player once told me as he played nearby. “He wins without bluster and bluffing, but he always wins.”

It was the same as he quietly invested in and then built SurveyMonkey, the survey software company, into a solid business that was recently valued at $2 billion. It was not a flashy startup by any means — and Dave had his share of flashy jobs offered up to him all the time — but one that focused on disrupting an area that needed it.

I liked the business a lot because it was sensible in an often senseless and silly landscape. But mostly, I liked to spend time with Dave, who always had time to talk.

You can see that here in a video interview I did with him in 2009, right after he took over at SurveyMonkey, in which my endless monkey jibes are met by his kind humor:

He was also up for anything, such as when I dragged him along to Redwood City’s Gourmet Haus Staudt, the beer garden behind the German grocery store where the iPhone 4G prototype was snatched off a stool from a birthday-celebrating Apple engineer. I could think of no one better to hoist a stein with in that cliché-of-the-moment location.

I have no idea what we talked about that day, but I know it was worth the time. In fact, Dave and I traded phone calls all last week, as we often did, wanting to kibitz about his business, mine, the various and sundry news of the day in tech. A board member at the Washington Post, he loved media and always had a smart observation about where it was headed. I trusted his advice implicitly.

It was like that a lot with Dave, who became a friend over the many years we knew each other. I cannot say that about a lot of people I cover, but it was hard not to feel affection for someone who was such a mensch.

That is exactly the word you would use to describe Dave — a Yiddish term that means a person of integrity and honor, a stand-up guy, someone to admire and emulate, a rock of humanity.

Exactly. Which is why when I heard the terrible and tragic news thing morning, there really was only one reaction to have: No.

This article originally appeared on

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