Goodbye Alex

Alex King recently passed away after a two year battle with cancer.

Alex was not one of my closest friends, but his passing hit me very hard. I was riding in a car from the airport yesterday when I got the news from his wife, and I just started crying.

I got to know Alex because he was a mentor in Boulder in the early years of Techstars. He totally leaned into mentoring startups and never for a moment asked what was in it for him. He was one of the few early technical mentors and he was in high demand. He loved his role as teacher. He was very, very good at it.

Alex changed the world in so many ways. He created the share icon that you see on most web sites today. He helped create WordPress very early on through his many open source contributions and today this software powers the internet. In fact it is the tool I am using to write this post today. You’re experiencing his work right now by reading this post.

Alex quite literally impacted millions of people with his work.

Work is important, of course. But when I started reading the outpouring of love from his friends and family over the last few years, I knew Alex had been truly successful in all phases of life.

In August of this year, I sent this note to wife Heather and I am happy that Alex probably had the chance to read it.

Hi Heather. I first met Alex around the time I started Techstars, in 2007. At that time, he had an amazing reputation as a software developer and I wanted to make sure we had strong mentors at Techstars who knew both business and tech. Alex jumped in with both feet without once asking what was in it for him. He was excited about the idea of helping startups succeed. The first time I met him I remember thinking “wow, this guy was a major part of creating wordpress, which powers an incredible percentage of the web sites that exist today. what a feeling it must be to have been involved in something like that so deeply, which had so much impact on so many people and companies. His work has literally touched billions.” As someone with an engineering background, I know that the true joy in our work is that others use the art (software) that we create. Today, Techstars uses WordPress to host our own site. Early on, I remember watching Alex present at local tech meetups and I had the impression that he didn’t think he was very good at it. But he was great. He held a rooms attention and came off as an authority without being at all arrogant. He is a great teacher. We then worked together on a few projects during the Crowd Favorite years and the work was always impeccable. Sadly, after a few years I had fewer occasions to work directly with Alex or to run into him. Denver is far from Boulder in so many ways. I do not know Alex super well. We are not best friends, more like business acquaintances. But when I think of Alex, I think of a family man who puts others first, is very giving, very respected,  and someone who has excelled at everything he has done in life. He has always been a person that I wholeheartedly recommend to others in any context. And he is someone I am glad I have had the opportunity to know, even if only at a high level.

Alex changed the world. He left his mark. He was humble, but he was noticed.

Thank you Alex. From all of us. Thank you.

file under: Startups
  • gonzaloc

    Thanks David for sharing. Funny how we sometimes need an “external shock” to re-assess how we prioritize and what are our deep beliefs and values. I did not know Alex, but now he is definitely on my list of “how-I-want-to-be-remembered-when-I-leave”.

  • Thanks for sharing David. I’m trying to write a similar ‘thank you & goodbye’ and am finding it very difficult. Such a class act that made such a fundamental impact on so may of us.

    • David Cohen

      it’s not easy.

  • donlbe

    I met Alex at about the same time – what a huge loss. Thanks for sharing David.

    • David Cohen

      huge indeed.

  • jagsmcp

    They come. They do. They inspire. They leave their mark and go!

    • David Cohen

      and that he did.

  • Karim Ardalan

    Very sad to hear about Alex’s passing. He was a valuable resource when I started using WP back in the mid 2000’s. He will be missed. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

  • Tim Schigel

    Thanks for sharing David. I enjoyed getting to know Alex as we worked together to take the ShareThis icon to the next level. We had a couple opportunities to play golf together as well. He was passionate and principled…both great traits. So sad to get the news. His impact was wide indeed.

    • David Cohen

      agreed.

  • Ryan Howell

    Thanks for writing this. I agree. I met Alex at the first Startup Weekend in Boulder and we’ve worked together since then. I left every interaction with Alex feeling like I learned something significant.

    • David Cohen

      well said.

  • One of the great ones in all aspects of life and someone who inspired me and many others to chase dreams, think big, do amazing things, stay grounded and be an amazing human being. We met just before my Newsgator days when he was working on a super slick RSS reader. We hit it off right away.