Tech industry figures gather to mourn popular executive 

click to enlarge Meg Whitman
  • AP Photo/Noah Berger
  • Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman arrives for a memorial service for SurveyMonkey CEO David Goldberg, Tuesday, May 5, 2015, in Stanford, Calif. The 47-year-old, husband of "Lean In" author and Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg, died in an accident while exercising at a Mexican vacation resort on Friday, May 1. Authorities say he apparently slipped on a treadmill and struck his head.

Tech industry leaders and other friends from across Silicon Valley gathered Tuesday for a memorial service honoring David Goldberg, a popular startup executive and husband of "Lean In" author Sheryl Sandberg.

President Barack Obama extended his sympathies in a post on Facebook this week, joining a number of well-known Silicon Valley figures including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, a close friend of both Goldberg and Sandberg, who is chief operating officer of the social network.

"His skills as an entrepreneur created opportunity for many; his love for his family was a joy to behold, and his example as a husband and father was something we could all learn from," Obama wrote on the White House Facebook page. The message drew online thanks from Sandberg, who described her relationship with Goldberg as a "50-50 partnership" in her 2013 book about the challenges faced by working women.

The 47-year-old Goldberg died Friday of severe head trauma while he was exercising during a family vacation at a resort near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He apparently slipped on a treadmill and hit the machine, a Mexican official said.

Under sunny skies Tuesday, mourners streamed into a 1,700-seat auditorium at Stanford University, in the heart of Silicon Valley, where the family was holding a private service. An email invitation reportedly asked men to attend without neckties because Goldberg had long hated wearing them.

A genial bear of a man, Goldberg was often introduced in national media appearances as Sandberg's husband after the publication of her book that encouraged a public dialogue about working women and the need for men to support their spouses by sharing duties at home.

But to many in Silicon Valley, Goldberg was also known as an entrepreneur, investor and mentor who generously shared business advice. He was CEO of SurveyMonkey, an online service for people who want to conduct questionnaires and polls and is credited with overseeing the company's growth to its current valuation of $2 billion.

"He was a perfect cross between a teddy bear and a tiger," former Yahoo President Sue Decker wrote on a tribute page for Goldberg, in a description echoed by others who knew him. Decker said she met Goldberg when they both worked as Yahoo executives, after that company acquired his startup, Launch Media.

Other tributes to Goldberg described his low-key humor, love for the Minnesota Vikings and his enthusiasm for playing poker, which reportedly led to occasional games with professional poker champ Phillip Hellmuth, among others.

Sandberg and Goldberg married in 2004; they have two children. He and Sandberg had frequently spoken about their efforts to leave work in time to spend evening hours with their children, even if it meant going online to resume work from home after the kids had gone to bed.

Goldberg was a former executive at Capitol Records, where he helped develop a program to sell CDs at Starbucks outlets, before he started Launch Media to publish a digital music magazine. He later ran music programs for Yahoo and was an "entrepreneur in residence" at Benchmark Capital, a Silicon Valley venture firm, where he provided advice and helped identify promising startup companies.

Tuesday's memorial also drew business leaders from outside Silicon Valley. Sandberg is a director of the Walt Disney Co., which moved up its previously scheduled earnings report to Tuesday morning so executives could attend the service.

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