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Remembering Sam Blackman

By Mat Ellis on August 30, 2017

This week, the Portland tech community tragically and unexpectedly lost one of our own.

Sam Blackman was the CEO of Elemental – now AWS Elemental, after a tremendous exit in 2015 – and best known as a pioneer for the technology and startup scene here in Oregon. To me, he was a collaborator, a co-conspirator in the quest to prove Portland’s viability as a startup community, and a friend.

When I first heard the news of Sam’s passing, my first thoughts were of his wife and sons. I hope you’ll join me in supporting their healing however we can, and I hope that there is some comfort in seeing what an impact Sam made on our community.

Which brings me to the second thought that crossed my mind – the tightknit tech scene that Sam was so instrumental in bringing to life here in Portland. It’s a group of folks who believe in breaking things and building them better than they were before. People who know that technological and entrepreneurial talent aren’t restricted to a specific geographic location. A group that works together to elevate and support one another. The Portland startup community is a unique and powerful force that was cemented in the national tech landscape by Sam’s advocacy, evangelism and good work.

My co-founder J.R. and I – and Cloudability – would not be here without the work of people like him; people who are as dedicated to growing their communities as they are their companies. I know the same goes for many others.

Beyond the business side, Sam’s dedication to improving education created even more opportunities for tech leadership to give back to our community – whether through financial support of the school construction bond campaign, or bringing employees from every tech company in the city out in force for Elemental’s 4k 4Charity Fun Run. His leadership was as apparent outside of the office as it was in.

I’ve often joked that you can’t do a startup in Portland without running into Sam. Now, I’m devastated that future founders and entrepreneurs won’t have his mentorship, passion and insight to propel their vision.

My and J.R.’s commitment – and our ask of the entire Portland tech community – is to honor Sam’s legacy. Let’s do what we can to fill the void he leaves behind with more collaboration, more partnership. Let’s continue to build fellow technologists and entrepreneurs up and support their endeavors. Let’s advocate for our community and evangelize the great work being done here. Let’s honor Sam’s work by following his example and serving our communities as well as we serve our companies.

I hope you will all join us in remembering Sam Blackman and the tremendous impact he has made. He will be deeply missed.

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