Remembering Nathan Binkert

Thank you for coming today. For those of you that don't know me, my name is Mehul Shah. I am Nate's friend and colleague from HP and Amazon, and more importantly, his co-founder from Amiato.

Nate, Stavros, and I started Amiato almost exactly 6 years ago. Building a company is an intense and unique experience. In your journey to make the future, the bonds that you form with the early people transcend professional boundaries. People say co-founders are like spouses, where trust must be unconditional, and family, friends, and work all blend into one. Today, I'd like to share with you the three most important things that my friend – my co-founder – my brother – taught me.

Nate taught me to be fearless and take risks. As you all know, Nate was an adventurer, and this leaked into every aspect of his life. Several months before we started Amiato, Nate had an enormous offer from Google. We discussed it endlessly. Eventually, he decided to flip a coin. We went into an abandoned basement at HP – the first flip landed on Google, then the second, then the third. We must have flipped the coin half-a-dozen times or more until he admitted that he was craving a larger adventure. He did not want Google, just yet. Later, even when I got cold feet, he convinced me to take the plunge. Here was this guy, with three kids, one still a baby, willing to abandon a secure job and to go without salary, into a completely unfamiliar area – databases – and trust me to help change the world.  I *had* to take the plunge. Perhaps we were naive, but I was extremely lucky to have found him. It was worth it. In our 2 ½ years at Amiato, I learned more than I had in my previous seven years at HP.

Turns out, more than adventurer, Nate was just plain crazy. One time, in our annual Amiato ski trip to Lake Tahoe (which we did just once), we found ourselves at the shore of the lake in 40-degree weather. Nate dared us all to swim, but then backed out because he didn't have a towel to dry off. Then, a random passer-by who overheard us was willing to lend a towel that he had in this trunk. Nate stripped to his underwear, dove in, swam about 100 meters, and dried off. Nate seized every moment he could. While I didn’t take the plunge this time, I do regret not seizing the moment with him.

Nate taught me to be relentless and never quit. Six months before the end of Amiato, Nate found out that his father was terminally ill with cancer. By that time, the company had stopped growing. Were I in his shoes, I would have capitulated. Nate had an out, but he refused.  Friends, family, or colleagues, he was going to honor his promise and stick it out. Even in our final few days, when he felt Amiato should end, he insisted on sticking it out, if we still wanted to run the company.

Finally, Nate taught me to be generous. For him, generosity was an unconscious act that spread with everlasting effects. When Bennett and Alex had outgrown their bike trailer, he knew that I had bought a bike, and my second daughter, Diya, could use the trailer. Without asking, he brought it to work, left it in my cube, and told me that I would need it. Diya loved riding in that trailer, and today she loves biking because of it.

Nate was a phenomenal technologist, a generous friend, and a loving father. Professionally, Nate was well known, especially for his remarkable breadth. His impact crossed many areas of computer science and touched many people. There are not enough superlatives in the English language to describe the greatness of his personality and the greatness of the person.

I cannot help but reflect on the fact that Nate was taken from us too early and too quickly. Those who knew him, knew that he was both a man of science and a man of faith. So am I. Although I never got a chance to explore this context with him, I want to share with you my perspective.

There's a quote, often attributed to Einstein:

Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous

To me, this says that random things happen, and the universe obeys the laws of probability. You see, there is a universal scorecard, if you will, that has to have a certain balance of miracles and tragedies. Otherwise, our creator would reveal himself, and that cannot happen. Imagine, for example, if there were only miracles, then everyone would know exactly what to do and fall into line. There would be no mystery, or adventure, or the need for faith: the things that Nate thrived on in this world. So, it is within this randomness that the almighty must architect his plan.

Today, we mourn a son taken from his mother, a husband from his wife, a father from his children, a brother from his siblings, and a friend from all of you. There is a dark blemish on the scorecard, and it is tipped heavily in one direction. So, whether you are a person of science or a person of faith – for Him to remain anonymous – it is certain that untold miracles will be performed in the name of Nate.