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Sam Blackman of AWS Elemental dies suddenly

For those who have not heard the news, Sam Blackman, the founder of AWS Elemental, died unexpectedly at the age of 41 this week, due to sudden cardiac arrest. Faultline first came across Sam in September 2011, after we published an interview with Julien Signes, the CEO of Elemental rival Envivio, likening him to Gerard Depardieu and suggesting comically that they might be the same person.

Sam Blackman emailed in saying how funny he thought it was and subscribed immediately. That showed he had a sense of humor, and that he was deeply engaged with overturning Envivio’s lead in software encoding, something that history now says he more than achieved in his time at Elemental.

At the very next Elemental event we met Sam and found him to be likeable, knowledgeable in the extreme and funny – but at the same time focused and driven. At subsequent events he showed us that he had an iron grip on customer needs, had the unwavering loyalty of everyone who worked for him, and always had an eye on both rivals and other branches of technology.

During our last chat he told us that if he was coming into the industry right now, Virtual Reality was where he would ply his trade. In short he was one of the few “good guys” in this industry, who was universally liked and respected.

After selling Elemental Technologies to Amazon’s AWS, for what we now know was $296 million, Sam chose to remain at AWS and continue its rise to dominate OTT video delivery. We were hoping to see him again at IBC, but didn’t expect it, since he spent less time in the public eye, since the acquisition, trusting his team to deliver all the right messages.

His staff know that his spirit is embodied in his team and its approach, and that his success will continue, we’re sure. A statement from the company said as much. “AWS Elemental has lost a passionate, visionary and humble leader and the world has lost an inspiring human being dedicated to community. Sam’s spirit will always be at the core of what we do. Sam loved his work, but his greatest love was for his wife and children. Our thoughts are with his family and all those he touched on his journey.” Sentiments that we all echo.

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