Tech industry figures gather to mourn popular executive

Mourners leave a memorial service for SurveyMonkey CEO David Goldberg at Stanford University.
Mourners leave a memorial service for SurveyMonkey CEO David Goldberg at Stanford University.
(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

Tech industry luminaries and friends gathered Tuesday for a memorial service honoring David Goldberg, a popular business leader whose marriage to Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg made them one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent couples.

Mourners emerged from the ceremony held in an auditorium at Stanford University teary-eyed and wearing Minnesota Vikings paraphernalia to commemorate the favorite NFL team of the Minneapolis native.

The 47-year-old Goldberg died Friday while on a family vacation at near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He slipped while exercising on a treadmill and struck his head, Mexican officials said.


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.

“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 supportive, equal partnership in her 2013 book “Lean In,” about the challenges faced by working women.

Goldberg was staying in Mexico with family members at an independently owned villa called Palmasola, which features a gym.

Authorities in the Mexican state of Nayarit, where the villa is located, said an autopsy had ruled out foul play in Goldberg’s death. They noted he suffered a blunt-force injury and a cut on the head but there was no sign of struggle.

Among those attending Tuesday’s memorial in the heart of Silicon Valley were Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, prominent tech investor Reid Hoffman, along with Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman and PayPal co-founder Max Levchin.

A genial bear of a man, Goldberg was often introduced in national media appearances as Sandberg’s husband after her book helped spur 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, a commercial service for conducting online polls, and is credited with overseeing its growth to a 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. Decker met Goldberg when they both were Yahoo executives.

Goldberg and Sandberg married in 2004; they have two children. He and Sandberg had frequently spoken about their efforts to share household duties and spend time with their children.

Sandberg also has credited Goldberg with supporting her executive career at Google and Facebook. Stock grants from those jobs have made her a billionaire, and as Facebook’s chief operating officer, she is one of Silicon Valley’s most powerful female executives.

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 worked at Benchmark Capital, a Silicon Valley venture firm.

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.