Saif Mansour, an amazing man, died suddenly a few days ago. Soon after I left Intel in 1999 and started The Avram Miller Company, I got a letter from Saif (we still got letters in those days). He was just 21 and finishing his last year at Brown. Saif asked me to consider hiring him as an intern. I was not looking for an intern. Having just left Intel, where I was Corporate Vice President of Business Development and co-founder of Intel Capital, I guess I could have had my pick of newly minted MBAs from schools like Harvard and Stanford. But something in Saif’s letter resonated so strongly in me that I was compelled to say yes. A few months later, Saif arrived in San Francisco and started working for me. His role was managing my investments in early-stage companies. He knew nothing about venture capital and early-stage investing, but he learned quickly. I developed a great deal of confidence in his abilities. But what was probably most important was that I trusted him to represent me. He treated everyone with respect and kindness. We grew close. Over time, I began to think of him as a son, and he thought of me as a father. Mentoring Saif was one of the most satisfying experiences of my professional and personal life.
A few years later, I decided to reduce my workload and slow down my investments. I no longer wanted to have an office and a staff. Saif chose to return to Los Angeles, where he grew up, and I helped him find a position. He had several jobs over the following years, and we stayed close. In 2009, when Saif came up with the idea of starting a fund using debt to help finance small businesses, he asked for my help. For several years, I advised him and watched his firm, Breakwater Fund, grow. I was very impressed with both the opportunity, strategy, and execution of his small company. Eventually, I decided to invest in it directly and encourage many of my friends to as well. Ultimately, it became and is still my most significant personal investment. Several years ago, I stopped as a formal advisor. Moving to Israel made it difficult to be involved enough to give regular advice. However, Saif would often ask for my advice informally. Periodically, I would meet with him and his partner Eric Beckman (also a wonderful man). Eric joined Saif in 2014.
Saif was very integrated into my social network and my family. Everyone loved him. He wanted very much to have a family and found a wonderful woman to share his life with. Together they had a son and a daughter. The pain his wife is now feeling must be unbearable. His children will never know the love of their father, but his wife, I, and others will do everything we can to make sure they know how wonderful he was.
Saif will join the others I have lost all too soon in a place in my heart where I feel both joy and sadness, love and grief.
Life is very fragile. So we must give and experience love in the present moment and every possible moment.
May Saif’s memory be a blessing.