In Memoriam: Keith Benjamin

Venture capitalist Keith Benjamin passed away on July 29, four days after suffering a major brain hemorrhage while exercising at a gym. He was 49.

Benjamin had been a managing partner with San Francisco-based Levensohn Venture Partners since 2002, where he focused on software and digital media investments. He previously had been a general partner with Highland Capital Partners and, before that, was a sell-side analyst at boutique investment bank Robertson Stephens.

Like many of his Silicon Valley peers, Benjamin also was a blogger—discussing both his personal life and his professional life at

In a statement, Levensohn Venture Partners said: “We mourn the passing of our friend and partner, Keith Benjamin. He was a kind and loving person who adored his family, loved his work and was passionate about everything he did. We will miss him very much.”

Reactions from the service providers, co-workers and colleagues who knew him echo those sentiments. “Keith was a friend and client for more than seven years,” said Jennifer Jones, who handles PR for Levensohn. “His warmth, personality, candor, humor and love for life were wonderful. I will really miss him and my prayers are with his family.”

Benjamin’s former executive assistant, Kelly Wilkinson, now with The Carlyle Group, said: “Keith was not only an amazing boss, but a warm, kind, generous and supportive friend to me.”

Pacific Partners Managing Director Travis Nelson syndicated deals with Benjamin. “Keith was everything you could ask for in a partner and co-investor—he was thoughtful, engaged, open, honest and a pleasure to be around at all times,” Nelson said. “The investment didn’t turn out as any of us hoped, but he really illustrated how important it is to act in the same manner through tough times as through good ones.”

Some have speculated that Benjamin’s untimely death was linked in some way to his passion for amateur boxing. He took up the sport three years ago at the age of 46 and his first bout sent him to the emergency room for a CAT scan after three rounds. He wrote in his blog that he was diagnosed with a mild concussion and a bruised rib.

The experience gave him a healthy respect for the potential dangers of the sport, but did not diminish his appetite for it. “I don’t think it’s worth the risk of more concussions at my age,” he wrote. “I was surprised how easy it was to get dazed. Still, I’m looking forward to getting back to the gym to take what I experienced in the ring and use it to improve my techniques with bag work and sparring.” A personality profile about Benjamin in the San Francisco Chronicle in September 2005 said that he had been involved in challenging sports from a young age, starting out as a long-distance swimmer, then running marathons and then trying his hand at mountain climbing.

Benjamin told the newspaper that he took up boxing because: “I wanted to face an intense fear I’ve always had. I wanted to know I could defend myself. When I first boxed, I can’t describe the adrenaline. Getting in the ring was terrifying. The fear was worse than the actual result. Being able to face that fear, get that adrenaline rush, train myself to feel in control is very rewarding.

Benjamin is survived by his wife, Nancy, and two young children.A memorial service was scheduled to be held on Aug. 3. Benjamin’s family has requested that in lieu of flowers that donations may be made to the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy or the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation for the Trauma Center.

Remembrances may be left for the family at —Dan Primack and Alexander Haislip