If you’re lucky in life, you’ll come across a few people who show you how to live just by being. Alan Weinkrantz was one of them.
He’d always ask, “How can I be helpful?” And he meant it. He lived it. He’d do it without asking, and he’d do more.
I clicked the “See Friendship” button on Facebook and everything that came up was Alan being helpful. None of it because I asked him. When we launched, Alan flooded the inboxes of reporters, sent us leads, posted again and again on Facebook. Alan got on the phone! He showed up. He said it was nothing, but when you’re a founder and everyone thinks you’re nuts, and everything is duct-taped together and falling apart, having someone like Alan rally for you is what you need to get to tomorrow. He’d always be there at the right time.
He was everywhere in Tel Aviv, and I’m sure, somehow, Jerusalem, and LA, and Texas, and NYC. He didn’t just show up, he participated, he cared. When he wasn’t showing up, he was inviting you. I can’t count the breakfasts and lunches and dinners, and the occasional breakfast that lasted until dinner with Alan.
They say to be interesting, be interested. Alan was very interesting. He was interesting on his own, with his mix of eclectic tastes and silly jokes and great stories, and he was always super interested in everyone he met. Everyone. A few of us got lucky and he was extra-super interested, which is real thing if you’re Alan. If you got to be friends with Alan, you’ve learned from the master on how to be a friend. He was genuine, always. He was kind to those who couldn’t help him at all. It was never about him. Even when Alan was a free agent, you were doing other people a favor to recommend him.
I remember him trying to explain customer service to an AWS guy on a rooftop in Tel Aviv. You can explain algebra to a dog faster than you can explain customer service to an Israeli, but Alan kept at it, because he cared. He was literally standing there genuinely caring to help his competition! When we needed help with an AWS issue, we got it from Alan, who was working for Rackspace! Man, how I wish everyone in Israel got to meet Alan. Maybe they did.
He was always there at the right moment, too. You’d have a rough day, be walking down Rothschild and Alan would be walking, too, he’d ask, genuinely how you were doing. He’d invite you to sit and work with him. He’d stop and introduce you to the guy who lived in a hole in the front of a building, who Alan had, of course, become old friends with and with genuine care.
There’s an old commercial, “Here’s to the misfits”, by a computer company out in California. For most it’s a PR gimmick, but Alan lived that. There’s no reason to hang out with most of the people he gave his time to. We’re nuts. We believe in terrible odds. And Israelis and New Yorkers are, let’s face it, compared to a genuine Texas gentleman like Alan, basically savages. But Alan loved us. He really loved the Israeli founders and startup community, he really loved anyone building anything.
He loved his family even more. His perpetual smile only got bigger when talking about his son and daughter. He’d joke about them, and tell stories, and he’d have this genuine sigh of relief and pure happiness when telling you his daughter found a job, that his son was going on great trip. Alan’s joy was in other people’s joy, and it was only greater with his kids.
Of course, we all felt like family, and if you heard Alan on the phone with Robert D. La Gesse and the team, or a group of founders, or devouring steak with Giuseppe, you’d know that it was never “work” for Alan, everyone was family. Alan treated everyone so much like family that to this day I wonder what the hell his actual job was. Of course he was brilliant, and he knew everyone, and perhaps everyone in Israel knows of Rackspace because of him, but it never felt like he did that as a job. I think he’s the only guy I know who made a living off, “being nice”. But that is an important job, the most important.
As a startup, as a human, you’re going to mess up a lot, you’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to upset someone, so those of us who met him are lucky enough to be able to ask, “How would Alan reply? What would Alan do?” Those of us who met him are lucky enough to know the magic of the phrase, “How can I be helpful?”
Alan was delighted in everyone he met. He was delightful. Everyone who’s met him is incredibly lucky, and the world is a better place thanks to a kind and silly and wonderful man from Texas.