Seattle Venture Capitalist Dies in Oregon Ski Accident

A former software engineer at Amazon, Birkan Uzun, who, earlier this year, joined Seattle’s Madrona Venture Group and was on a drive to summit the seven highest peaks on seven continents, lost his life in a ski accident outside Bend, Ore., on Friday, December 31, 2021, at the age of 28 years. 

The tragic event took place on the Devil’s Backbone ski run on Mt. Bachelor at nearly 1:30 p.m.

KTVZ NewsChannel 21 in Bend confirmed that Uzun was unconscious after he fell down into a tree well, with ski patrol staff sending him to Bend Fire & Rescue and later to St. Charles Medical Center in Bend.

Seattle Venture Capitalist
Seattle Venture Capitalist

In a post on its website, Madrona wrote “Birkan was part of the Madrona family, and while our time with him was too brief, we were privileged to share in his life,” adding “He was incredibly curious, kind-hearted, and caring and shared that with everyone around him. His intelligence, work ethic, and good nature all positively impacted our firm, our investment decisions, and the portfolio companies with whom we work.”

Uzun worked at Amazon for more than five years

Before he joined Madrona last year, Uzun worked at Amazon for a period of over five years, working on projects like Amazon Go, Alexa for Business in AWS, Amazon Halo, and Amazon’s COVID-19 response. He had a degree in Bachelor of Science and a Masters of Engineering in computer science and engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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In recent times, Uzun gathered attention for his drive to be the first Turkish Cypriot to summit the highest mountain peaks on the seven continents.

Earlier this month, after finishing up with his fifth leg of the quest, an ascent of the 16,050-foot Vinson Massif summit in Antarctica, Uzun mentioned that he dedicated the climb to his grandfather, Celal Sirkecioğlu, who died in 2021.

In a Facebook post, he wrote “It was a privilege to be the first Turkish Cypriot and Cypriot to be on that summit, and hopefully motivate many of my fellow citizens that with drive, determination, and heart, every goal is possible,” adding “The climb was not easy with extreme cold, gusting winds, and severe back pain due to spine surgery last year, but that’s just the small price you pay to be there. I got the job done, and I’m proud.”

President and Prime Minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus praised Uzun for his achievement

The mountaineering success led him to get appreciation from the President and Prime Minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, particularly images of Uzun unfolding the TRNC flag on the summit.

Second tragic loss within the last six years for Madrona

Uzun’s death is the second awful loss in the mountains for Madrona within the last six years. Back in 2015, on New Year’s Eve, Seattle software pioneer and accomplished outdoorsman Doug Walker, who worked as a strategic director at the firm, passed away at the age of 64 whilst snowshoeing on Granite Mountain in Washington state.

“I remember my first meeting with Birkan, we took a walk around Green Lake on a warm spring day in May. I was immediately struck by his intelligence, kindness, curiosity, and passion. I was inspired by how he had attended MIT and graduated with a CS degree despite having a limited coding background in Cyprus. His passion for mountaineering and his quest to summit the highest peak on every continent amazed me.

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At Madrona, he dove immediately into everything … his technical background allowed him to try products and provide immediate feedback to founders about things he liked or things they could add to their product. He helped us make exciting new investments in companies like Spice.ai. He was unfailingly cheerful and interested in all things Madrona and venture capital.

He worked tirelessly and was always generous and eager to jump into new things. Most importantly, he immediately became a close friend. The Madrona family is devastated beyond words by this tragic accident. Birkan was an integral part of our firm in every way. Words cannot describe the loss and sadness we are all feeling.”

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