Birkan Uzun, a former software engineer at Amazon who joined Seattle’s Madrona Venture Group last year and was on a quest to summit the seven highest peaks on seven continents, died in a ski accident outside Bend, Ore., on Friday. He was 28 years old.
The accident occurred on the Devil’s Backbone ski run on Mt. Bachelor around 1:30 p.m.
KTZV NewsChannel 21 in Bend reported that Uzun was unresponsive after falling into a tree well, with ski patrol workers transferring him to Bend Fire & Rescue and then to St. Charles Medical Center in Bend.
“Birkan was part of the Madrona family, and while our time with him was too brief, we were privileged to share in his life,” Madrona wrote in a post on its website. “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.”
Prior to joining Madrona in 2021, Uzun spent more than five years at Amazon, working on projects such as Amazon Go, Alexa for Business in AWS, Amazon Halo, and Amazon’s COVID-19 response. He received Bachelor of Science and Masters of Engineering degrees in computer science and engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Most recently, Uzun gained attention for his quest to become the first Turkish Cypriot to summit the tallest mountain peaks on the seven continents.
Last month, after completing his fifth leg of the quest — an ascent of the 16,050-foot Vinson Massif summit in Antarctica — Uzun wrote that the climb was dedicated to his grandfather, Celal Sirkecioğlu, who passed away in 2021.
“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,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “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.”
So saddened to share the news of Birkan Uzun’s passing. https://t.co/XFTzccFcYH
— MadronaVentureGroup (@MadronaVentures) January 1, 2022
Uzun’s passing is the second tragic loss in the mountains for Madrona in the past six years. On New Year’s Eve in 2015, Seattle software pioneer and accomplished outdoorsman Doug Walker — who served as a strategic director at the firm — died at the age of 64 while snowshoeing on Granite Mountain in Washington state.
Update: Tim Porter, managing director at Madrona, shared this with GeekWire when asked about memories of Uzun:
“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 how he had attended MIT and graduated with a CS degree despite having limited coding background in Cyprus. His passion for mountaineering and his quest to summit the highest peak on every continent amazed me. 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.”