Sam Blackman, Innovative Founder of Elemental Technologies, Dies at 41

His company, acquired by Amazon Web Services in 2015, developed software used to deliver internet video to consumer devices.
Courtesy of AWS Elemental
Sam Blackman

Sam Blackman, a tech visionary who founded and served as CEO of AWS Elemental, died Aug. 27 in Portland, Ore., after experiencing cardiac arrest the previous day. He was 41.

After working in engineering roles at Pixelworks, Silicon Graphics and Intel, Blackman launched Elemental Technologies in 2006.

As CEO, he guided the Portland-based company in developing pioneering software used to deliver internet video to consumer devices, and the firm was acquired by Amazon Web Services for $296 million in 2015. Blackman then became the CEO of the rebranded AWS Elemental.

The sudden death of the warm, well-liked executive left his family, friends and colleagues in shock.

“AWS Elemental has lost a passionate, visionary and humble leader, and the world has lost an inspiring human being dedicated to community," the company said in a statement. "Sam's spirit will always be at the core of what we do."

Elemental's technology was used by the BBC and Brazil's Globosat to stream video from the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics from London and Rio de Janeiro, respectively, as well as by companies such as ABC and HBO to stream entertainment content.

Last spring, AWS Elemental teamed with NASA to produce the first live public 4K streaming broadcast from the International Space Station, with Blackman, from the NAB Show in Las Vegas, participating in a groundbreaking conversation with astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer from space.

In 2014, Elemental started a series of 4K 4Charity Runs, which have raised more than $450,000 in support of those underrepresented in technology, and Blackman was a regular participant. The next one is set for Sept. 16 during the International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam.

Blackman earned a B.S. in electrical engineering from Brown University, an M.S. in electrical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley and an M.B.A. from the University of Oregon.

Survivors include his wife of 12 years, Adriane, his sons Abe and Solly, his brothers Amos and Eli, his mother Susan and his niece Hannah.

"In his private life, he cherished his family, and in his public life he cherished his community and the business he founded, Elemental Technologies," his family said in a statement. "He was a passionate advocate for community service who rallied so many toward a greater good for the environment, hunger, education and inclusion. We are thankful to all those who have shared their thoughts and prayers for Sam."

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Blackman's name to the Oregon Food Bank, The Forest Park Conservancy or Rosemary Anderson High School. These organizations received many hours of his time in volunteer work.

A memorial will be held at 10 a.m. on Sunday in the Kridel Grand Ballroom at the Portland Art Museum.