The serial Silicon Valley entrepreneur and venture capitalist died unexpectedly while on vacation abroad with his wife, Sheryl Sandberg, author of “Lean In.”
SAN FRANCISCO — David Goldberg, chief executive of SurveyMonkey and the husband of Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, died late Friday. He was 47.
Mr. Goldberg was a serial Silicon Valley entrepreneur and venture capitalist. His death was confirmed by SurveyMonkey, which is known for its Web-based survey technology. The company did not disclose the cause of death. Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook and a friend of the family, said it occurred while Mr. Goldberg was on vacation abroad with Sandberg.
His brother, Robert Goldberg, shared news of his death in a Facebook post and urged people who knew him to post memories and pictures on Mr. Goldberg’s memorial Facebook profile. Tributes poured in there and elsewhere online from hundreds of people who knew him as a mentor, colleague or friend.
“To this day, he is the leader and person by which I measure all others,” Karin Gilford, a top executive at Disney ABC Television Group who worked with Mr. Goldberg at a previous startup and at Yahoo, wrote on his Facebook page.
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Mr. Goldberg lived with his wife, Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, in Menlo Park, Calif. They have two children. He is also survived by his mother, Paula Goldberg.
Mr. Goldberg was always quick with a wisecrack, and he kept a sense of humor about being the less famous half of one of Silicon Valley’s pre-eminent power couples. Sandberg, who achieved global fame with her book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” about the challenges faced by women in the workplace, often said she would not have been as successful in her career without his substantial assistance at home.
“We made the decision on this particular thing, that we are going to be home with our kids. I am at home with my kids from 6 to 8,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 2013. “But we’re working at night. You’ll get plenty of emails from me post-8 p.m. when my kids go to bed.”
His unexpected death touched many at Facebook and across the technology industry. “We are heartbroken by this news,” Facebook said in a statement.
Mr. Goldberg joined SurveyMonkey in 2009 after stints at Benchmark Capital and Yahoo.
At the time, SurveyMonkey had 14 employees. He built it into a provider of Web surveys on almost every topic imaginable, be it customer service or politics, with 500 employees and 25 million surveys created. News reports said it was valued at nearly $2 billion when it raised a round of funding last year.
“Online surveys have come a long way,” he said in a lunch interview last month. “We have investors use it to figure out things like the customer churn at Netflix, what Ugg sales are doing.”
He was particularly proud of his company’s ability to predict election results through its surveys, noting that SurveyMonkey was sometimes more accurate than traditional pollsters.
He viewed online surveys as an inexpensive way for companies to gather data about their customers and competitors.
“We could tell Google Glass would be a tough sell,” he said in the April interview, discussing Google’s experimental computer mounted on eyeglass frames. “The cameras made people feel weird, and they thought the look interfered with people, like technology was getting in the way.”
One weakness of such surveys, he said, is that “people are terrible at telling you what they want.” He added: “They can say what they don’t want.”
He grew up in Minneapolis and graduated from Harvard in 1989 with a degree in history and government. He joined the consulting firm Bain & Co. and then moved to Capitol Records as a marketer. In 1993, he and his best friend from high school started Launch Media, a digital music magazine that was initially distributed by CD-ROM.
In 2001, Yahoo bought Launch, and Mr. Goldberg became head of Yahoo Music, living in Los Angeles. Around that time, he began dating Sandberg, then an advertising executive at Google. “I lost the coin flip as to where we were going to live,” he told Business Insider in a recent interview.
In 2007, he quit Yahoo and joined Benchmark Capital as an entrepreneur in residence, where he spent a couple of years before becoming chief executive of SurveyMonkey.
“He was both humble and modest, particularly endearing traits given his fantastic success and stature in the valley,” said David Pakman, a partner at the venture-capital firm Venrock who knew Goldberg for more than two decades. “He was generous with his time, introductions and advice.”