Philanthropist and software pioneer Doug Walker was a tremendous role model for future Seattle business leaders.
THE loss of software pioneer and philanthropist Doug Walker, who died in a mountain accident, is a blow to the region.
But it’s also an opportunity to remind people — especially the flood of tech workers moving to the Puget Sound region — about the character and values of those who built the local industry and became universal role models.
Walker, the co-founder and longtime chief executive of business-software company WRQ, created much more than technology, jobs and wealth.
WRQ was known for the quality of life it provided to employees as much as it was for software that increased productivity.
As a second act, he helped build a new vehicle for philanthropy, a giving platform, that continues to channel the expertise and compassion of others who have done well in the tech industry.
Long after WRQ was sold and merged with a local competitor, Attachmate, Walker continued to work on his third act, serving as a national leader in wilderness preservation and access.
Walker was a lifelong outdoorsman who chose the University of Washington for graduate school in the 1970s because of its natural surroundings. Between adventures, he learned programming and consulted on business computing systems.
At the start of the PC era in 1981, he and friends pooled $500 to start WRQ, which became one of the nation’s largest private software companies. It helped establish Seattle’s leadership in enterprise software, which drew other entrepreneurs and companies to the area.
WRQ thrived in part because Walker, the longtime chief executive, made it a great place to work. Before Google’s free food and Facebook’s hot tubs, WRQ had perks like kayak parking on Lake Union.
Later, Walker and his wife, Maggie, co-founded Social Venture Partners, a global nonprofit that encouraged thousands to share wealth and expertise with worthy causes. SVP helped establish Seattle as a hotbed of highly engaged philanthropy.
Walker led by example with “a uniquely powerful style … simultaneously passionate, pointed, warm and sophisticated in supporting the causes that he felt were important,” said Tony Mestres, who joined SVP while at Microsoft and now heads the Seattle Foundation.
That level of engagement and generosity has been a hallmark of Seattle’s earliest and most successful tech entrepreneurs.
Walker is a great example of why that tradition should continue. He is remembered not for how much money he accumulated but by how broadly he shared his gifts, both financial and intellectual.