Seattle venture capitalist dies in skiing accident in Oregon

Birkan Uzun. (Madrone Photo)

Birkan Uzun, a former Amazon software engineer who joined Seattle’s Madrona Venture Group last year and was seeking to climb the seven highest peaks on seven continents, died Friday in a skiing accident outside Bend , Oregon. He was 28 years old.

The accident happened on the Devil’s Backbone ski hill on Mount Bachelor around 1:30 p.m.

KTZV NewsChannel 21 in Bend reported that Uzun was unresponsive after falling into a tree pit as ski patrollers transferred him to Bend Fire & Rescue and then St. Charles Medical Center in Bend.

“Birkan was part of the Madrona family, and although our time with him was all too brief, we were privileged to share his life,” Madrona wrote in a post on his website. “He was incredibly curious, generous and caring and shared that with everyone around him. His intelligence, work ethic and good humor have all had a positive impact on our business, our investment decisions and the portfolio companies we work with.

Prior to joining Madrona in 2021, Uzun spent over five years at Amazon, working on projects including Amazon Go, Alexa for Business in AWS, Amazon Halo, and Amazon’s COVID-19 response. He received a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Engineering in Computer Science and Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

More recently, Uzun has drawn attention to his quest to become the first Turkish Cypriot to climb the highest peaks on all seven continents.

Last month, after completing his fifth leg of the quest – a summit climb of the 16,050ft Vinson Massif in Antarctica – Uzun wrote that the climb was dedicated to his grandfather, Celal Sirkecioğlu, who died in 2021 .

“It was a privilege to be the first Turkish Cypriot and the first Cypriot to participate in this summit, and I hope to motivate many of my fellow citizens that with drive, determination and heart, every goal is possible,” he said. he writes in a Facebook post. “The climb wasn’t easy with extreme cold, gusty winds and severe back pain from spinal surgery last year, but that’s just the small price to pay to get there. to be. I did the job and I’m proud of it.

The mountaineering achievement drew praise from the President and Prime Minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, especially images of Uzun unfurling the TRNC flag at the summit.

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 the company’s strategic director – died aged 64 while snowshoeing at Granite Mountain in Washington State.

Update: Madrona General Manager Tim Porter shared this with GeekWire when asked about Uzun’s memories:

“I remember my first meeting with Birkan – we were walking around Green Lake on a warm spring day in May. I was immediately struck by his intelligence, his kindness, his curiosity and his passion. I was inspired by how he attended MIT and got a degree in computer science despite his limited coding knowledge in Cyprus. His passion for mountaineering and his quest to climb the highest peak of all continents amazed me. At Madrona, he dove right into everything… his technical training allowed him to try out products and provide immediate feedback to founders on things he liked or things they could add to their product. He’s helped us make exciting new investments in companies like Spice.ai. He was always in a good mood and interested in all things Madrona and venture capital. He worked tirelessly and was always generous and willing to try new things. More 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 business in every way. Words cannot describe the loss and sadness we all feel.