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AWS Elemental's Sam Blackman Dies at 41

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Sam Blackman, who co-founded Elemental Technologies in 2006 and was the company's CEO, died this weekend of an apparent cardiac arrest, according to the Portland Oregonian. He was 41.

In the space of 10 years, Blackman took Elemental from a scrappy, innovative startup to being one of the streaming industry's leading companies. From its roots in hardware encoding, the company grew to be one of the first and leading proponents of software-based video and expanded its portfolio of products and services to include live and VOD processing and workflow solutions.

“AWS Elemental has lost a passionate, visionary, and humble leader and the world has lost an inspiring human being dedicated to community," said a company spokesperson in a statement. "Sam’s spirit will always be at the core of what we do. Sam loved his work, but his greatest love was for his wife and children. Our thoughts are with his family and all those he touched on his journey.”

Amazon purchased Elemental in 2015, and the company recently changed its name to AWS Elemental. According to the Oregonian, AWS Elemental moved into a brand-new facility in Portland just last week, but Blackman—who was one of the most down-to-earth and least flashy startup successes you could imagine—downplayed the importance of the new building in typical fashion. "The office is not what the business is all about," he told the Oregonian. "Our culture has been around being here because you love the work, not because you love the workplace."

Prior to co-founding Elemental, Blackman was an engineer at Pixelworks, whose co-founder Allen Alley told the Oregonian that Blackman was "the kind of guy you want your kids to grow up to be—not just a gifted engineer, but (someone who) cares so passionately about the community as well."

Blackman brought together his commitment to the industry and his commitment to the community with the 4K 4Charity Fun Runs the company sponsored at major industry events like NAB and IBC. He clearly served as an inspiration to others, and this year's 4K 4Charity Fun Run at IBC on Saturday, September 16 features 15 additional industry sponsors. Proceeds will benefit Heifer International and Amsterdam nonprofit Stichting NewTechKids.

Blackman's family issued a statement on Monday: "Sam died peacefully yesterday surrounded by his loved ones. In his private life, he cherished his family, and in his public life he cherished his community and the business he founded, Elemental Technologies. He was a passionate advocate for community service who rallied so many towards 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. We ask that you respect our privacy during this time of grief."

To say that Sam will be missed is an understatement. The Streaming Media team sends our condolences to his family and colleagues.


The Blackman family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to one of the many organizations that focused on Sam's desire to give back to the community:


Sam Blackman speaking at Globosat headquarters during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janerio, which AWS Elemental helped deliver. (Photo: Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen)

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