Remembering Alan Weinkrantz: Tech Enthusiast, PR Guru and True Friend
I’ve had a bit of time to reconcile the fact we have lost Alan Weinkrantz, a longtime tech PR pioneer who split his time between San Antonio and Israel. For more than a year, Alan served as a brand ambassador and evangelist for the Rackspace startup program in Israel.
I met Alan, who was 63, more than a decade ago, and we were casual friends for years. We always talked about how we might work together, but something always seemed to get in the way. We did co-work on stuff that didn’t make either of us any money — but that was just Alan. Always giving of himself.
Alan and I had a deep affinity — you might assume based around startups, PR, marketing and social media, but that’s not how our relationship started. Our affinity was based around our life experiences.
He was a single custodial parent. So was I. We both have a boy and girl. Our daughters are both named Lauren, and they are the same age. For almost a decade we talked more family than business, although the business conversations always continued.
Then a couple years ago, Alan and I finally found a way to work together. He became a contractor for Rackspace, charged with meeting startups at tech incubators and talking to them about Rackspace, and what our Startup Program benefits were. He reported to me, and we would talk at crazy hours when he was in Israel. Alan made friends easily, and was always eager to share whom he had met most recently, and what he learned. He met ambassadors, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyatu — he even met Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in Israel! But we always talked about how our kids were, and what they were up to.
He loved working in Israel. Based on the number of people who have reached out to me from Israel in the last few days, it’s clear they loved him back. Israeli tech leader Jon Medved had this to say about Alan’s work on behalf of Rackspace in the Jerusalem Post:
Never before was there such a perfect match between man and job. His role was to help Israeli companies get to the cloud by giving away packages of free services. He would start every meeting with a famous phrase of “I am here to help you,” or “how can I help you,” and he meant it seriously – not just offering his standard packages but by making introductions galore to investors, the press, and other companies and never asking anything in return.
Alan was equally passionate about his adopted home of San Antonio, as evidenced by a post he wrote less than a month ago in the Rivard Report, “Creating Your Own Reality in San Antonio.”
Robert Rivard’s moving tribute to Alan is complete with links to the music reviews Alan wrote for the Rivard Report — because music was another love of Alan’s, and of course he was passionate about it!
Alan was one of the earliest members of Geekdom, a co-working space for entrepreneurs in San Antonio, which, uniquely, asks members to contribute their expertise to help everyone succeed. Geekdom co-founder Graham Weston, who also co-founded Rackspace and serves as its chairman, had this to say in the Rivard Report piece:
He saw the potential of Geekdom from day one. He was an important mentor to young companies in helping them have a voice on social media. He wanted to bring out the potential in the Geekdom startups.
Only four weeks ago, Alan was so proud to show me around the Tel Aviv startup scene. He introduced me to two enthusiastic founders at the TechStars program there. They are both thankful for Alan’s mentorship as an American social media expert.
Alan loved to write, and was incredibly prolific. He loved writing about technology, and how it is changing our lives — for the better. He loved writing about the startups he worked with, and the young, passionate people he met who were trying to change the world.
Here’s an excerpt from a blog post he wrote for Rackspace last year to help those startups understand what PR is really about:
Over the last four months, I have had the opportunity to speak with and mentor startups at just about every major accelerator here in Startup Nation – Israel. In doing so, I’ve seen a pattern evolve where public relations strategy is only discussed just prior to launch, if ever.
I believe PR should be part of every startups development and marketing strategy. Don’t confuse PR with a message, gaining traction, growth hacking, crushing it, killing it, being awesome and every other term du jour that litters the startup landscape. It’s about an approach I call “Above The Code,” which was recently ranked by SlideShare as being in the top 5 percent of all downloaded presentations.
My Above The Code approach helps startups rise above their daily grind where everything is coded, measured, and quantified. Instead, I work with them on listening, being more human, and getting in tune with where their story should be told.
Early on, PR is not about getting coverage. It’s about finding your voice, understanding what the world at-large is writing about, and where your startup belongs in that conversation.
And that’s why people loved Alan: because he truly loved helping people. He and I shared the same love of the Rackspace social media team’s mantra #behelpful. He didn't just embrace the hashtag, he lived it.
He would call me from Israel, even after we stopped working together, just to catch up. He called just this past Thursday to tell me how much he loved where he was and what he was doing. He always had an amazingly positive outlook on life and was always encouraging.
To say I miss him (already) is a huge understatement. He was a mentor, but he also listened and sought advice from others. He was always teaching and always listening. Mostly, he was a friend.
We lost a global ambassador to San Antonio and to Israel — and many of us lost a great friend. My condolences go out to his family. I relish the time we had together over the last couple of years. My life was enriched through Alan, and he taught me how to enrich others.
And I have no doubt that wherever he is, if there is a way — he will always #behelpful.