Chicago may be a big, sprawling city, but the tech community is incredibly tight-knit. And that’s why many were rocked by the recent news that Adam London, one of Chicago’s brightest young tech minds, had lost his life far too soon.
London, who was the chief of staff at Uptake, died in his sleep last week. He was 27 years old.
Even at such a young age, London held several important positions at some of Chicago’s biggest tech companies. Before he was Brad Keywell’s chief of staff at Uptake, he was on the Corporate Development team at Groupon, and an associate at Lightbank. He was also an instructor at Startup Institute, and co-founded an education-focused non-profit called Letters to Success.
“I think it hit the tech community hard,” said Give Forward co-founder Ethan Austin, who met London two years ago at a dinner for Startup Institute. Austin attended London’s funeral, which saw around 600 people.
“It felt like the entire tech community showed up for him,” Austin said.
“He was one of those people you didn’t have to know for years to know what a good person he was,” Austin continued. “Within meeting him, you could tell he was instantly a good person, and a true giver. He’s one of those people that would be the first person to volunteer for something. The first person to make an intro for you.”
Austin and London would occasionally get together with Jason Henrichs, a Chicago VC and founder of FinTEx Chicago. The three would meet up for tacos and talk about things like women in entrepreneurship, an issue Hendrichs said London was passionate about.
“It didn’t surprise me he grasped the importance of diversity a decade faster than I did because he was always thoughtful about the broader implications of small decisions,” Henrichs said in an email.
“He was instrumental in building Startup Institute in Chicago not just because he thought developing talent was good for the ecosystem or culture conscious employees were more effective but because he believed improving someone’s life, a single person at a time was a worthy investment,” Henrichs said. “You can see that compassion across the breadth of activities he mentored with. He’s a huge loss to this community because he hadn’t even reached his peak.”
London spent three years as an adjunct instructor at Startup Institute and was always willing to make time for students looking for advice, said Lisa Schumacher, program director at Startup Institute.
“Adam will always stand for generosity, friendship and brilliance among Startup Institute alumni and staff,” she said in an email. “Adam presented to (and impressed) every single cohort at Startup Institute since 2013, no matter how busy he was. That’s incredible.”
In a blog post published this week, former Groupon CEO Eric Lefkofsky called London “ambitious” and “super talented.”
“When Brad (Keywell) first called me, I was in shock,” Lefkofsky wrote. “You just aren’t prepared to emotionally navigate the loss of a 27 year old. He wasn’t old, he wasn’t sick. To the contrary, he like most 27 year olds seemed invincible. Indestructible.
“Even now as I’m writing this, I haven’t fully come to terms with the loss. Adam had become a staple in our weekly management meetings, and somewhere in the back of my mind I keep thinking I’ll still see him on Monday – sitting a few seats away from me.”
“He was an amazing young man,” continued Lefkofsky, “and I’m honored to have worked beside him.”