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Alan Rimm-Kaufman (1968 – 2009): a Tribute

On Saturday July 18th our friend and founder, Alan Rimm-Kaufman, died from leukemia. For the past 16 months, Alan endured countless rounds of chemotherapy and a bone-marrow transplant in hopes of finding a cure. Alan was 41. He is survived by his wife, and two young children.

We are deeply saddened by this loss. Alan was a man of integrity, intelligence, and humility, which he combined with nearly boundless energy and a joy of life few can match. We will miss his exuberance and his tremendous generosity of spirit.

The Rimm-Kaufman Group remains a strong and vibrant company. We remain committed to providing both thought-leadership in the industry and peerless results for our clients. Like any good leader, Alan built this team to be stronger than any individual member. Our growth and continuing success during his 16-month absence is a tribute not only to his vision, but also to our well-established shared vision for the company.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Alan Rimm-Kaufman Legacy Fund, CBI Preschool, 301 East Jefferson Street, Charlottesville, VA, 22902. Donations may be made online at CBI Preschool’s website. We hope also that individuals will consider regular blood donations and will join the national bone marrow registry at www.marrow.org.

The outpouring of support we’ve received this morning has been almost overwhelming. A real tribute to Alan that clients, friends, competitors and some folks who only met him once or twice nevertheless felt a strong connection to him.

The folks at Shop.org, Internet Retailer and Search Engine Land all wanted to run tribute pieces to Alan, so we thought we’d simply ask folks who knew Alan to submit their remembrances as comments to this post.

Thank you for keeping Alan’s family in your thoughts. We are all grieving right now, but in the days ahead we will realize how fortunate we were to have had Alan in our lives.

Comments
66 Responses to “Alan Rimm-Kaufman (1968 – 2009): a Tribute”
  1. I met Alan several years ago when the company I was with was evaluating options for paid search management. I went into the meeting pre-disposed to other firms, but left the meeting strongly feeling that RKG was the company I wanted to go with. Alan lacked the flashy, slick salesman approach. What struck me about Alan wasn’t that he was smart, or knew what he was doing – he was and he did. What really impressed me was that he was evaluating us while we evaluated him to see if he wanted to do business with us. Simply put, he only wanted to do business with people that he liked, and setup his contracts so that if either party wanted out they could leave quickly. He saw no reason that anyone should do business with someone if they thought the other party wasn’t someone that they wanted to do business with, and didn’t want a contract preventing either party from severing the relationship.

    We should all take a lesson from that. Life is too short, as evidenced by the passing of Alan at such a young age. We need to endeavor to align with partners, not vendors. And we should be coming in each morning with a smile on our faces – or change companies or lines of work. Too often we forget what’s important.

    My thoughts are with Alan’s family and the RKG family in this time of sorrow.

    Rick

  2. Mark Lee says:

    Alan was one of the finest people I have ever met. He was very encouraging when I set out on my own. A great loss to a number of communities.

  3. Alan epitomized the phrase “a scholar and a gentleman”.

    I had the privilege of having worked with Alan on multiple efforts. Each interaction was a pleasure and every time I learned something from him – about work or life.

    Like many others whose lives he touched I will miss him.

    -Avinash.

  4. Although I only had the chance to meet Alan a couple of times through Larry Becker, I remember his infectious smile, his passion for his company and the people that worked with him. The internet marketing industry has lost a superstar.

  5. Terry Flynn says:

    Alan brought a rare combination of intelligence and kindness to our industry.

    My condolences and best wishes to his family, the team he brought together, and those who were blessed to have some time speaking with him.

    He was a great conversationalist and curious about everything in the few times I was lucky to be sitting with him at this conference or that, or walking in the cold in Boston on the NEMOA walk for Rosie’s Place.

    I’ll miss those rare chances and will remember those talks in days to come.

  6. Kathleen Stockham says:

    Alan was probably the first colleague and peer that I met who I was truly “in awe” of way back in 1999. We were both suffering with awful AOL contracts (he at Crutchfield and me at Office Depot.) I had just finished a long 4 1/2 year run working at AOL and knew Alan from the other side of the relationship. After talking on the phone after a partner conference Alan said he had a way to help all of us and he sent out this amazing email to many on the client side. AOL had inadvertently copied him on an email listing all of their retail partner accounts and contact names. Alan saw a chance for real peer-to-peer education by using THAT LIST to begin a list-serv on Yahoo (still running today)that is all about sharing and community around our chosen craft. It also gave us a place to gripe, groan, list jobs, laugh and even let our hair down a little. I am proud to be the second person to join that list and even though the list serv is likely up to 1000 names by now, Alan is responsible for the kinship, friendships and numerous avoided mishaps by choosing bad vendors thanks to the method he created for us to share and warn. Many of us old timers in this space “met” each other in his list-serv and helped us meet in person at conferences. I got to work with, hire and maintain friendships with many people on this list. And thanks to Alan I learned a long time ago in 1999 that “Algorithmic Read” had nothing to do with Al Gore.

    Thank you Alan for your wisdom, thank you for sharing your incredible mind with us. You are one of the very best in this field and arguably one of its pioneers. You will be missed. I am heart-broken.
    My condolences to the RKG Family and Alan’s beloved wife and children.

  7. I’m so sorry to hear of Alan’s untimely death – I met him a few times over the years and had no idea he suffered this way – I can only offer my condolences and hope that where he is now, he has peace and love.

    Marshall Sponder
    Webmetricsguru.com

  8. Ken Crites says:

    Alan was the most genuine speaker I ever heard in all my years of attending NEMOA and Internet Retailer. He was probably the most honest person in the business. His passing saddens everyone at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.

  9. Les Gore says:

    I was very saddened to hear of Alan’s passing. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, and to all whose lives he touched – both personally and professionally.

    I’m fortunate to have known Alan for many years. We would always find time to meet and talk at various industry conferences; and Alan was also generous with his time, helping us with many of our search and recruiting projects.

    He was a class act: a true gentle man. Upbeat, sincere, friendly, brilliant.

    Les Gore
    Executive Search International

  10. Marc Poirier says:

    I am so sorry to hear this. Our thoughts are with you and with Alan’s family.

  11. I never met Alan. My only way of knowing of him or about him was through this blog. Even with such a small connection, I was surprised and saddened to read this news. I suspect he’ll be missed more than many will know.

    My best goes out to his family and friends.

  12. I am sorry to hear that Alan passed. I pray for peace for his family and all employees at Rimm-Kaufman Group.

    I only met Alan once, at NEMOA in Spring 2007. We were two of four members of a two hour panel discussion about catalog marketing. Alan was kind to me, and was very kind to the attendees, giving (as always) free information that would help the attendees improve their business results.

    When I think of Alan, I will think of all that he gave people, without expecting anything in kind. George, your contributions to this blog, over the past year, continue that legacy.

  13. Jim Jansen says:

    I only met Alan once. It was during a visit to his company. Really liked him. As I read more about him after that first meeting, it was obvious he was well respected and liked in the industry.

    Alan was obviously a person who made a positive difference in a lot of lives.

    My sincere condolences for the family and the employees of RKG.

  14. When Alan let us know he was beginning treatment, his message ended with, “Hug your families hard every chance you get.”

    With great respect for his teaching, intellect, and character, this simple and positive reaction to his medical news made the strongest impression.

  15. I never got to meet Alan in person but I had the opportunity to work with Alan via email on a few things. He was a very bright guy and made a very good impression on me. My condolences to his friends and family.

  16. Thanks all for your kind words.

    We will carry on here, but it will be hard to regain that spark of joy that Alan carried with him.

  17. David Dalka says:

    I only met Alan once at a Search Engine Strategies show, the interaction was an all too brief hallway conversation. Oddly, I never got to know him more deeply as I most often have many of the amazing and unique people in this wonderful space.

    I wish everyone connected to Alan inner peace and offer my condolences.

  18. Emily Wander says:

    I met Alan through Shop.org where he was respected and liked by all. What struck me about Alan was his sincerity. He never got ‘too big for his britches’ as they say and always had time to smile and chat with a friend or colleague. And finally, he’s still the only man I know that incorporated his wife’s last name into his own when he married. I loved that about him.

  19. Alan was one of only two speakers whom I would go to a conference just to hear them. Amazingly brilliant and a very nice guy. So sad right now. He is missed.

  20. Kurt Krake says:

    My condolences to Alan’s family and the RKG family. As a former client, he was a fun person to learn from and his brilliant mind was a major challenge to keep up with. He will be missed.

  21. Jim Novo says:

    We’ve lost another treasure with the passing of Alan, a rare combination of very smart and humble at the same time. Condolences to the RKG team and family.

    After some casual e-mail and blog interaction over the years, Alan invited me to share a speaking session with him at the DMA show. Later he invited me to speak at the Darden School program he was involved in.

    Always warm and funny, his generosity will also be missed.

  22. About 5 or 6 years ago, while Alan was still with Crutchfield, he delivered a keynote address on paid search at the Shop.org Marketing Workshop that blew everyone away. The online retail community had not yet embraced paid search and they soaked up all the wisdom that Alan offered. Fast forward to today – the state of paid search and the success of RKG – and it’s clear what a visionary Alan was.

    Knowing Alan was a privilege and honor. He was a man with integrity, strong values and a great sense of humor. The Shop.org community was a better place because of Alan. He will be greatly missed.

    I will personally miss the great advice Alan was so generous to offer to me and my colleagues at Shop.org whenever requested. I will also miss his frequent blog posts that made me think and laugh – sometimes at the same time.

    On behalf of the entire Shop.org community, I’d like to offer my deepest sympathies to Alan’s family, friends and colleagues at RKG. As George says in this blog, in RKG, Alan built a foundation of teamwork and strong values that will carry on.

  23. Jim Harkins says:

    I am deeply saddened by Alan’s passing – I have been near tears all day since I first received the news this morning. Alan was both a visionary entrepreneur and a remarkably humble and approachable gentlemen. I met Alan originally through NEMOA, and we here at Solutions have been working with RKG for about a year now. I will miss him on both a personal and business basis. My deepest sympathies to his family.

  24. I had the privilege of working with Alan for close to 4 years while he was VP of Marketing at Crutchfield. From the beginning, I was amazed by the raw power of his mind– his incredible ability to hear business pitches and cut through the spin in literally seconds… Alan brought technology to bear on our Marketing issues, which increased our work efficiency, both through the actual programming he did, as well as teaching us to become proficient in solving our own problems instead of relying on others. I am certainly thankful for his tutelage.

    I am most thankful, however, that I had the chance to get to know him well. He had so many admirable qualities, but one I admired most was his willingness to share with others. By openly sharing the gifts which were bestowed upon him, truly many have benefitted.

  25. Bob Lawkins says:

    It has been a privilege to have known Alan. He built a firm where you feel more like a member of a family than a client. He was a good and wonderful man. He will be missed but remembered forever. Condolences to Alan’s family and everyone at RKG.

  26. Rick Klau says:

    I had a chance to meet Alan when he asked me to come speak at Darden in the fall of 2007. I was inspired by his enthusiasm for the subject, and his eagerness to share what he knew with others. He was a tremendous asset to our industry and he will be terribly missed.

    To Sara, Sam and Davida – I am so sorry for your loss.

    Rick Klau
    Product Manager, Blogger
    Google

  27. Dev Basu says:

    While I’ve never had a chance to meet Alan, I’ve learnt from his writing through the years. In my opinion, the search marketing industry has truly lost of its brightest lights. My condolences go out to Alan’s family and the entire team at RKG.

  28. Dyan says:

    I was only lucky enough to meet Alan one time, but I will always remember his kindness and intelligence.
    A very incredible man.

  29. Udayan Bose says:

    Our industry has lost a doyen.

    On behalf of the entire NetElixir team, I would like to express our condolences to Alan’s family and the RKG Group.

    Udayan Bose
    Founder & CEO
    NetElixir,Inc

  30. The team, the writings and the SEM practice Alan put together at RKG are without question among the very best in the SEM space, and the value those efforts have had in making our economy more efficient are incalculable. My best wishes go out to Alan’s family.

    George – if there’s any way I & others could contribute to the ARK Legacy Fund via PayPal, please let me know; otherwise I’ll use snail mail.

    Chris Zaharias

  31. Jeff Alderman says:

    Wow, only 41 years old… My deepest condolences to Alan’s wife, family and friends. I will keep Alan’s family in my prayers. He will be sadly missed.

    Alan was a true visionary, teacher and one of the great thought leaders in this online marketing space. Alan had a passion for curiosity and finding solutions to complex programs.

  32. Debra Weiss says:

    I was shocked and so sad to hear of Alan’s passing. He was one of my favorite clients: open to ideas, smart, witty, creative, and one of the fastest payers ever. He’ll be missed by so many.

  33. Sarah Engel says:

    The whole Range Online Media family sends our condolences and prayers to Alan’s family and colleagues. We also say with utmost sincerity that his legacy will live on in this industry for years to come.

  34. I was lucky enough to meet Alan at a Mercado and shop.org function. The time spent with him may have been more valuable then the rest of the entire weekend combined. His family and friends will be in my prayers.

  35. John Deneen says:

    I was very saddened to learn about Alan’s passing. My thoughts are with his family and RKG colleagues.

    I’ve known Alan for a number of years. He and I were early advocates of e-commerce and attended many of the same trade shows. When I first heard him speak I said to myself “this guy gets it”. He did get it. He was a very smart guy and real visionary and he will be sorely missed.

  36. Mona Elesseily says:

    Alan was my fellow paid search columnist at SearchEngineLand.com. His knowledge and insights were inspiring and pushed me to do better, be more thorough, give better examples, and, in general, give more to the online marketing industry. He will be sadly missed. My sincere condolences go to Alan’s family and friends.

  37. David Szetela says:

    Condolences to Alan’s family, friends and colleagues. He’ll be missed and remembered by all of us who’ve learned at his feet.

  38. The last email exchange I had with Alan was right before a seminar at the Darden School of Business (a speaking gig that Alan generously recommended me for.) It was that time, about a year ago, that I learned he was sick and wouldn’t be attending the conference.

    I was concerned that he couldn’t make it and asked if there was anything I could do. His words to me – and I’ll never forget them – were “Hug your family hard when you get home.”

    Good advice, Alan. Thank you.

    Alan was a great man, a fantastic marketer and one of the “good guys.”

    Damn, he will be missed.

  39. Tom Tweedie says:

    I met Alan several years ago at a catalog conference. Alan approached me and introduced himself. We talked about my ecommerce initaitives and I let him know we were already using another third party as well as doing most of the work ourselves in house. Alan was very respective of this and said he wanted to keep in touch.

    Alan did this over the years, a call or note here and there and always a chat when we ran into each other at conferences! While I never had the opportunity to do business with Alan, he did share his skill & knowledge with me through our talks.

    Alan was never the pushy salesman and was always, I think someone else said this too a real “gentleman” and all around nice guy.

    My thoughts are with Alan’s family in this time of sorrow.

    Tom

  40. Tim Peter says:

    Alan was a brilliant marketer and – as evidenced by all he shared here – a generous human being. My thoughts are with his family and friends.

  41. Gyi Tsakalakis says:

    Terrible news. While I never met Mr. Rimm-Kaufman, I had great respect for him. He will be greatly missed, even by those who never met him.

  42. Mike Moran says:

    I worked with Alan many times at conferences, some as fellow presenters, and some that he organized at the Darden school. Alan was obviously smart, funny, opinionated, and very good at his job, but there was a lot more in him. He was unfailingly kind and helpful, even in situations where he had no reason to be–that was just him.

    He lavished favors on me that I had no way to reciprocate and he introduced me to several people that have also helped me in my transition from IBM to my new career.

    I watched the way Alan dealt with his staff at RKG the same way he treated me. That tells me enough to know that RKG is as well-situated after the loss of a founder as any company could be. They will miss Alan terribly–we all will–but I am sure he has built a solid base.

    My heart goes out most of all to Alan’s family, whom I do not know personally. As a husband and father of four myself, I can only imagine how awful it must be to tear someone like Alan out of that family. I pray that I never can do any better than imagine what that is like. My thoughts and prayers go out to Alan’s family and to everyone who misses him even more than me.

  43. Was deeply saddened to hear of Alan’s passing. We are all richer for having known him. He was truly a brilliant marketer with a marvelous sense of humor, a rare gift.

  44. Greg Haslam says:

    Alan was the type of individual who’s exuberance and passion for what he did was an inspiration to all of us.

    Condolences to his family and loved ones during this difficult time.

  45. Alan, thank you for sharing your valuable insights and expertise often and without reservation. Myself and all my colleagues are grateful for the precious time you shared with us via your blog posts and videos. You shaped our industry and set a tone of honesty and integrity that will be long lasting. Please note that we may need a little additional guidance now and then… Your help would be greatly appreciated.

  46. David Kyle says:

    I am so grateful for all the insight Alan shared over the years. When it came to the math part of PPC, his articles left me in awe. I never knew him personally, but I can sincerely say he helped make me a better professional.

  47. Howard Kaufman says:

    Alan will be deeply missed…a rare combination of extreme intelligence, wit, character and always a big believer of “doing the right thing – the right way”. Alan was a great teacher and mentor to many, and he always found the time and a way to help. One of his legacies is that you can be highly successful, respected and contribute in many ways in this world and at the same time, be a genuinely nice & caring human being. Condolences to his wife, children, family and RKG.

  48. Ethan Giffin says:

    My condolences go out to Alan’s family and colleagues at RKG.

  49. Michelle McMahon says:

    What a terrific guy. One-of-a-kind.

    What a huge loss.

    Words are truly inadequate.

    Michelle McMahon
    Smithsonian

  50. Shagun Vatsa says:

    I never had a chance to meet Alan in person. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and colleagues at RKG.

  51. Matt Kritzer says:

    What a huge loss on so many levels. I only met Alan once, but in the 30 minutes or so that we chatted, he left an incredibly strong impression with me. I immediately felt that he was a person of integrity and he had such strong enthusiasm for the business. His knowledge and passion were second to none, a true advocate. My condolences to all of his family and friends.

  52. Jay Greenberg says:

    I met Alan several years ago at a NEMOA event and had a dialog regarding search and catalog marketing. I purposely sought him out at each event and wanted to listen and learn from this scholarly man. He was always patient while answering my many questions. And yet he had a spark in his eyes and connected higher level concepts. I believe he helped thousands of people along his path.

    I had reached out to Alan when I learned my brother was diagnosed with Leukemia and wanted to understand his mindset and how he had attacked previously. It was comforting to have a dialog with him. Alan will be deeply missed by a very large community.

  53. John Seebeck says:

    I was on a panel at NEMOA with Alan in Boston, in the spring of 2007. We shared a love of Charlottesville as my wife and I lived there for two years while I attended graduate school.

    He was an impressive co-panelist. Knowledgeable and open to the thoughts of others. Calm and confident as he had back-up to everything he said and could productively challenge others.

    I will miss him. Indeed, his professional legacy will thrive if it adhers to his core values.

  54. Kevin Reilly says:

    I remember well the first time I met Alan. My advertising/marketing firm was asked to meet with Alan and key members of the company he worked for at that time. I was asked to consult on a number of issues and after listening to management air their questions, it became eminently apparent that one key element would be invaluable to addressing their needs…..so I asked the question, “Do you have a marketing plan?” After several sideways glances and non-committal nods, everyone turned to Alan who responded with, “That’s the same question I’ve been asking since I got here!” Right then and there I decided that I genuinely respected this guy. He was forthright and he asked the right questions!

    Alan and I developed a mutual respect for each other that day and it continued on until his death. He was always a man of great integrity, intuition, and corporate ethics. Indeed, he always asked the good questions. There was one question, though,that he surely never asked….”Why did this happen to me?” No, HE would NEVER ask that question….it’s too egocentric, and that was certainly NOT Alan. He will be sorely missed. My deepest sympathies go out to his family and colleagues….he was one-of-a-kind!

  55. Phil Coyne says:

    I grew up with Alan in his young adult / old kid years. I spent many days hiking, rock climbing, and spelunking with Alan. I had many adventures with him. Alan had a wonderful sole and great sense of humor. I’m sorry for the loss of Alan. The last time I saw him was in Santé fe New Mexico. I’m glad to see he continued to live a full life even after I lost touch with him. I will truly miss him.

  56. I am so sorry to hear this. I pray for peace for his family and all employees at Rimm-Kaufman Group.I wish everyone connected to Alan inner peace and offer my condolences.

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