The life and works of tech entrepreneur Hank Williams, who worked tirelessly to champion diversity in the ever-growing technology field, is to be celebrated Saturday at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City at 9 a.m.
Williams, 50, died Sunday following a battle with pneumonia and myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, which left him hospitalized for over a week. A determined innovator and advocate for diversity in his field, Williams led a full life, launching one effort after another.
His wife, Mayida Zaal, penned a heartfelt press release about the tech icon’s legacy and the dream that pushed him:
Renowned technologist, Henry “Hank” Williams, had a dream: to live in an innovating world that embraced diversity of all kinds across race, gender and ethnicity. He didn’t see a platform for people of color—be they scientists, entrepreneurs, investors or corporate executives—so he built one, calling it the Platform Summit.
Hank conceived Platform after being featured in the 2011 CNN installment of Soledad O’Brien’s Black in America documentary series, which focused on the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley. The voluminous dialogue that followed the documentary, both inside and outside of tech circles, provided a new framework for engaging people in this previously unspoken issue.
Hank’s impetus to rectify the underrepresentation of minorities and women in the innovation economy was driven by his unique perspective. A 30-year technology-industry insider, Hank realized that with the recent unprecedented media focus, the time was right for change.
Over the past three years, Platform has blazed a trail with its annual summit, bringing together thousands of people from all over the world, congregating first at MIT in Cambridge, Mass., then at Morehouse College in Atlanta, in a gathering unlike any other in the world. The summit gathers a high-powered and potent mix of people of color and women, working as astronauts, microchemists, computer scientists, storytellers and doctors, convening to share ideas and build a community.
Hank was building the world he wanted to see, the one he wanted his daughter to live in.
His vision was backed by universities, corporations and foundations, including Google for Entrepreneurs, Credit Suisse, Kapor Center for Social Impact, S. Ahmad-Llewellyn Family Foundation, Knight Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Twitter, Ford, Genentech, Morehouse College, Georgia Tech and CoxMedia Group. These institutions sponsored the convening of the annual conference, and recognized Hank’s vision to develop digital content to spread and expand the impact.
Always the tech entrepreneur, Hank was also CEO of Kloudco, a startup developing a new cloud information-management platform for organizing and managing email. Hank was a regular contributor to Business Insider, writing about technology, economics and intellectual property in the Internet era. For several years, he also maintained a high-traffic blog, whydoeseverythingsuck.
Before Kloudco, Hank operated Elroy Networks, a development and consulting company focused on Internet-media-related technologies.
From 1998 to 2001, Hank was founder, chairman and CEO of ClickRadio, the Internet’s first, interactive music service, where he raised $40 million in capital from Merrill Lynch, Philips Electronics and others. As ClickRadio’s product architect, Hank pioneered many of the concepts and technologies that underpin the current interactive music space, such as thumbs-up, thumbs-down, and skip.
In 1995, Hank co-founded Cybersonic, a technology consulting firm which provided Internet development and broadcasting services to most of the major music labels, and pioneered the concept and implementation of large-scale live cybercasts.
From 1988 to 1994, Hank served as president and CEO of Pastel Development Corp., where he developed DayMaker, a best-selling and award-winning personal information-management program for the Newton and Macintosh.
Hank started his entrepreneurial career in the mid-80s, designing and launching a hardware device for early Macintosh computers that doubled their processing speed and tripled their memory capacity.
The son of Elaine Williams and Judge Henry Williams Sr., Hank grew up in Harlem, and attended elementary school at St. Bernard’s School. He went to boarding school at the Taft School in Connecticut, and studied computer science and engineering at the University of Pennsylvania.
Along with his wife, Williams is survived by his 3-year-old daughter, Imani; his mother, Elaine Williams; and other family members. The family is asking that instead of flowers and gifts, contributions be made to the newly established Hank Williams Foundation Inc., P.O. Box 43385, Montclair, NJ 07043. Contributions for the education of his daughter, Imani Williams, may be addressed to Imani Williams, c/o Garden State Community Bank, 597 Valley Road, Montclair, NJ 07043.