In Memoriam: Keith Grinstein, Second Avenue Partners

Keith Grinstein, a partner with Seattle-based venture firm Second Avenue Partners, passed away late last month at the age of 48 from an apparent heart attack. A memorial service was held last week in Seattle.

Longtime friend Nick Hanauer, a partner at Second Avenue, could not be reached for comment last week. But he told the website Xconomy: “Keith was an extraordinarily talented man. He was incredibly bright, educated and informed. He could do the Saturday crossword in about 15 minutes. It was humiliating to even be in the room with him when he was doing it.”

Michael Butler, co-founder of Seattle-based Cascadia Capital, also fondly remembers Grinstein: “When I moved back to Seattle, Keith was one of the first people I met. He went out of his way to help me integrate into the community. He was a person with a kind heart, quick wit and a larger-than-life personality. His departure leaves a void and he will be deeply missed.”

Grinstein, who flew land and sea aircraft and owned several private planes, grew up in a prominent Seattle family and seemed destined to work in venture capital.

His father Gerald “Jerry” Grinstein is a former CEO of Burlington Northern and Delta Air Lines. His mother, Rosalie Alhadeff, is part of the family that created the Longacres horse-racing track in Renton, Wash. Gerald also co-founded Madrona Venture Group, which is currently located in the same building as Second Avenue. Both father and son were serving Madrona as strategic advisors at the time of Keith’s death.

Keith, a 1978 graduate of Seattle’s Lakeside School, earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a law degree from Georgetown University. He then worked as an attorney in New York and Washington, D.C., before he came back to Seattle in the late 1980s to join McCaw Cellular Communications (which later became AT&T Wireless Services). He was also CEO of Nextel International from 1996 to 1999.

In 2000, he and three partners co-founded Second Avenue, using their personal wealth rather than raising cash from limited partners. The firm focuses on early stage technology companies, especially those based in the Pacific Northwest.

Board seats at the time of his death included NetSuite, F5 Networks and Labor Ready. Grinstein was also chairman of Coinstar Inc. (Nasdaq: CSTR), a Bellevue, Wash.-based operator of coin-counting machines.

“Keith played an important role in the growth and success of NetSuite,” said Zach Nelson, CEO of NetSuite. “He brought to our company a wealth of experience as a board member, business executive and successful technology investor. His talents, wisdom and guidance will be missed.”

He is survived by his wife Claire, his brother and his parents.