Erin Valenti, the 33-year-old CEO of a Utah tech company who vanished while driving from Palo Alto, California to San Jose to catch a flight, was remembered as an inspirational entrepreneur and genuine human being who was smart and funny.
KPIX-TV is now reporting that Valenti’s body was found in San Jose. Authorities have confirmed that they found a body but haven’t given the identity. Valenti was in California on a business trip to Silicon Valley. However, it’s not yet clear what happened to the accomplished businesswoman, who has been honored by the Women Tech Council.
According to her LinkedIn page, Valenti, who had been missing since Monday, was founder and CEO for the past 5 years of Tinker, a tech company in the Salt Lake City area. “Tinker is a digital product development agency and venture studio. We invent, design, develop and scale abadass technology products built for iOS, Android and the web,” she wrote on LinkedIn.
When she was still missing, friends and family rallied support for the search. A Facebook page was devoted to finding her called Help Find Erin Valenti. Tragically, a post on the page now reads, “Many of you have seen that the search for Erin has been called off. While we were praying for a different outcome, we are so appreciative for the help and support you have given. Please remember Erin as the beautiful, smart, funny woman that she was. I don’t have any details that have not been in the media. I’m sure that Harrison will thank you himself when he is able, but please be patient.”
Tributes are now flooding in. “Erin has personally gone to bat for me on so many occasions, got me job offers, invited me to social and professional events, brainstormed business strategy, was a continual sounding board both professionally and personally. I honesty don’t know a more kind and genuine human being,” wrote a man who knew her on Facebook. “She was willing to collaborate with anyone she could help. I often was intimidated by her genius, she was a force here. I remember thinking how lucky Utah was to have such a strong female leader, I would worry she’d decide to move away.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. San Jose Police Confirmed a Body Was Found Inside a Vehicle After Erin Mentioned the Matrix in an Unusual Phone Call & Friends Remembered Valenti as a Special Person Who Was Important to the Startup Community
Those who knew Valenti are reeling from her untimely death. “My heart is broken. We have all seriously lost one of the most SPECIAL woman I believe I have ever met and come to know,” one woman wrote on Facebook. “We have lost an amazing friend and member of our startup tech community,” wrote another.
The San Jose Police Department confirmed in a statement that “a body was located inside a vehicle parked on the street” in the 6500 block of Bose Lane, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. “The Santa Clara County Coroner’s Office will determine the manner and cause of death,” it said. The body was found in South San Jose’s Almaden Valley, which is Valenti’s last known location, East Bay Times reported.
Valenti’s final calls to family members were described by the Facebook page devoted to finding Valenti as “confusing and disjointed.” East Bay Times reported that she was headed to the San Jose International Airport in a rental car to return home. The newspaper reported that people who spoke to Valenti recently stated that she suffered what appeared to be a “manic episode” despite having no history of mental illness. In one conversation, she said, “it’s all a game, it’s a thought experiment, we’re in the Matrix,” the newspaper reported.
San Jose police were treating Valenti’s disappearance as “a voluntary missing person,” according to The Tribune. This sparked anger among some people who knew Valenti.
The Help Find Erin Valenti Facebook page had written, “I would like to emphasize how out of character this would be for Erin. While she is adventurous, she is not foolhardy and would never intentionally be out of contact with her family. As a psychologist, I am especially concerned about her last calls which were confusing and disjointed.”
The page stated that it was “completely possible to have a sudden onset of symptoms like this for a variety of mental health and physical reasons (even if there have not been previous symptoms). Erin should be considered a vulnerable person at severe risk and the police should be involved, although they have continued to treat her as a voluntary missing person. If anyone has any influence with the San Jose of California police, I urge you to make this point.”
The page continued, “Harrison (Erin’s husband) is also a psychologist and Erin’s mother is a nurse. It is difficult for me to understand why the police are not giving greater credence to people who have experience with people in psychiatric and medical crises and who absolutely believe that Erin’s last calls indicate that she was at peril.”
Before her body was found, people had posted on the San Jose Police Department’s Facebook page, on threads not about Erin. “Please Please time is wasting! I know sometimes people have to be missing for a certain amount of time,” one woman wrote. “But everthing about this is soooooo out of (character) for Erin Help Find Erin Valenti I am a family member and have know Erin since she was a child, she is beautiful, and smart. But whereever she is, she is alone and scared … please again I ask to have this made a State wide search before its too late!!!”
The Find Erin Valenti Facebook page had claimed, “Unfortunately, the police have not been helpful yet. Someone suggested posting on their facebook page and I just did that. It might help if others also post and explain why she is not likely to be a voluntary missing person.”
2. Valenti, Who Was Married, Was Remembered for Her Entrepreneurial Excellence & Her Husband Helped Ignite the Search
The Women Tech Council praised Valenti on Facebook for her successful entrepreneurship.
“Our hearts are broken. We have just learned that our friend, community member and fellow technology leader Erin Valenti’s body has been found. We honored her this week for her entrepreneurial excellence, her incredible career and work. Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband, family and colleagues around the world,” the site wrote.
A friend described Valenti as “a highly capable person, mountaineer, and CEO of a 100+ person organization.” Another friend wrote, “It’s times like this when all I can do is look to the Lord for comfort. I will miss you and our phone chats my brilliant beautiful friend Erin Valenti.”
Before Valenti was found deceased, Harrison Weinstein, Valenti’s husband, wrote an emotional post on Facebook in a bid to find her.
“I write this post with a lot of pain and fear, but can really use your help. My wife, Erin Valenti has been missing since Monday night,” he wrote.
“She was last seen in Palo Alto Monday afternoon wearing torn jeans and a white T-shirt. She was driving from Palo Alto to San Jose, but never returned her rental car or made it on to her flight home to Utah. Her phone has been off since Monday night. If you have seen or heard from her please let me know. She was last driving a gray Nissan Murano with CA plates: 8LUD641. Any information to her whereabouts is much appreciated and can be directed to me, her family, or the San Jose police department. The pictures posted are all recent (within past few weeks).”
Her husband also wrote on the Facebook page devoted to finding her: “I am Erin’s husband and am heavily involved in her search. The car surprisingly does not have any tracking devices and there has been no activity on any credit/ debit/ atm cards. San Jose pd have a missing persons report, but have labeled as a voluntary disappearance.”
The family never believed Erin would disappear on her own.
“We don’t accept this and it is extremely out of character, but this results in them not doing any active searching,” he wrote. “Anybody who can help look for her, pressure authorities to do more, anything else would be much appreciated. Because the car has not turned up, we are wondering if it may be in a more remote area – she was low and gas and there were no gas station charges. Please help search remote areas around south San Jose. If anyone has drones, that may help scan the area. Thank you all for your well wishes during this incredibly difficult time.”
The Women’s Tech Council had said in a biography of Valenti that “Erin and her husband live in Salt Lake City Utah, where they spend their free time climbing rocks, descending canyons or chasing powder.”
3. Valenti Wrote That She Built & Invested in ‘Disruptive Technology Companies’
On LinkedIn, Valenti wrote that she had “a successful track record of 10 years of cross-functional leadership experience building and investing in disruptive technology companies. I’m passionate about helping startups with product development, fundraising and scaling. I’m always looking for the next great idea to work on or invest in. Reach out anytime to chat.”
The Women Tech Council described her work at Tinker this way: “At Tinker, Erin manages a global team of 120 employees across their Salt Lake City and Lahore, Pakistan offices. Tinker has built over 700 products including mobile apps, SaaS applications, tech enabled marketplaces and consumer websites.”
The council added that Valenti had “worked for brands including Facebook, Skullcandy, LiveNation, Pearson, MetroPCS, and several emerging startups. She is currently focused on developing software and product development training programs, rapidly scaling revenue and launching a web content series on innovation and creativity.”
Before starting Tinker, Valenti was founder and CEO of SLC Tech Startups in Salt Lake City, which she described as a “startup and technology focused meetup group.”
Before that, she was executive in residence for Mindshare Ventures in Park City, Utah and director of product development for Overstock.com.
For three years, she was founder and CEO of Skycrane, Inc., described as an “online work-for hire marketplace where businesses can buy on-demand administrative support, back-office, and marketing services.”
She was part of the Springboard Accelerator Class of 2013, described as a “startup accelerator and highly-vetted expert network of innovators, investors and influencers who are dedicated to building high-growth technology-oriented companies led by women.”
Valenti also worked as an investment professional for Summit Partners, a venture capital and private equity fund in Palo Alto, California and as a financial analyst for Bonaventure Realty Group, LLC in Washington DC.
4. Valenti, Who Studied Chinese, Graduated from Georgetown University, Recording a 4.0 GPA
Erin Valenti was a graduate in business administration from Georgetown University, listing “summa cum laude, finance, international business.” She was in Beta gama sigma and recorded a 4.0 GPA, she wrote on LinkedIn.
She attended classes in Chinese language, culture and business practices at the University of International Business and Economics.
On LinkedIn, she described herself as “Founder & CEO of Tinker Ventures | Serial Entrepreneur+ Product Developer + Venture Capitalist + Writer + Climber + Yogi.”
On September 25, 2019, in her most recently visible Facebook page, Valenti wrote, “Heading to SF and LA soon… whose around? Dm me!!”
5. Valenti Was a Volunteer Who Worked to Fight Human Trafficking & Her Facebook Page Captured a Vibrant Life
According to her LinkedIn page, Valenti was a volunteer for Not for Sale, described as an “advocate for anti-human trafficking initiatives. Participated in humanitarian mission to Uganda 2008.”
She also was a volunteer in economic empowerment for the International Rescue Commuttee. She “participated in mentoring refugee entrepreneurs.”
Valenti’s Facebook page captured a vibrant life full of friends and activities. “Impressed by Utah’s filmmakers at #filmquest film festival. Tons of young talent,” read one recent post. She also posted about hiking and artwork, among other activities.