Ed Denison

by francine Hardaway on September 5, 2002

It’s always difficult when someone you know dies. It’s more difficult when they are younger than you are. It�s even more difficult when they have been an almost daily companion on the journey to establish Arizona as a technology center�as a place one�s own children would like to live.

Unfortunately, this compound difficulty arose for me last week when Ed Denison, the President of the Arizona Software and Internet Association, this very week to become the Arizona Tech Council, played a round of golf on a Saturday morning and took a nap for good. I cherish the fantasy that he will wake up one day, like Rip van Winkle, to find that we have finished the work he started.

It�s a great fantasy, but it won�t happen. No matter how hard we try to get capital into Arizona, he won�t wake up (at least not in this incarnation). However, I predict that his death will have a salutary, if ironic, effect on the campaign for which he was the spokesperson. Now that he died, the embellishments he hoped to bring to the state�s technology industry will probably become realities.

And that�s because, when people die, they are finally taken seriously. In fact, only when people die are they really known. As I sat at Ed�s funeral, I heard his sister recount a story about her kidney disease. She said that a doctor had misdiagnosed her about ten years ago, telling her she would have kidney failure and be needing a transplant. For eight of the previous ten years, Ed had assured her that he was ready to give her his kidney. He didn�t have to do it, because the doctor was wrong, but as her only sibling, he stood ready without her even asking.

This is a profound truth about Ed that would never have surfaced in a business meeting. And yet, it told me more about him than anything he ever said at the countless community meetings we attended together. Clearly, he was a guy with the right intentions, no matter what the tactics.

Those intentions, however, were often buried in the tactics. In those endless planning meetings he was often funny, assertive, and lately, testy. Like many of us, he had gotten tired of the putdowns and putoffs associated with starting any sort of entrepreneurial venture fund either with legislative or executive help. He had also personally internalized many of the job losses and company extinctions that followed the dot-com meltdown. In Arizona, we never had a dot-com bubble, and when we lost jobs and companies, they were regular old information technology companies or bootstrapped startups.

Ed was passionate � nay, fanatic � about how to get capital formation to happen in Arizona. He finally bottomed out on the fact that if the entire technology community didn�t speak with one voice at the legislature, it wouldn�t happen, and he attempted to move his organization into position to be that one voice.

He had just gotten the first part of the job done � the preparation for a unified voice � when he left us. When he died, people were still arguing about how and who would be subsumed or included in this �unified voice.� Those people, at least temporarily, have fallen silent, including me. Venture capital is not worth dying for.

Fortunately, my karma is good and I had just enjoyed an optimistic lunch with Ed two days before his death, a lunch in which we talked about yet another possible means to get rich real estate guys to invest in Arizona�s economic development (which causes their riches). So he left me, personally, on an upbeat note. But that�s small consolation for the loss to the family and the community.

A modern poet says it best:
�Now this looks like a job for me/
So everybody come follow me/
Cuz we need a little controversy/
Cuz it feels so empty without me.�

It definitely feels empty without Ed, who –unlike a rapper — can�t just make a new album and a comeback. We will just have to be content with the old repertoire.


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