Erin Valenti was a 33-year-old tech entrepreneur who had a successful career as the CEO of Tinker Ventures, a web-development company that built software for other businesses. She was also a passionate advocate for women in tech and a mentor for aspiring founders. She had a bright future ahead of her, but it was cut short by a mysterious and tragic death.
What Happened to Erin Valenti?
Erin Valenti went to California in October 2020 for a business trip that included a professional-development workshop in Orange County and a visit to former colleagues and friends in the Bay Area. She was supposed to fly back home to Salt Lake City on October 7, but she never made it to the airport.
On that day, she made several phone calls to her family and friends, sounding confused and rambling. She said things like “it’s all a game, we’re in the matrix” and “I’m not human, I’m not human”. She also told her husband that she was going to drive to the mountains and find herself.
Her family became worried and reported her missing to the police. They also hired a private investigator and launched a social media campaign to find her. They suspected that she might have had a mental breakdown or been drugged.
Five days later, on October 12, her body was found in the back seat of her rental car in a residential neighborhood in San Jose. There were no signs of foul play or physical harm. Her phone, laptop, and wallet were still in the car.
What Was the Cause of Death?
The cause of death remained unknown for months, as the San Jose medical examiner’s office conducted an autopsy and toxicology tests. The results were finally released in February 2020, but they did not provide much clarity.
The autopsy report, which Business Insider reviewed, ruled her manner of death natural and said the cause was “sudden death in the setting of an acute manic episode”. However, it did not explain what triggered the episode or what killed her.
According to Business Insider, the report noted that Valenti had no history of mental illness or substance abuse, and that she had no significant medical conditions or injuries. It also said that she had no drugs or alcohol in her system, except for a low level of THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana.
The report suggested that Valenti might have suffered from an undiagnosed bipolar disorder or a rare condition called excited delirium syndrome, which can cause sudden death in people who are experiencing extreme agitation, paranoia, or hallucinations.
However, these diagnoses are not conclusive and are based on speculation. The report acknowledged that “the exact pathophysiology of sudden death in this setting is unclear”.
How Did Her Family and Friends React?
Valenti’s family and friends were devastated by her death and frustrated by the lack of answers. They did not believe that she had any mental health issues or that she died of natural causes. They thought that there might have been some external factors that contributed to her demise, such as stress, exhaustion, or environmental toxins.
They also criticized the police for their handling of the case, accusing them of being slow, unresponsive, and dismissive. They claimed that the police did not take their missing person report seriously and did not search for Valenti’s car until after it was found by a resident.
They also said that the police did not communicate with them effectively and did not share the autopsy results with them until after they were leaked to the media.
Valenti’s family and friends are still seeking justice and closure for her death. They have hired lawyers to investigate further and to file a lawsuit against the city of San Jose and the rental car company for negligence.
They have also created a foundation in her memory called Project Erin Valenti2, which aims to support women entrepreneurs, mental health awareness, and environmental causes.
What Was Her Legacy?
Erin Valenti was a remarkable woman who left a lasting impact on the tech industry and the world. She was a visionary leader who built a profitable and innovative company with a remote team of engineers in Pakistan. She was also a generous mentor who helped many young entrepreneurs launch their own ventures.
She was an avid traveler who visited more than 40 countries and learned several languages. She was also an adventurous spirit who loved hiking, skiing, scuba diving, and flying planes.
She was a loving wife, daughter, sister, friend, and dog mom who touched many lives with her kindness, humor, and enthusiasm.
She was an inspiration to many people who admired her achievements, passion, and courage.
She was Erin Valenti, and she will be missed.