Bob Lee, a technology executive who created Cash App and was currently chief product officer of MobileCoin, was fatally stabbed in downtown San Francisco early Tuesday, according to the cryptocurrency platform and police.
The San Francisco Police Department said in a statement that officers responded to a report of a stabbing near the city’s Embarcadero waterfront at 2:35 a.m. Tuesday. They found Robert Lee, 43, suffering from apparent stab wounds.
“Officers rendered aid and summoned medics to the scene” but Lee died at a hospital, police said.
“This investigation is still in the early stages. Because of this we are not commenting on evidence, nor will we speculate on the circumstances surrounding this horrific crime,” Police Chief Bill Scott said in the statement.
MobileCoin confirmed Lee’s death Wednesday in response to an email from The Associated Press.
“Our dear friend and colleague, Bob Lee passed away yesterday at the age of 43, survived by a loving family and collection of close friends and collaborators,” MobileCoin CEO Josh Goldbard said in a statement.
Lee was fatally stabbed in the densely populated Rincon Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, near Google’s office and Oracle Park, home to the San Francisco Giants. The neighborhood is a mix of offices and modern condo buildings.
His death further enflamed debate over public safety in San Francisco and its moribund downtown, which has not yet bounced back from the pandemic. Twitter’s owner Elon Musk took to the social media site to post that “violent crime in SF is horrific and even if attackers are caught, they are often released immediately” and tagged the city’s district attorney.
San Francisco suffers from property crime more than violent crime such as murder, rape, robbery and assault.
In a statement, San Francisco Mayor London Breed called the homicide “a horrible tragedy” and said that the city is prioritizing public safety.
“I’m confident that when the police make an arrest in cases like this, our district attorney will do what’s necessary to hold any individuals accountable for their actions,” she said.
Goldbard said Lee was “made for the new world.”
“From large contributions to Android at google, to being the first CTO of Square, in that time creating Cash App, and working with us here at Mobilecoin, Bob surely had an impact that will last far beyond his short time on earth,” Goldbard said.
Lee came to MobileCoin as an early stage investor and advisor, then became chief product officer and helped launch the Moby app, Goldbard said. Lee was the chief technology officer at digital payments company Square in 2013 when it launched a money transfer application now known as Cash App.
Among the tech leaders to share their devastation about Lee’s death was venture capitalist Wesley Chan, co-founder of FPV Ventures. Chan said he befriended Lee more than a decade ago when they both worked at Google, at a time when software engineers like Lee were helping to build the Android smartphone operating system before its 2008 release.
“He was an incredibly iconic founder in the tech world,” Chan said by phone Wednesday. “He wrote large parts of Android when he was at Google. He became the CTO of Square and helped build Cash App. His resume reads something like a Fortune cover article.”
But Chan said Lee was also generous in helping to coach and champion other engineers and tech entrepreneurs who’d call on him for advice. And he was modest about his key role in developing successful products, such as the widely used Cash App.
“With everything that Bob worked on, it was always a pleasant surprise,” Chan said. “That’s one of the things I loved about him. He was always humble about it, he’d say, ‘Oh, I don’t know if it’s going to work or not, but we’ll try.’”
Prominent venture capitalist Ron Conway, founder of the San Francisco-based investment firm SV Angel, tweeted Wednesday that Lee’s loss was an immense tragedy.
“Deepest condolences to Bob’s family and to the entire tech community,” Conway said. “Remembering fondly when Bob gave an inspiring talk at our CEO Summit. We’ve lost a great innovator, intelligence, and spirit. Praying a suspect is apprehended swiftly.”
The police statement did not provide any details on the circumstances of the stabbing.
“This is an open and active investigation. For that reason we are not releasing further information,” Officer Niccole Pacchetti, a public information officer, said in an email. “We will provide further details when they become available.”