9/11 hero & Akamai co-founder Danny Lewin recalled in new book

"No Better Time" recounts life of Internet innovator

We get flooded by books at Network World, with publishers hoping we'll plug their latest titles, most of which are too technically obscure or too general (yet another management book) to be worth mentioning. However, a new book called "No Better Time," about the co-founder of Akamai Technologies who was tragically killed on the first 9/11 plane that crashed into the World Trade Center in 2001, did catch my eye for a number of reasons.

First, Akamai is a company we've watched closely from the start here, having first heard about it from trusted sources within the venture capital community. In fact, I believe we were the first publication to write about the company in the late 1990s and have continued to do so. 

Second, we also keep close tabs on MIT's labs, to get a feel for what might be coming out of there that could be of interest to enterprise IT shops. Akamai was founded by MIT grad student Danny Lewin, the subject of this book, along with MIT applied mathematics professor Tom Leighton (now with MIT's heralded CSAIL program).

Third, as a Massachusetts-based company ourselves, Akamai is in our backyard, anchored in Cambridge.

RELATED: What online news looked like on 9/11

The poignancy of this book, which I've only begun to read, is that it has launched shortly before 9/11/2013, and according to the author, many believe Lewin was the very first victim of the 9/11 attacks, stabbed to death at the age of 31 while attempting to take down terrorists aboard American Flight 11. This math whiz's story goes beyond that though, as author Molly Knight Raskin documents Lewin's move from Colorado to Israel as a teen, his experience in the Israeli military and his return to the United States to attend MIT, where he met Leighton and eventually developed key algorithms and collaborated with him to start web acceleration company Akamai. As Raskin notes, the irony of Lewin's death is that he never got to see Akamai perform so well in helping online news sites deliver updates on the 9/11 attacks.

Akamai going public during the dot.com boom turned Lewin into an overnight billionaire, and according to the author, Lewin might very well have become a household name if he'd lived until today. "What could he have done? When I asked people in interviews, the answers ranged from Prime Minister of Israel to tenured professor at MIT to billionaire CEO."

Raskin says getting Lewin's family's cooperation on the book wasn't initially easy, but after a personal visit with them in Israel, she was able to get them to open up and give their blessing to the project, which seems as though it was well worth doing.

Bob Brown tracks network research in his Alpha Doggs blog and Facebook page, as well on Twitter and Google +

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