Silicon Valley fixture Mike Homer dies at 50

Former Netscape executive suffered from rare brain disease; Silicon Valley friends had rallied to raise awareness and funds.

Former Netscape executive Mike Homer lost his battle with a rare brain disease on Sunday, reported Kara Swisher of All Things D. He was 50.

Homer suffered from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a degenerative and fatal neurological disorder that leads to dementia (a variant is known as mad cow disease).

Among other things, Homer steered the creation of Netscape Communications' Netcenter portal until Netscape's acquisition by America Online. The Silicon Valley stalwart also worked at Apple.

Before his illness, Homer had been investing in and mentoring a series of start-ups. But he had also been focusing on philanthropy and spending time with his family.

Following Homer's diagnosis in 2007, friends in the technology community, including Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen and angel investor Ron Conway, rallied around him to spread awareness of the disease and raise money for research. Homer was being treated by physicians from the University of California at San Francisco, a leading center of research into "prions," the infectious agents linked to CJD and several other diseases.

Swisher first met Homer when she was doing her first book on the rise of America Online more than a decade ago, and says of him:

Despite his sometimes tough demeanor, Homer was always willing-unlike so many others-to debate his business in an all-out-on-the-table manner I found refreshing compared to the sometimes earnest and smooth spin of most dot-com entrepreneurs.

Most of all, even when you disagreed over an issue, he always left such arguments at work and was ready with his quick laugh or a razor-sharp quip no matter what.

Homer is survived by his wife, Kristina, and three young children: James, Jack, and Lucy. According to Swisher, his funeral will be held at Saint Raymond's Catholic Church in Menlo Park, Calif., on Thursday.

About the author

Leslie Katz, Crave's senior editor, heads up a team that covers the most crushworthy (and wackiest) tech, science, and culture around. As a co-host of the now-retired CNET News Daily Podcast, she was sometimes known to channel Terry Gross and still uses her trained "podcast voice" to bully the speech recognition software on automated customer service lines. E-mail Leslie.

 

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