Bob Lee, the former chief technology officer of Square, was identified as the 43-year-old man stabbed to death in Downtown San Francisco early Tuesday morning. The news was confirmed by his current employer, MobileCoin, to ABC-7.
The San Francisco Police Department said officers responded to reports of a stabbing on Main Street near Harrison at approximately 2:35 a.m. Officers found a man suffering from apparent stab wounds. The man, who police said was from Mill Valley, was transported to a local hospital, where he died.
Lee was a longtime member of the Bay Area software development community who had recently moved to Miami.
After five years as a Google engineer working on the Android core library, “Crazy Bob,” as he was affectionately known, was hired by Square to develop its Android app and became the payment company’s first CTO in 2011. He was the developer of its Cash App (formerly called Square Cash).
In 2021, Lee became the chief product officer of MobileCoin, a crypto payment company based in San Francisco.
Bill Barhydt, the CEO of the digital payments firm Abra, said on Twitter that Lee was a father and “generous human being who didn’t deserve to be killed.”
I just got devastating news that our friend Bob Lee (@crazybob ) was killed in SF early today.
Bob was a dad, the former CTO of Square where he created Cash App & CTO of Mobile Coin. He was a generous decent human being who didn’t deserve to be killed.https://t.co/RnzA1Idpun
— Bill Barhydt (@billbarhydt) April 5, 2023
SFPD referred The Standard to the SF Medical Examiner for confirmation of the victim’s ID. The medical examiner did not immediately return calls about the case.
Lee’s prolific social media postings spanned the personal to the professional. He was a dad, a coffee connoisseur, a traveler, a Cardinals fan, a Trekkie and a regular at all the tech events and major festivals, from SXSW to Coachella, TechCrunch and Burning Man.
In many ways, Lee could have been any one of the thousands of coding savants, startup execs and go-getters who have migrated through San Francisco’s software developer and startup community in the past two decades.
But many said Lee stood out.
As news spread late Tuesday that Lee had been stabbed to death less than a mile from the office where he worked on the startup team of Square, leaders of San Francisco’s technology community shared their respects online.
An Early Open Source and Web Developer
Lee was a co-author of Bitter EJB, a 2003 book for coders aimed at helping them avoid common pitfalls when writing for the Enterprise Java Beans framework to develop web-based business applications.
When the book was published, he was living in St. Louis, Missouri, and had been working as an open-source developer for 10 years.
By 2004, Lee was living in San Francisco and working as an engineer at Google. His work there involved setting up the core library for the fledgling Android operating system.
Apparently a frequent target of recruiters, Lee posted a resume online that had large red type across the top that read, “NOT CURRENTLY SEEKING EMPLOYMENT” and a professional objective “To work with likeminded programmers on challenging projects in an environment where I can experiment, innovate, learn, and have fun.”
A Move to FinTech
Lee left Google and joined Square in 2010 as its 13th employee. He became CTO in 2011. Lee led the development of the Cash App, initially known as Square Cash, and helped integrate it with the fast-growing Android operating system.
On his Facebook feed, Lee marked the mass market wins of his development career. In 2010, he wrote: “Square is the top free finance app in Android’s market” and “Android Surpasses iPhone in the U.S.”
Though he left Square in 2014, a Facebook photo from 2015 shows him on the floor of the Nasdaq the day the company went public.
After Square, Lee spent several years working with startups as an advisor and an angel investor. The work led him to take the helm as CEO of the local chat group app Present in 2015. In 2018, he described the mission of the company as bringing local communities closer together, to make the world happier, healthier place, adding, “If you follow the news, I think you’ll agree the world could use this now more than ever.”
The Present app was pitched as a way for women to connect, in particular, and the company hosted a pre-rally for the 2018 Women’s March in San Francisco.
He invested in MobileCoin, a peer-to-peer payment processing system that made it faster and more secure to trade cryptocurrency from a mobile phone. The company went on to receive $66 million in venture backing. He assumed the role of CEO in late 2021. In a statement, Lee said he hoped MobileCoin could “help the hundreds of millions of unbanked people worldwide” by offering democratized access to digital cash.
A Busy Personal Life
Recent posts to his Facebook profile show a concern over police violence, the Trump Administration and management of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Lee was a father and posted photos of himself and his children often.
In August 2009, Lee posted on his blog that he was going to swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco to raise funds for the American Liver Foundation. He often donated to fundraisers for friends through the years.
A friend who was planning to meet Lee in Miami this weekend told The Standard that Lee had been in San Francisco on business, had stayed an extra day and was killed on that day.
“I’m still in shock,” the friend told The Standard. “No way he did anything to provoke this and I feel like he would just hand his money and watch to a mugger.”
There have been 12 homicides in San Francisco this year as of April 2, compared to 10 in the same year-to-date period in 2022.
SFPD Homicide Detective Raj Vaswani asked that anyone with eyewitness reports or video footage that may have captured the crime to contact police.
The Standard Staff can be reached at [email protected]