Entrepreneur Levi Felix, an advocate for disconnecting from technology in order to live more mindfully, passed away on Wednesday. He was 32.
Felix, who was diagnosed with brain cancer in early 2016, was hardly your typical entrepreneur.
He founded Digital Detox to help people unplug and reconnect with themselves and those around them.
In 2013, Digital Detox launched adult retreats called Camp Grounded. There are no phones, internet or screens allowed at the camp. People are required to check their devices into plastic bags that had radioactive symbols on them. People are also banned from looking at clocks, talking about work, or using their real names. To date, they’ve held about 15 camps in four states.
Those who knew Felix, who went by the nickname “Fidget,” are celebrating the life of a man whose relatively few years on earth were so full.
“If Life were a company, Levi would have been its Chief Experience Officer,” wrote Felix’s friend Adam Smiley Poswolsky in a touching Medium post. “He reminded us to hurry up and slow down. He showed us how to unplug and find moments of zen in a world that can’t stop tweeting. He taught us how to dream.”
Felix and Poswolsky first met in 2013 and became fast friends.
“I knew from our first meeting over tea that this guy really stood for something,” Poswolsky, who was a counselor at Camp Grounded, told CNNMoney. “He saw that people [and technology] were going in a direction that was not healthy and he wanted to shift that.”
Felix’s approach to technology came after suffering the effects of a constantly connected lifestyle, one that may sound familiar to a lot of startup folks. He worked 80-hour weeks while serving as vice president at Causecast, a Los Angeles startup. An esophageal tear in 2009 caused internal bleeding and was a sort of wakeup call, he later said.
Felix spent two and half years traveling the world with his girlfriend Brooke Dean. In 2012, along with Felix’s brother, Zev, they started Digital Detox.
Brady Gill, a former director at Camp Grounded, told CNNMoney in 2016 that the retreats helped adults “get back to that childhood space, where we felt like we were our best, most playful, authentic selves.”
That’s how friends remember Felix, as someone who was authentically himself and inspired others to do the same.
“He was a catalyst for so many people to get in touch with themselves and spark meaningful conversations,” Tribute cofounder Andrew Horn told CNNMoney. Horn is using his startup to collect video messages to share with Felix’s family. “He just allowed people to be themselves, giving people the confidence and the space to be who they were and who they wanted to be in the world. He was a giant among leaders.”
Felix, who lived in Oakland, married Dean in October 2016. He was part of the same community as Google executive Dan Fredinburg, who died in 2015 while climbing Mt. Everest during the Nepal earthquake.
On a crowdfunding site raising money for his treatment, Felix wrote about his cancer diagnosis and treatment. “Love love love love love: That’s all there is … Life is strange and beautiful, and we will dance the dance.”
Poswolsky said Felix had been working on a book, The Humanifesto: A Field Guide for Planet Earth. He said he hopes it’s something family and friends can complete in Felix’s name.
Camp Grounded will host its last two retreats in May in Mendocino, California. Tickets go on sale to the public January 24. Poswolsky added that there are plans to hold a camp memorial event sometime during the next two months in Felix’s honor.
“We have a tendency to glorify anyone who passes, so it might be easy to assume that some things might be exaggerated. As someone who knew him and worked with him so closely: It’s all true,” Adam Ward, a close friend, told CNNMoney. Ward, who is an artist, knew Felix for about ten years and served as a camp counselor. Felix and Dean officiated Ward’s wedding in 2015.
“He was such a champion of human connection, listening whether he agrees with you or disagrees with you. He was a really wonderful listener,” said Ward.
A funeral will be held for Felix on Sunday in California.
“He has touched so many people,” said Poswolsky. “People have got to take what they’ve learned [from him], take his ethos of disconnecting to reconnect and share it with your families, your friends.”