Jim Knapp, Cayman’s tech giant, dies at age 68

Tech and solar-energy entrepreneur Jim Knapp died on Wednesday. - Photo: Chamber of Commerce, Facebook

Tech entrepreneur and green energy advocate Jim Knapp died Wednesday after getting into difficulty while in the water at Seven Mile Beach.

Mr. Knapp, 68, was the director of local company Endless Energy, which conducted numerous projects in the territory, including wiring a building in George Town with a 528-panel solar system in 2014. At the time, it was the largest solar farm in Cayman.

He also owned an entirely off-the-grid, solar-powered home in Grand Harbour, which won a Governor’s Award for architecture in 2011.

But before coming to Cayman in the 1990s, Mr. Knapp had a storied career that included him working for two United States presidents.

Mr. Knapp was recruited and educated by IBM at the age of 15, and later served in the U.S. Air Force as a teacher for computer guidance systems. According to his biography on the www.caymaninstitute.org.ky website, he served as a technology representative on the National Security Forum in 1989, and as a delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business in 1995 under President Bill Clinton.

Mr. Knapp also founded I/NET Inc. – a research and development firm that specialized in digital imaging and voice recognition technologies – selling the firm to IBM for US$25 million in 1989. His firm helped develop one of the first online securities trading platforms, and he was also on the JPEG standards committee, which creates still-image coding standards, his bio states.

When he moved to Cayman in 1993, he helped create securities systems for Butterfield bank, according to his brother, Keith Knapp.

He was also instrumental in liberalizing Cayman’s telecommunications sector, serving on a working group for that initiative and helping draft policies and legislation, said his professional colleague, Nick Robson.

Mr. Knapp is survived by his wife, Judy Van Liere. He had no children. His brother Keith said he was one of 10 children – five boys and five girls – who in turn gave their parents 51 grandchildren. The Knapps’ grandfather also had 10 children, Keith Knapp said.

“Our family tree was more like a family forest,” he said, explaining that the large family was a contributing factor in his brother’s decision not to have children.

While he did not have any children, he was a great family member, Keith said.

“As a brother goes, they don’t make them better. I can’t replace him.”