Alain Sylvain, founder and CEO of strategy and design consultancy Sylvain, whose brand work focused relentlessly on innovation, has died. He was 47 years old.
Sylvain was found unconscious Monday morning in front of an apartment building on East End Avenue with injuries indicative of a fall, the New York Police Department confirmed. He was pronounced dead at the scene. No foul play was suspected, the NYPD said.
Kyu Collective, parent company of Sylvain, confirmed Sylvain’s death in a statement to Ad Age: “It is with incredible sadness that we share the news of Alain Sylvain’s untimely passing.
“To know Alain was to know a brilliant mind, and a deeply genuine person. He had the ability to connect meaningfully with every person he met, and impact their lives with a generosity of spirit that was unmatched. Above being an entrepreneur, board member, and philanthropist, he was first and foremost a loving husband and father, a caring son, brother, and uncle, and a compassionate friend.
“His absence will leave a profound void in our community and in the business world that he was ruthlessly committed to changing for the better. He founded Sylvain in 2010, a creatively driven strategy and design consultancy made up of kindred spirits and misfits who shared his belief in our collective power to drive positive change.
“His co-founders, partners, and the Sylvain community are committed to honoring his legacy and vision by continuing to grow a company that leverages the might of corporations for the greater good. One which cares for people beyond profits. And always will.”
Born and raised in New York, Sylvain was the son of Haitian immigrants as well as a middle child—two factors he often credited as driving his venture into entrepreneurship.
“When you’re raised by immigrants, there’s a real pressure and responsibility you have,” he said in an interview with Ad Age in 2017. “There’s a real burden to do something important, and there’s a lot of pressure for you to do that.”
After attending Vassar College and Columbia University, per his LinkedIn, Sylvain entered the advertising world, working as a strategist at Mother and then as a managing director at brand consultancy Redscout. He founded his own New York-based company, then known as Sylvain Labs, in 2010.
Self-styled as an innovation consultancy, the shop eschewed traditional agency roles, with its team functioning as a cohesive unit and winning clients such as PepsiCo, Verizon and Google. The agency was acquired last year by the Kyu Collective, a unit of the Japanese advertising holding company Hakuhodo.
Sylvain’s best-known work in recent years has included helping the WNBA revamp its revenue model, brand and marketing strategy; infusing social impact into Uber’s business strategy; and working with the Museum of Modern Art on audience strategy in the wake of the COVID pandemic.
Sylvain took home gold at Ad Age’s 2015 Small Agency Awards for the Northeast region. At the time, it had about 20 employees.
In the years since, the consultancy roughly tripled in size. It currently has more than 60 employees, according to its website, with additional offices in Amsterdam, Los Angeles and Richmond, Virginia. Now certified as a B-Corp, its client list has come to include Apple, Nike and American Express, among others.
In addition to leading his consultancy, Sylvain was an active philanthropist and speaker, giving multiple talks at business and creativity conferences around the world.
Sylvain was also a member of the New York City Mayor’s Creative Council since its establishment in 2019, and a founding member of Kindred, a community of top-level executives committed to advocating for diversity in their own organizations.
Sylvain is survived by his wife and three children.