[FoRK] The building *next door* to CommerceNet...

Rohit Khare < khare at alumni.caltech.edu > on > Sun Mar 12 17:17:52 PST 2006

though the outcome of dipsie recently cited this article to suggest  
the bloom may be off this particular rose :)


A building blessed with tech success
By Ian Fried

Story last modified Fri Oct 04 13:24:25 PDT 2002

PALO ALTO, Calif.--Maybe it's the location, maybe it's the water,  
maybe it's just good karma, but there's something about the building  
at 165 University Ave. that seems to breed successful tech companies.
The structure, which until recently housed handheld device maker  
Danger, was also home to Google, PayPal and Logitech during their  
formative years.

Google's search engine has become one of the most popular ways of  
finding things on the Internet. Logitech's computer mice have held  
their own against products from industry giant Microsoft. And PayPal  
rode its online-currency idea to an initial public offering last  
February and was recently snapped up by online auction giant eBay.

Located along a bustling shopping corridor not far from Stanford  
University, the building itself is rather modest. It has a retail  
storefront--currently occupied by T-Mobile, the first wireless  
carrier to sell Danger's handheld device--and about 5,000 feet of  
office space upstairs. That space is typically divided among three  
companies (but as the start-ups grow, they sometimes take over the  
whole floor--as Danger and PayPal eventually did).

Still, though it climbs no higher than two stories and is painted a  
beige that's anything but distinctive, the structure apparently holds  
something special.

"There is just great charisma about the building," said Pejman Nozad,  
whose business partner Rahim Amidi owns the space.

PayPal's senior vice president of corporate development, Jack Selby,  

"We've now had four places, and I would say that was the best," Selby  
said. That's a nice compliment from a man who, because of space  
restrictions, was forced to set up his office in a closet that had  
formerly housed the company's fridge.

At its peak there, PayPal had about 55 people in the building, Selby  
recalled. In spite of limited space, or perhaps because of it, the  
building let employees easily mix and mingle. That wasn't the only  
selling point, however.

The location along one of Palo Alto's main streets was also  
particularly convenient, Selby said, with the numerous restaurants  
that line University Avenue providing speedy refueling options for  
engineers pulling long hours.

"It gave them no excuse to disappear for a two-hour lunch," Selby said.

In addition to his role as landlord, Amidi has also been a financial  
backer of several of the building's tenants, including Danger and  
PayPal. He has done so through Amidzad, an investment company he set  
up with his brother Saeed and with Nozad.

Amidi didn't start out looking to be a tech investor. In 1976, he  
left Iran to study in the United States. When the Shah was overthrown  
three years later, Amidi decided to stay in this country, eventually  
bringing over his family, who had been business owners in Iran.

Initially, the family invested in real estate and bottled water.  
Amidi bought the 165 University Ave. building about 14 years ago,  
with Logitech being one of the first technology tenants.

Then came Google, PayPal and Danger.

Google even left behind a sign with its colorful logo, which PayPal  
then left for the next tenant. "Somebody in our office has it," said  
Danger co-founder Matt Hershenson.

At some point along the way, Amidi decided to set up Amidzad. The  
small company focuses on providing early-stage funding to tech  

Although Amidi has found himself working closer and closer with the  
companies, he acknowledges that neither he nor his partners are techies.

"Since we are not technologists," partner Nozad added, "we surround  
ourselves with people who are."

Amidzad is also not a large investor. Using its own money, the  
company invests anywhere from $25,000 to $1 million in companies,  
with most of the investment made in the earliest stages of a  
company's life.

PayPal stumbled on Amidi and Amidzad when the company was looking for  
office space on University Avenue in 1999.

"They were one of very few people that had space," Selby said.

Amidi's position as a major landlord along University Avenue gives  
him a good view to spot up-and-coming companies in which to invest.

Amidzad's track record of investments isn't bad. Nozad said that of  
the 20 or so ventures in which his company has invested, two have  
gone public and just two have closed their doors. Amidzad also counts  
several large private companies among its portfolio. The company is  
an investor in auctioneer DoveBid, which this week again delayed  
plans for an IPO.

Other companies have used University Avenue as a launching pad as  
well. Kleiner Perkins leased a couple of suites at 101 University  
Ave. that served as the starting points for companies such as  
broadband provider At Home.

As for Danger, it has now moved on to more spacious digs across the  
street. Amidi said he's not bothered; it just leaves room for the  
next start-up.

"If you know someone who is the next Danger or Google or PayPal,"  
Amidi said, "let me know."

Dipsie shuts, already. Has the luck gone at 165 University?
Just three months after launching, Dipsie, the company that was much  
anticipated last year, and which helped Web site owners reveal  
content that was stuck in the "deep web," has pretty much shut down.  
Chief executive Jason Weiner resigned unexpectedly just before the  
holidays. We wrote about them here.

This company was at 165 University Ave, where Google, PayPal and  
others went before and which was supposed to be the valley's luckiest  
spot. Even the landlord, through his Amidzad fund, was an investor.  
(Update: We bumped into Jason last night at Techcrunch party, and it  
turns out Amidzad had an option to invest, but didn't exercise it --  
something we just confirmed with Amidzad's Pejman Nozad. Mistake is  
ours, based on a misunderstanding of a conversation we had with Nozad  
a few months ago). And they'd raised $3 million from SVIC, which was  
supposedly enough until middle of this year. So perhaps they didn't  
run out of money. We didn't get much info from the former press  
relations person, but sometimes the right decision is to make the  
tough decision to close shop early and go home. In fact, that is the  
beauty of these times. Starting another company is cheap.

Posted by Matt Marshall on February 17, 2006 11:21 AM

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