[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
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
"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
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
"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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