Moving to a new country, a new culture, is taking a big risk. However, just taking that risk alone puts you ahead of someone who is not willing to take the same risk.
A lot of non-traditional businesses can become successful because they know how to use technology to improve or optimize the business. Technology can lead a non-technology business to having less limitations and not be restricted by market conditions or geography.
Is the American Dream still alive? If you speak to many of the immigrants we spoke to, who came to this country with nothing but grit, resilience, and a dream, they will tell you that it certainly is still alive.
As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rahim Amidi.
Rahim is a technology investor, serial entrepreneur, and seasoned executive with over 35 years of experience in early-stage venture capital, as well as commercial real estate development and management.
With a deep network in Silicon Valley and Los Angeles, Rahim has been a successful investor in early-stage startups since 1998. Rahim is an early-stage investor in PayPal (NASDAQ: PYPL), DropBox (NASDAQ: DBX), Genapsys, CourseHero, ApplyBoard, Guardant Health (NASDAQ: GH), SoundHound, Vudu (Acquired by Walmart), IntegenX (acquired by Thermo Fisher Scientific), Camstar (Acquired by Siemens), Quantenna Communications (Acquired by ON Semiconductor), Aquantia (Acquired by Marvell Technology), CyberFlow Analytics (acquired by Webroot), NextBio, Surkus, Tenor (Acquired by Google), and The Bouqs Company.
Rahim co-founded the Amidi Group in 1980, a conglomerate of privately-held business enterprises consisting of several domestic and international entities with significant manufacturing, distribution, trading, retail, and real estate holdings. For the past 35 years, he has chaired and spearheaded the operations and management of a number of the Amidi Group entities, growing the aggregate value of its assets under management to over 2 billion dollars.
Rahim is an active member of the technology community and a frequent contributor to numerous charitable foundations.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell a story?
My brother Saeed and I are technology investors, serial entrepreneurs, and seasoned executives with over 35 years of experience in early-stage venture capital, as well as commercial real estate development and management.
Together, we co-founded the Amidi Group (www.amidigroup.com) in 1980, a conglomerate of privately-held business enterprises consisting of several domestic and international entities with significant manufacturing, distribution, trading, retail, and real estate holdings. For the past 35 years, we have chaired and spearheaded the operations and management of a number of the Amidi Group entities, growing the aggregate value of its assets under management to over 2 billion dollars. However, our American Dream success story started decades ago.
Originally from Iran, our family has been manufacturing and distributing shoes, textiles, pharmaceutical products, bottled water and plastic products since 1964. In the mid 1970s, my brother and I moved to the U.S. By the end of the decade, we founded American Liquid Packaging Systems, Inc. (ALPS), Chemtex, and Polytex Corporation. Headquartered in California, ALPS provides bottled water in homes and offices, internationally, and is currently the largest water packaging and distributor in Spain. Chemtex, also headquartered in California, is a distributor of raw plastic resin materials whose principal suppliers include Exxon Mobile, Dow Chemicals, Formosa, Washington Pen, and Pinnacle. Polytex Corporation (dba Medallion Rug Gallery — www.medallionrug.com ) imports and sells high quality handmade rugs from all over the world including India, China, Pakistan, and, of course, Iran.
In December of 1986, we began expanding our real estate portfolio and purchased an office building located at 165 University Avenue in Palo Alto, California. Over the years the office building would become home to many notable tenants including: Google, PayPal, and Logitech; making my brother and I landlords to the launch of some of today’s most successful technology companies.
From there we are continuing to expand our real estate portfolio. In 2001, we opened the first location of the Hollywood Production Center (www.hollywoodpc.com ) which now has multiple locations throughout Hollywood, Glendale, and Burbank, including the iconic Gower Street in the heart of Hollywood. HPC is a community of leading entertainment and media businesses and professionals; providing real estate services to Hollywood’s most prestigious film studios. Famous tenants include: Warner Brothers, Walt Disney, MTV, GSN, VH1, Paramount, NBC, Syfy, Fox, ABC, E!, BET Networks, Netflix, Cartoon Network, Youtube, Facebook, Hulu, and Amazon Studios.
Another milestone in our careers happened in October 2002 when PayPal, one of my early technology investments, was acquired by Ebay. This would not be the last major exit we would experience, as we continued to become more rooted in the technology investment ecosystem in both Silicon Valley and abroad. Our passion for investing in technology companies led us to open the headquarter campus of Plug and Play in Sunnyvale, California in 2006. Plug and Play (www.plugandplaytechcenter.com ) is a global innovation platform that connects the best startup companies to the biggest corporations in the world. It includes industry-themed accelerator programs, corporate innovation services, and an in-house venture capital team designed to make technological advancement progress faster than ever before.
A few years later, in July of 2008, the first TENTEN Community (TENTEN Wilshire — www.1010wilshire.com ) would open in downtown Los Angeles, California. TENTEN Communities are master-planned for the comprehensive and demanding lifestyles of today’s entrepreneurs and business professionals. TENTEN combines the best attributes of luxuriously furnished, full-service apartments, executives suite offices, and resort hotels to create the quintessential Live-Work-Play environment.
Lending Club, DropBox, and Honey- all companies from my brother and my investment portfolio- would generate massive returns over the next few years. Lending Club and Dropbox would have successful IPOs in December 2014 and March 2018, respectively. Honey would be acquired by Paypal in November 2019.Most recently, in November 2020, Facebook announced it acquired Kustomer, another Amidi portfolio company, for 1 Billion dollars.
Today, we continue to experience exponential growth both domestically and internationally of the Amidi Group brand.
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?
We immigrated to America as students because of the Iranian Revolution in the late 1970’s and the political unrest of the country. Naturally, there was a lot of uncertainty and risk.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story? So how are things going today?
Since, we moved here as a family, and had each other’s support, the transition was easier.
Today, Amidi’s Plug and Play brand has a footprint in 14 countries and has invested in over 1,200 companies (220 investments in 2019 alone). Hollywood Production Center has multiple US locations. Expanding on the success of TENTEN Wilshire, TENTEN has an additional 1,000,000 square feet of real estate projects currently in its pipeline. The growth includes the expansion of the TENTEN Wilshire Community with an additional 376 live/work units adjacent to the existing property at 1027 Wilshire BLVD. The expansion will also include the largest garden rooftop in all of California (88,000 SQ FT with 400+ mature trees), and additional amenities like: a grand restaurant and bar with 2,000+ SQ FT of outdoor balcony/patio dining space, an expansive and flexible event venue space, a coffee shop with outdoor balcony/patio seating, theater room, spa and fitness area, executive suites, business center, and multimedia conference/meeting rooms. It will be a destination for local residents to find community and opportunity.
The combination of Amidi’s global activities will ensure to maintain our company’s position as a leading world innovator in technology, real estate community development, and expand on my brother and I being living proof of an American Success Story.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Generally speaking, helping entrepreneurs to achieve their dreams is my favorite way of giving back. I enjoy supporting them and sharing my resources with them. Connecting them to corporate partners or the venture capital community are examples of things that are very difficult for entrepreneurs to do on their own, or do efficiently. They may be young, new, or not have all the resources and connections and I enjoy sharing that and creating new opportunities for them.
You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you change to improve the system?
Over the last 40 years we’ve seen immigration policies change because of politics that are internal to the US. I believe we would benefit by a more stable and long-term oriented immigration infrastructure and policies that are less susceptible to constant changes with every new administration. A more consistent US immigration policy would alleviate significant uncertainty for potential immigrants. The US is build on the talents of immigrants. We do not want to deter talented immigrants from coming simply because there is uncertainty with how policies may change after they migrate here.
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
- Moving to a new country, a new culture, is taking a big risk. However, just taking that risk alone puts you ahead of someone who is not willing to take the same risk.
- As soon as someone decides to be an entrepreneur they should know that they are accepting anything but a 9 to 5 job. They must be willing to go through new experiences. Once you accept that, the journey elevates you and puts you in a new category for the rest of your life.
- You have to be a team player and put yourself in situations where you are learning from others.
- You must be willing to change and adapt to new things and/or new ways of doing things to stay competitive. 30–40 years ago it would take a significant amount of time to simply do the research in order to make an important decision. Today, decisions have to be made quickly due to the universal accessibility of information. So, you now have more choices and therefore decision making may be more complex. However, overall things are easier because we also have access to more opportunities than ever before.
- A lot of non-traditional businesses can become successful because they know how to use technology to improve or optimize the business. Technology can lead a non-technology business to having less limitations and not be restricted by market conditions or geography.
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?
The US needs to realize its unique position, globally. To maintain this position, our actions and our leaders have to better represent that global marketplace. Our politicians should have greater international experience. Historically, the US has been made special by the people taking the massive risks associated with coming here. The fact that the US attracts these people is what makes this country great. It also creates the diversity that makes us, as a nation, unique, resourceful, and successful.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Warren Buffett. He’s not just a rich person, and he didn’t become rich by accident. Yet, he’s always maintained his humility and “normalcy.” I like to learn from him on not just becoming rich, but also how he has always remained humble and normal.
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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!