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From Rugs to Riches: The Story of Silicon Valley’s Most Unlikely VC
Pejman Nozad has dubbed himself “tech’s most unlikely venture capitalist.” His story is one of rags to riches. In 1992, Nozad arrived in the U.S. with only $700 to his name and with no ability to speak English. Today, he is a founding partner at Pear VC and his companies, collectively, are valued at more than $20 billion.
Shortly after arriving in the U.S., Pejman Nozad landed a job at Medallion Rug Gallery in Silicon Valley. The gallery sold Persian rugs. The rugs had a steep price tag – to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars apiece – and many of Pejman’s customers and prospects were affluent investors, among them top venture capitalists who worked nearby, on Sand Hill Road (Sequoia’s Doug Leone was an early customer).
In interacting with venture capitalists, Pejman quickly developed a passion for investing. He set out to find the next greatest entrepreneurs, investments, and business ideas. To this end, Nozad began hosting networking events at Medallion that brought together entrepreneurs and investors.
Among the earliest attendees were Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, who would go on to found Dropbox. Another attendee was Andy Rubin, who went on to create Android and sell it to Google. Pejman was among the first VCs to fund both Dropbox and Andy Rubin’s Danger.
Upon reflection, Pejman Nozad credits much of his success to being in the right place at the right time. Medallion was located on University Avenue, “the mecca of entrepreneurship.” Facebook, Google, Palantir, and Paypal all got their starts on this street. Being located on University Avenue rendered Pejman more likely to meet promising entrepreneurs.
Unfortunately, most investors today are not privy to comparable “serendipity.” The next biggest ideas are no longer concentrated on a single city street. Pejman is the first to admit that finding great entrepreneurs today is difficult. According to Nozad, truly great entrepreneurs are insanely focused and you won’t typically find top venture capital investments - or investors - “out in the real world” at conferences, parties, networking events, or the like. They are typically in full heads down mode.
Pejman Nozad knows that in order to find these individuals, he needs a strong network that provides key insight into up–and–coming entrepreneurs. Platforms such as Affinity have allowed Nozad to replicate the powerful physical networking environment he was able to create at Medallion, thereby increasing his odds of finding his next best investment.
Nozad initially met Affinity‘s co-founders, Shubham Goel and Ray Zhou, at Pear Venture’s “Garage” (aka Hacker House) in Palo Alto. Affinity’s co-founders camped out with Nozad and Pear Venture’s Mar Hershenson for almost a year before they came up with the idea for Affinity.
Despite the fact that Pejman Nozad was able to replicate a powerful physical networking muscle using Affinity, he never lost sight of the importance of in-person communication. The most effective networkers recognize the unparalleled value of meeting face-to-face. 95% of people say face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships.
When communicating virtually, facial expression, gestures, and body language is lost. These body cues are critical for developing a shared understanding, for building trust, and for building the types of strong relationships that are prerequisites to success in venture capital.
Watch Pejman Nozad interview with Jason Calacanis below: