Tech’s Most Unlikely Venture Capitalist

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In 1992 I was homeless in Silicon Valley.

Well, not homeless, exactly. I was working in a yogurt shop and had somehow convinced the owner of the shop to let me sleep, rent-free, in the attic above the store. Once, when I was letting myself in late at night, the police stopped me. They thought I was trying to rob the place.

I couldn’t blame them. I probably would have stopped me, too. But I was surviving.

A few months earlier, I had left my native Iran and landed in the United States with $700. I couldn’t speak English and knew handful of people in California. But I knew America stood for opportunity, and I was ready to seize it. I was also in love. In Tehran, I had fallen hard for a girl I grew up with. I spent the little money I had making phone calls halfway around the world. Soon I ran out of money.

In Tehran I had been a well-respected sports journalist — hosting the most popular sports radio show in Iran. But that didn’t carry any weight in America. I got a job at a car wash in San Jose and took English classes at a local community college. I went from the car wash to the yogurt shop.

Then one day, watching TV in my attic above the shop, I saw an ad for the Medallion Rug Gallery in Palo Alto. They were hiring salespeople.

Immediately, I picked up the phone. “Have you ever sold rugs?” the owner asked. No. “Have you ever sold furniture?” No. “Have you ever sold anything?” No. “Then what are you calling me for?”

Before he had a chance to hang up, I pleaded with him to give me a chance. “How can you say no to someone you haven’t even met?” I asked. There was a long pause. “Fine, come in,” he said. The next day, I went to see him. I got the job. And by the end of the week, I had moved out of the attic.

It was the beginning of my new life.

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