From early-stage venture capital investing to commercial real estate (CRE) development and manufacturing, Rahim Amidi is involved in a wide variety of business ventures. He co-founded the Amidi Group in 1980, and the international conglomerate of privately held real estate, manufacturing, distribution, trading, and retail businesses currently holds more than a million square feet of real estate and over $2 billion in assets under management.
He recently sat down with Millionacres to talk about how it all began and share his thoughts on everything from making connections and spotting promising investment opportunities to working with family and the future of CRE.
You’re involved in several different lines of business at the Amidi Group, from real estate to tech to manufacturing. Can you tell us a little about what you do there and how these businesses go together or overlap?
We never planned to get involved in all of the highly diversified businesses we are in. It all started with our handmade rug business in Palo Alto, California, over 40 years ago, then we expanded into other industries, including raw materials, exporting overseas, to starting with real estate by taking over a few small offices in Palo Alto.
Real estate development led us to work with tech entrepreneurs who were working on exciting start-up companies. Our business evolved organically. One business activity led to other opportunities. Naturally, synergies also develop over time as well between businesses, industries, etc. It is for this reason that if you asked me today, I would not be able to tell you where we will be in five years.
Please tell our readers more about the role a little rug shop has played in all this.
The Medallion Rug Gallery imports and sells high-quality handmade rugs from all over the world, including India, China, Pakistan, and Iran. This was one of my first businesses when I immigrated from Iran. The rug gallery was our first original business in the U.S. after the Iranian Revolution in 1979 forced our family to relocate. Since handmade rugs are luxury items, the business connected us with successful people. Being located in Silicon Valley, those people were predominantly rooted in the tech industry, which started our story.
Is venture capital investing as exciting as it sounds? What do you think people would find most interesting or surprising about it?
For us, it is interesting and exciting because it affords us the opportunity to learn about many businesses, which otherwise we would know nothing about. Also, what took some entrepreneurs years to gain the expertise and insights of a specific industry, you get to learn about in 30 minutes. It is also exciting to meet people who are so passionate about a venture that they are willing to risk everything to pursue it. None of this has anything to do with the financial returns of venture capital; it’s the entrepreneurial journey. The financial rewards are just one of the steps in that journey.
You’ve been an early-stage investor in a number of companies that have gone on to become household names. What is it about certain companies, products, or ideas that tells you they’re special?
Mainly, I notice how passionate the founding team is about their company, their industry, and their approach. When getting pitched, energy is contagious.
You’ve written that you see all-inclusive properties — live-work-play — becoming a leading trend in a post-pandemic world. Can you tell us more about that and whether you see many developers actively embracing that trend?
Yes, we think within the real estate industry, there are different product offerings — office, apartments, hotels, etc. — we think this category of live-work-play in the community of professionals, which allows them to do everything under one roof and not travel, we think of it as a new product within the real estate industry. A lot of today’s professionals across various industries and functions can basically do their job from their home. Combining these together, we believe, is the future of real estate, as this product will become more recognizable as an industry opportunity.
Investing locally and helping other entrepreneurs achieve their dreams is important to you. Were there any special people along the way who helped you achieve your dreams? If so, could you tell us a bit about that experience and how it’s impacted you and your work?
Definitely, there have been many people who have influenced us, and me personally, in various businesses, which we are involved in today. Investing in early-stage tech, or investing in real estate, and looking at real estate from a repositioning perspective that allows us to build a new business within that real estate happened because we were always exposing ourselves to people who were innovative and desired to make an impact. Learning to look at things in a different way has been very impactful, for us and me personally.
Some people feel family or friends and business don’t mix, but it’s hard to argue with the success you and your brother, Saeed, have had together. And I understand the younger generation has joined you in your work at the Amidi Group as well. Could you tell us a bit about your experience working with family and share any advice you might have for anyone considering going into business with friends or family?
Yes, it’s true when you do business with any partner, it has its own challenges. But, when you do it with family or friends, it is even more challenging because there is a layer of emotion and interpersonal relationships added. You have to be able to respect each other as business partners and divide responsibilities and have the freedom to make decisions and execute. If you believe in your partners’ abilities, it doesn’t matter whether you are friends, family, or not.
What have you learned along the way about business or investing that you most wish you knew when you were just getting started?
I wish I was more educated on the different fields of the businesses before becoming involved.
How has the pandemic changed your businesses? Have you found any of these changes, good or bad, particularly surprising?
At TENTEN, because we are built and have been operating as a true live-work community since 2008, we are seeing more interest in people considering to live and work under one roof with other professional people like themselves as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has forced us into a remote working culture.
It’s too early to say, but we know we are experiencing the “bad” part of the pandemic. But, I also believe there will be a lot of changes in the business world, which, years down the road, we will realize that the pandemic was the cause of. We’ll find good things this pandemic led us to in the future.
There’s a great deal of uncertainty about what the future holds, perhaps more now than ever in our lifetimes. Do you have any advice for readers who may be ready to start a business or get started investing but aren’t sure if now’s a good time? What should they consider when making those decisions?
It’s hard to time the market; when is the best time to invest and when is the best time to exit. You have to have a long-term, at least 10 years, commitment to any business you are in. You have to stay active every day in those businesses and not worry about trying to “time” the market.
We’re the Motley Fool, so we like to ask one ‘Foolish’ question: If you had to change course and go into an entirely different line of work, anything you can imagine, what do you think you’d like to do?
I don’t know. The possibilities are endless.
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