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A single-story house, painted white, with a red brick chimney and white garage.
The home and garage where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple.
Photo by AP Photo/Dino Vournas

Where the Bay Area’s biggest tech companies got their starts

See the ramshackle garages and tiny apartments where Apple, Facebook, and Uber began

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The home and garage where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple.
| Photo by AP Photo/Dino Vournas

Let's take a trip down memory lane and the hallowed halls of Silicon Valley history for the greatest micro tradition of them all: The humble origins of the Bay Area startup.

The "humble beginnings in a garage" narrative is one of the great foundation myths of Silicon Valley. But it's not all just marketing talk—a great many of the region's biggest companies really did begin in apartments, garages, hotels, and refrigerator-sized offices in obscure buildings little more than four walls and a door before growing up to take over huge swaths of iconic real estate.

Here's our survey a few of the structural saplings from which impressive, multi-billion dollar trees have grown.

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Salesforce

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Soon, Salesforce will occupy nearly an entire SoMa intersection with three separate offices, one of them of course being the sky-high obelisk, Salesforce Tower. But back in 1999, founder Marc Benioff and his three employees worked out of an apartment on Telegraph Hill, right next to Benioff's own home.

"We didn't have furniture, so we used card tables and folding chairs," Benioff writes in his book about the company founding, Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Salesforce.com Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company-and Revolutionized an Industry.

Note that units in this same Telegraph Hill cluster sold for $6.5 million in 2018.

Image via Google Street Maps

Twitter

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These days the phrase "Twitter building" evokes not just an address but a lengthy catalog of associations about San Francisco, the tech industry, the housing market, and, for certain people, proletarian rage.

But before they struck the defining real estate deal of modern startup culture, Twitter worked out of a single small office in the Obvious Ventures building in the Presidio. Who knew?

Photo via Wikicommons

Back in 2009, future Uber CEO ubermensch Travis Kalanick was living in a house on 16th Street he nicknamed the "JamPad," where he'd invite tech entrepreneur types to hang out, crash, barbecue, play video games, and pitch ideas. And it was here that "Uber Cab" first manifested as a tangible idea.

Less than a decade later, all hell broke loose.

Photo via Google Street Maps

A hat trick for Silicon Valley garages, as Sergey Brin and Larry Page also put heads together in a carport in Menlo Park, rented from a future Google employee who in those days was just looking for some extra money to cover her mortgage.

Google, of course, is now as famous for its Willy Wonka-style office complex as its search engine. Tourists are so fond of photographing the place that the company asked the press to stop publishing the address. Problem is, people keep finding it on their own, via Google. Hoist by their own petard; oldest story in the book.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Hewlett-Packard

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Of course, Apple's founding Steves knew that they weren't the first would-be computing giants to take the garage path to success. David Packard and Bill Hewlett put together their first machine in a barn-like garage next to the Palo Alto house where Packard and his wife rented rooms for $45/month. Mind you, this was back in 1938.

Hewlett-Packard bought up the old place in 2000, preserving it as a museum of not only their own origins, but those of Silicon Valley as a whole. It's also a registered California landmark.

Image via Google Street Views

Facebook

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Thanks to the Academy Award-winning movie The Social Network, everybody knows that Mark Zuckerberg took Facebook to a summer house in Palo Alto after Harvard (and also that he was mean to his college girlfriend). It looks like the house has subsequently shrank from fame, hiding behind a wall of overgrowth, but it still hosts startups for the summer.

Photo via Wikicommons

Is there any Silicon Valley success story more iconic than the storied founding of Apple in a mere garage in Los Altos?

The founding Steves (Wozniak and Jobs) assembled the first Apple I board in a carport workshop in 1976. A far cry from the Norman Foster-designed UFO that landed this year.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Auction outfit eBay (then called AuctionWeb) started up in founder Pierre Omidyar's living room in San Jose in 1995. It's first proper office to speak of, though, was a small suite on Hamilton Avenue. And they're still there—they've just branched out a bit.

The old office is now known as "building number six" on the eBay campus. Rumor has long held that Omidyar founded eBay to help his wife with her Pez dispenser collection. But the company now says this is a myth; which is a shame, since few things have as much micro appeal as Pez.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Netflix

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Point number one, Silicon Valley's favorite movie deliverers/streamers/makers started out not in Silicon Valley, but closer to Santa Cruz. Point number two, a company founded on the principle of delivering movies to your home started out with no home of its own, operating out of a Best Western hotel room. Room service might not be a bad amenity for present SV HQs to emulate.

Photo via Wikicommons

Salesforce

Soon, Salesforce will occupy nearly an entire SoMa intersection with three separate offices, one of them of course being the sky-high obelisk, Salesforce Tower. But back in 1999, founder Marc Benioff and his three employees worked out of an apartment on Telegraph Hill, right next to Benioff's own home.

"We didn't have furniture, so we used card tables and folding chairs," Benioff writes in his book about the company founding, Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Salesforce.com Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company-and Revolutionized an Industry.

Note that units in this same Telegraph Hill cluster sold for $6.5 million in 2018.

Image via Google Street Maps

Twitter

These days the phrase "Twitter building" evokes not just an address but a lengthy catalog of associations about San Francisco, the tech industry, the housing market, and, for certain people, proletarian rage.

But before they struck the defining real estate deal of modern startup culture, Twitter worked out of a single small office in the Obvious Ventures building in the Presidio. Who knew?

Photo via Wikicommons

Uber

Back in 2009, future Uber CEO ubermensch Travis Kalanick was living in a house on 16th Street he nicknamed the "JamPad," where he'd invite tech entrepreneur types to hang out, crash, barbecue, play video games, and pitch ideas. And it was here that "Uber Cab" first manifested as a tangible idea.

Less than a decade later, all hell broke loose.

Photo via Google Street Maps

Google

A hat trick for Silicon Valley garages, as Sergey Brin and Larry Page also put heads together in a carport in Menlo Park, rented from a future Google employee who in those days was just looking for some extra money to cover her mortgage.

Google, of course, is now as famous for its Willy Wonka-style office complex as its search engine. Tourists are so fond of photographing the place that the company asked the press to stop publishing the address. Problem is, people keep finding it on their own, via Google. Hoist by their own petard; oldest story in the book.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Hewlett-Packard

Of course, Apple's founding Steves knew that they weren't the first would-be computing giants to take the garage path to success. David Packard and Bill Hewlett put together their first machine in a barn-like garage next to the Palo Alto house where Packard and his wife rented rooms for $45/month. Mind you, this was back in 1938.

Hewlett-Packard bought up the old place in 2000, preserving it as a museum of not only their own origins, but those of Silicon Valley as a whole. It's also a registered California landmark.

Image via Google Street Views

Facebook

Thanks to the Academy Award-winning movie The Social Network, everybody knows that Mark Zuckerberg took Facebook to a summer house in Palo Alto after Harvard (and also that he was mean to his college girlfriend). It looks like the house has subsequently shrank from fame, hiding behind a wall of overgrowth, but it still hosts startups for the summer.

Photo via Wikicommons

Apple

Is there any Silicon Valley success story more iconic than the storied founding of Apple in a mere garage in Los Altos?

The founding Steves (Wozniak and Jobs) assembled the first Apple I board in a carport workshop in 1976. A far cry from the Norman Foster-designed UFO that landed this year.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

eBay

Auction outfit eBay (then called AuctionWeb) started up in founder Pierre Omidyar's living room in San Jose in 1995. It's first proper office to speak of, though, was a small suite on Hamilton Avenue. And they're still there—they've just branched out a bit.

The old office is now known as "building number six" on the eBay campus. Rumor has long held that Omidyar founded eBay to help his wife with her Pez dispenser collection. But the company now says this is a myth; which is a shame, since few things have as much micro appeal as Pez.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Netflix

Point number one, Silicon Valley's favorite movie deliverers/streamers/makers started out not in Silicon Valley, but closer to Santa Cruz. Point number two, a company founded on the principle of delivering movies to your home started out with no home of its own, operating out of a Best Western hotel room. Room service might not be a bad amenity for present SV HQs to emulate.

Photo via Wikicommons