Billions Of Dollars In Wealth Were Created At This Silicon Valley Cafe

Buck's owner

Photo: Boonsri Dickinson, Business Insider

We walked into Buck’s Restaurant yesterday and felt like we entered a set in a movie about Silicon Valley deal makers. Everyone in the Valley has eaten at Buck’s in Woodside, California at some point. In fact, the only local hot shot entrepreneur who never stepped foot in here was Steve Jobs, said Jamis MacNiven, the owner of Buck’s.

MacNiven told us why: He used to be Jobs’ builder. Jobs wanted a level of quality that MacNiven was never able to deliver, so the relationship didn’t last.

MacNiven got tired of the grind of working in construction, so he decided to build his own restaurant. He now has five restaurants, scattered throughout Silicon Valley. But none have the history of Buck’s.

To the untrained eye, the decorations can look a bit random and the place can feel like a tourist attraction. The walls contain collections of MacNiven’s travels around the world to far-flung places like Russia, Scandinavia, and Fuji. But not Mexico: “I like to go places where the food and water aren’t poisonous,” MacNiven said. 

MacNiven gave us a tour of the deals that went down here, table by table.

Don't judge a book by its cover. This place is more than meets the eye.

This is the main room.

Famed VC Bill Draper told us how he met Jerry Yang here at Buck's. Draper was introducing Yang to his son, Tim Draper. Tim pursued the investment, but Yahoo picked Sequoia for a $1 million round, making it a deal that got away from the Draper clan.

This table is where PayPal was funded. Elon Musk sat here. The full story is a bit more complicated than that, but that's the gist anyway.

This is table 48. MacNiven said he met the president of France here, as well as Shimon Peres, the president of Israel. This is also the table where Marc Andreessen first met John Doerr to get funding for Netscape.

Hotmail was founded at this table. Steve Jurvetson and Sabeer Bhatia sat here with a simple idea: free email with an advertising tag.

This is where Telsa had their first meetings.

MacNiven takes a moment to talk to his wife, Margaret. MacNiven founded the restaurant in 1991.

There's all this random stuff everywhere. It's what gives Buck's its character.

MacNiven introduces us to his accountant. Yes, this is his actual office. MacNiven said Buck's was the first place in the nation to offer a public Wi-Fi hot spot.

Back in the dot-com boom, somebody wanted to put live TV on laptops, but customers weren't interested. The dish they installed is still there. See it?

Here is Woody, a carved wooden fish at the front of the parking lot. People used to lurk in the parking lot with photographs of venture capitalists and leap on them as they went out.

We stopped by Buck's before, but also went to these iconic places as well.

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