Welcome To The Small California Town Where Billion-Dollar Dreams Are Made

Palo Alto

Photo: Owen Thomas, Business Insider

If Silicon Valley has a street of dreams, it’s University Avenue in Palo Alto.Just across the train tracks from Stanford University, Palo Alto is the first stop for startup schemers.

Google got its start on University Avenue. So did PayPal. After Mark Zuckerberg moved Facebook out his dorm room, he set up shop in Palo Alto.

Tech moguls call Palo Alto home, too—Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google CEO Larry Page, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg all live there.

The only downside of Palo Alto’s leafy streets and sunny clime: Space is tight. Pinterest, looking for more office space, moved to San Francisco. Quora is heading south to Mountain View. Palantir, a secretive startup which serves the CIA and FBI, among other customers, is grabbing all the space it can in downtown Palo Alto, and other companies complain it’s squeezing them out.

Palo Alto is centered around the Caltrain station. The commuter-rail line runs between San Francisco and San Jose. Palo Alto is almost the halfway point—a little closer to San Jose.

Here's your first glimpse of University Avenue—a tree-lined, pedestrian-friendly oasis among Silicon Valley's office parks and freeways.

Start with breakfast at the Palo Alto Creamery—no relation to the equally famous Creamery in San Francisco. This is more of a diner—a good place for eggs and bacon.

Buzzy data analytics company Palantir's headquarters. The startup is spread out across several buildings. You'll often see Palantir employees walking around in polo shirts with the company logo.

This used to be the home of Facebook. Now 156 University is occupied by Palantir.

165 University is the lucky building where Google and PayPal got their start. (Sean Parker tried to get Facebook into this building, but couldn't.) Shazam, the music-recognition startup, has its Silicon Valley office here now.

The Amidi family which owns 165 University Avenue also runs the Medallion Rug Gallery. They've made big bucks off of investing in the startups they house.

Time for coffee! Coupa Cafe is the hippest coffee shop in Palo Alto.

The University Cafe's a solid choice for a meeting spot.

La Boulange on University Avenue. Starbucks just bought this local chain of bakeries, in part for their prime locations.

Accel Partners has an entrepreneur-friendly location in downtown Palo Alto. Most VCs are in remote office parks on Sand Hill Road.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt's TomorrowVentures has a nondescript front door.

See it? Right under Geico.

The Rose & Crown is a famous bar tucked away behind a parking lot. Facebookers put up the pirate flag, we're told.

Time to head back! It's amazing how many tech institutions got their start here.

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