The Real-Life Erlich Bachman
If you’ve seen the HBO show Silicon Valley, you know that the characters are loosely based on real Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Peter Gregory is PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel. Gavin Belson is a mixture of the two Google founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
But what about Erlich Bachman — the lovable, obnoxious, politically incorrect entrepreneur who runs a house that serves as an incubator for aspiring techies?
After months of research, we’ve found the man who’s rumored to be the influence for Bachman.
Yes, you read that correctly… we found the real-life Erlich Bachman.
The Deadhead Tech Nerd
Dave Grossblatt is the 43 year-old owner of Founder’s Dojo, a free incubator in San Francisco for young, wayward startup founders.
Dave, like Bachman, is loud, opinionated, hilariously unfashionable, and at times, wildly inappropriate. He’s more doofus than douchey, but it’s understandable why he’s been called the latter.
However, like Bachman, Dave passionately cares for the people around him and is easy to love.
Dave’s Eureka Moment
After graduating from law school in the ‘90s, Dave moved from the Midwest to San Francisco to become a legal recruiter and experience the culture that helped create his favorite band: the Grateful Dead. After two miserable years, he quit his job in the legal world and started his own business, an online marketplace for home services.
“I had a real job for about two years, and that tie was like a noose to me. Everyday I put that thing on I was like ‘These fuckers are hanging me.’”
Unlike a lot of ambitious startup founders who want to get rich and conquer the world, Dave started his business for one reason: freedom.
Before leaving his job and starting his business, Dave had a conversation with his co-founder that outlined his new view on life:
“It was a Tuesday morning, and we were walking around Lake Merritt in Oakland. And I said to [my business partner], ‘Man, if all I ever get out of this thing is that on any Tuesday morning I can walk around Lake Merritt, I’m gonna call this a win.’”
As his business grew into seven figures, Dave moved out of his home office in 2007 and rented a 1,500 square foot vacancy in downtown San Francisco, the epicenter of the startup world. Because his team of eight was distributed across the country, Dave let other internet entrepreneurs use the office’s extra space rent-free. The office became known as the Founder’s Dojo.
Neverland’s Strip Club
Over the years, the Founder’s Dojo has become Neverland for 20-something, anti-establishment computer geeks (or as Dave calls it, Neverland’s strip club). Since 2007 Dave has given free office space to over 200 early-stage founders who couldn’t afford rent.
But there’s rebellious energy within the Dojo that’s unlike any other shared workspace you’ve ever seen. When compared to the typical startup entrepreneur, the members of the Founder’s Dojo aren’t black sheep, they’re goats. But Dave likes it that way, and it works.
As Dave puts it, most of the people who work out of the Dojo are “talented non-conformist computer dudes on the verge of homelessness, vacillating between genius and madness. They just can’t drink the Kool-Aid. For them the idea of working at Google and making a $150k salary is a tiny step ahead of committing ritual suicide.”
And so, without further ado, I give to you Dave Grossblatt: The Real Life Erlich Bachman.
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