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meet our founder

payam zamani

Payam will be hosting a series of readings and book signings for the June 18th release of his memior.
Crossing the Desert book
latest from payam
booking payam

Creating new realities in business by embracing spiritual capitalism

After many years as an entrepreneur and investor, I’m driven to create new realities in the business world. It’s time to expand our measures of success beyond solely financial.

By considering the impact of our work, I believe we can add a layer of meaning to our professional lives. If we blur the line between for-profit and non-profit, we will build better Ƶ, better products and better societies. This version of “spiritual capitalism” will create more valuable and more profitable businesses and will elevate our everyday work to the service of humanity. This is what brings joy to me and, I hope, to those I get to work with.

My goal is to invest in visionary entrepreneurs, operate innovative Ƶ and collaborate with like-minded professionals that share these principles and are committed to transforming the business world for the betterment of humanity. I would love to hear from you.

dive in

Part personal memoir, part business inspiration, my book is now available wherever books are sold.
Crossing the Desert book
from refugee to investor:

payam's story

Ƶ Group was founded in 2015, but my story begins much before that.

Payam as a child in Iran

1971

Payam was born to a family of devout Baha'is in Tehran, Iran. The third child of the family of five, his childhood was warm and loving despite the family often being put at odds with the neighbors in the Muslim-majority country.

1979

When Payam was eight years old, Iran’s monarchy was overthrown by the Islamic Republic. With this new authoritarian regime, the rights of many were immediately stripped affecting women and members of minority political parties and religions most aggressively.
After the revolution, Baha’is were stripped of , fired from government jobs, expelled from schools, openly kidnapped, tortured, and murdered.
Between 1979 - 1987 tens of thousands of Baha’is fled Iran.
Payam and family in Iran
Dasht-e Lut desert

1987

In the summer of 1987, Payam fled to Pakistan. Following his brother and sister (who had fled the year prior, Payam’s parents gave what remained of their savings and handed over their sixteen year-old son to smugglers.
The way to Pakistan from Tehran, is directly through Dasht-e Lut, also known as the Emptiness Desert. Consistently one of the hottest places on earth, nothing grows in this barren dryland stretching for 20,000 square miles. It is populated only by salt, sand, and rock, with temperatures routinely hitting 159 degrees Fahrenheit. 
Through the combination of a truck, motorcycle, bus, an extended walk on foot, and a gunfight, Payam eventually arrived in Quetta, Pakistan. 

1988

On June 20, 1988, Payam and his brother arrived in San Francisco. They had $75 between the two of them.
Payam was 17, far from his parents, his culture, and did not speak the language. 
Payam's arrival in California
Autoweb launch

1994

In 1994, Payam graduated from UC Davis with a degree in environmental toxicology.
That November, he and his brother had launched their first business, Autoweb. The idea was simple. Connect customers with the car of their dreams without having to leave their home. The internet was very new at this time and the concept was novel -- this was one of the first marriages of the automobile industry and the internet.

1999

Five years later, Autoweb made its debut on the US stock market with a valuation of $1.2 billion. More than 21 million shares had changed hands and at the end of the second day of trading. Payam was 28 years old at the time.
Payam and brother at Autoweb IPO
Reply.com original logo

2001

Payam launches Reply.com, (relaunched as Buyerlink in 2015), a leading online marketplace for performance-based marketing.

2015

Ƶ Group is born. 
“I was trying to make sense out of my chaos. As an entrepreneur, I love building businesses, I love operating businesses, I love working with entrepreneurs and investing in them, I wanted to bring the whole thing one umbrella.” 
Ƶ headquarters and team

I met my wife, Gouya, at a Baha'i inspired conference on ethics in business. She intrigued me from our first conversation, which continued for five hours. She is my equal partner in life and my grounding. As a fashion designer and entrepreneur herself, we have very spirited discussions about life and business and rely deeply on each other’s counsel and advice. Together we have raised two strong, smart, kind, and talented daughters, both of whom will, I know, go on to do amazing things in this world. I've been blessed with parents, siblings, and extended family and friends who have supported me during all phases of life.

My family and my faith give me the foundation, stability, and strength to always move forward.

As humans we grow through tests and difficulties, particularly when it comes to spiritual growth.

As the saying goes, gold becomes more pure when it is thrown into fire. So is the case with humans. We all have our share of challenges in life – as a kid born to a Baha'i family in Iran, dealing with the severe persecutions in that country, getting smuggled out of the country alone when I was 16, and then ultimately coming to the U.S. as a refugee – I've had by far more challenges than wins in this life.

I am a firm believer in self-induced challenges, big audacious goals that are designed to be difficult. I try to push myself through challenging experiences, get out of my comfort zone, and add a jolt to my everyday routine. Whether it’s learning to fly, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, or starting a practice of cold plunges, I want to keep pushing myself to the edge of my comfort. It’s only there that I believe that we truly grow.

Blessed are those who ask questions

In 2021, I contributed a chapter to this book by J. Goosby Smith and Erin D. Renslow. It’s somewhat of an unusual book – one about how management, leadership, spirituality, and religion show up in organizations. Produced by The Citadel, the military college of South Carolina, I wrote a chapter offering a Baha’i perspective.

booking payam

Want to hear from Payam directly? He is available for a few speaking engagements every year.

Payam has spoken to audiences around the world. A straightforward speaker, he leads with humility and respect, with expertise that ranges from the future of the automotive industry and the future of mobility (he's an avid aviator), and online commerce. His favorite subjects are the importance of embracing a new form of capitalism and sharing his life's journey which will soon be a subject of an upcoming book.

Please click here for inquiries
Payam speaking
core messages include

How to overcome challenges and use life’s struggles as a launching pad

Creating new business realities by embracing spiritual capitalism

Blending the notions of for-profit and non-profit Ƶ

The importance of culture in a people-first workplace

How to bring meaning into our professional lives

Becoming a spiritual entrepreneur