Replay it: Alviso Getting Some Respect

Here’s a column I wrote about Alviso’s transformation on April 18, 2003:

Call it the TiVo effect.

Little Alviso, San Jose’s most picked-on neighborhood, is Silicon Valley’s new hot address.

OK, warm address. OK, at least companies will admit to having it as an address.

Three of the valley’s top 150 companies in terms of sales (Genesis Microchip, Foundry Networks and TiVo) now claim Alviso as corporate headquarters.

Yes, three. But for the buzz, I credit TiVo.

You know TiVo. It’s a machine. It’s a company. It’s a verb.

“SouthPark marathon? Dude, I like so TiVo’d that.”

TiVo — the digital recorder for people with 500 channels and no time to watch them — is approaching pop icon status. In fact, you might know TiVo better than you know Alviso.

Alviso has always been a contradiction. Sitting just north of Highway 237, Alviso holds the beauty of the bay and the odor of San Jose’s sewage plant. It has the refuge of the Don Edwards wildlife preserve and the refuse of San Jose’s dump.

It’s been called a heap, a backwater, a pit.

Now it’s being called world headquarters — including by TiVo, the valley’s second-fastest growing public company.

Ah, to be embraced by the valley’s latest it company.

“I remember when we first moved here, we went back and forth on, ‘Is Alviso really a place to be headquartered?’ ” TiVospokeswoman Rebecca Baer says. “It doesn’t have its own city council, its own government. It’s not really a place.”

Alviso was a place — its own city until the late ’60s. Then it was swallowed whole by San Jose, which needed a place to stash its garbage and treat its sewage.

Today Alviso is toddling toward the future. It hosts a cluster of companies working on high-tech TV gizmos. Now if Alviso could only get cable television service.

In the past year, Alviso — and, OK, TiVo — have been mentioned in Forbes, Slate, Salon, Newsweek and the Los Angeles Times. USA Today even mentioned Alviso in the same sentence as Mike Myers, Jay Leno, Rosie O’Donnell and Sara Michelle Gellar.

Who would have thought?

“It keeps the Alviso name around, ” says Juan del Real Jr., a Webdeveloper who launched www.alviso.org in 1996 to celebrate his neighborhood.

Del Real moved out of Alviso recently, partly because he couldn’t get DSL there.

(DSL is available in most of Alviso, SBC says.)

But what Alviso lacks in techno-convenience, it makes up for in, well . . .

“It’s next to a nice little swamp area, ” Baer says of her company’s Gold Street home. “Which is actually a little marsh where there is some interesting water fowl.”

Which attracts some interesting ornithologists. And how cool is that?

Seriously, this headquarters trend is a milestone for Alviso. Yes, some companies downplay their Alviso locations on their Web sites.

But in the end, they must come clean when listing their mailing addresses. See, there is no door-to-door mail delivery in Alviso.

(That’s no cable. Some DSL. No mail delivery.)

Instead, businesses and residents must pick up their mail at the Alviso post office. And the only reliable way to get mail to that post office is to address it to “Alviso, Calif.”

TiVo’s Baer wouldn’t have it any other way. OK, maybe she would, but she’s happy to be working in Alviso.

“It makes me proud that we’ve put little Alviso on the map, ” she says.

If only Alviso actually were on the map.

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1 Comment

Filed under Silicon Valley Business, Silicon Valley History, Silicon Valley Life

One response to “Replay it: Alviso Getting Some Respect

  1. Pingback: TiVo, Flextronics, IBM might all be surprised to find themselves in Silicon Valley’s ghost town | SiliconBeat

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