Payam Zamani is the founder, chairman and CEO of One Planet Group, the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of BahaiTeachings.org, and is a philanthropist with his wife, Gouya.
Payam was born in Tehran, Iran, and is a follower of the Baha’i Faith, a peaceful religion focused on bringing about love and unity amongst people of all races and backgrounds.
Following the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Baha’is faced oppressive government policies and human rights violations. As a child, Payam was shunned by his teachers and targeted by classmates, who mercilessly beat him and another Baha’i classmate on a mile-long walk home from school. His school later expelled him, ultimately denying him an education.
In 1987 at the age of 15, Payam fled Iran during a period when many Baha’is were arrested and hundreds executed. His parents used their life savings to pay smugglers to get him into Pakistan. Payam had to cross the desert and mountain range on foot in a journey that placed him near starvation and dehydration. The ordeal eventually led him to the U.N. outpost in the deserts of Baluchistan. He reunited with his older brother and ultimately made their way to the U.S embassy in Islamabad where they applied for asylum.
In June 1988, Payam and his brother were granted asylum to the United States and arrived in San Francisco with just $75 between the two of them.
After graduating from UC Davis with a degree in environmental toxicology in 1994, Payam and his older brother founded Autoweb, the first online car buying service that ultimately changed the way people bought and sold vehicles. Autoweb made its stock market debut on March 23, 1999. It was initially priced at $14 per share, but by the end of the trading day, it rose to $40 per share. The next day Autoweb’s valuation reached $1.2 billion.
In 2001, Payam launched Reply.com, a lead exchange and marketplace in automotive, real estate, and home improvement.
In 2015, Payam founded One Planet Group, a global hybrid tech firm combining operating technology and media companies, an early-stage investor, and a startup business incubator. One Planet’s owned brands include Buyerlink, Contractors.com, California.com, and Quite Remarkable.
He’s built One Planet on a model not focused solely on financial success, but with an ethos of sacrificial giving and universal philanthropy, believing that businesses should consider the betterment of the world and be a source of good.
One Planet was named a 2020 Best Place to Work in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Business Times and Silicon Valley Business Journal, 2020 Great Place to Work, and received the 2020 Better Business Bureau’s Torch Award for Ethics.
In 2020, Payam was named a Best CEO for Diversity by Comparably. He was granted the Tahirih Justice Center’s Hope Award and is a recipient of the University of California, Davis Award of Distinction.