San Mateo County Times

Internet high-tech firm a first in San Carlos
Saturday, May 8, 1999

By Liz Garone

SAN CARLOS -- CENTRAAL CORP. didn't have to move very far to become the first major high-tech Internet company in San Carlos.

But first it had to come across the Atlantic Ocean in the mind of Keith Teare, who conceived the idea of the company in his native England.

Teare didn't believe it would ever flourish there, so two years ago he came to Palo Alto in Silicon Valley.

After two years in Palo Alto, the Internet start-up relocated in March to the shiny, new, vacant Circle Star Center off Highway 101 in March.

"I would hate to think we're not part of the Valley anymore," said Keith Teare, the company's president and CEO. "I see our moving here as a symbol of our commitment to Silicon Valley rather than moving away from it."

The company gained more than 17,000 square feet by making the move.

"What appealed to us about this location was the possibility of growth," said Teare. Centraal has grown from eight employees when it started in 1997 to 86 today.

Centraal runs RealNames, browser-based software designed to make navigating the Internet easier and faster. Once a company has signed up for the service, Internet users no longer need http, etc. or a full URL. Instead, they just type in the company's RealName.

Sony, Barnes and Noble, and Office Depot are among subscribers who pay $100 a year for each RealName they buy.

Before choosing the Circle Star and San Carlos, Teare looked at other properties, including one with lower rent in Mountain View. What he liked about Circle Star was that it offered only the shell of the building.

"It allows us to define our own culture," he said.

Cubicle walls slide back and forth. There aren't any traditional office spaces. Like his employees, Teare works out of a cubicle. Conference rooms are oval and stand free-form among the cubicles. Each is painted a different color inside, and all have chartreuse-colored ceilings.

Bar Centraal is a coffee bar where employees and guests can whip up a cappuccino on the Italian-import espresso maker and hold impromptu meetings.

Ground has already been broken on a second, identical, four-story building at Circle Star.

And, across Highway 101, construction is underway on Skyway Landing. None of the development's planned 240,000 square feet have been leased yet, according to Nancy Gille, vice president of Spieker Properties, which owns Skyway.

"Based on the strength of the market, the strength of the economy and tenant demand for space in Redwood City, we're confident that there will be tenants for our Skyway project," she said.

"It's a return to the go-go days of the late'80s and early'90s," said Brian Moura, San Carlos' assistant city manager. "The Silicon Valley economy is roaring. So, here we are again seeing buildings built before there even are tenants."

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