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Plug and Play

Saeed Amidi’s predilection for hard work, good karma and matchmaking make him one of the most sought-after men in Silicon Valley.

Google

PayPal

LendingClub

Dropbox

What do all of these tech giants have in common aside from monumental success? An address: 165 University Ave. Palo, Alto, California, USA — ground zero for Plug and Play Tech Center.

“We call it “the good karma building,” says Founder and CEO of Plug and Play Tech Center and YPO member Saeed Amidi with a smile.

The world’s largest startup accelerator, Plug and Play is a combination investment incubator, coworking space and corporate innovation network. By inviting hundreds of entrepreneurs a year to participate in one of 14 vertical-specific platforms, Plug and Play matches promising startups with angels, venture capitalists (VCs) and corporate partners in the hopes they will become the startup’s clients by purchasing their products.

The investors, which Amidi divides into three buckets — angels, VCs and his most favorite recent addition, corporate investors — create a holistic circle of deal flow, due diligence and collaboration within Plug and Play. This trifecta not only gives startups access to some of the greatest funding minds in the world, but helps Amidi himself make decisions about who to invest in.

“Last year I made 152 investments and every one of them was a co-investment either with an angel, VC or corporate investor,” he says. “Co-investing gives me the opportunity to hear what others think about a given startup as well as tap into their due diligence.”

Cleveland

Cleveland, Ohio, USA, is the latest Plug and Play Play satellite to open its arms to entrepreneurs. The only U.S. Plug and Play outside California or New York, their partnership with the Cleveland Clinic and JumpStart focuses on the biotech and digital health sector with offices inside the Global Center for Health Innovation.

Just this month, the first 10 of 21 startups hoping to gain a spot at the accelerator pitched their ideas, which ranged from algorithms that create more precise schedules for administering medicine, to more-accessible treatment for those suffering from mental-health disorders. These innovations have the potential not only to become monetarily successful, but provide much-needed care for patients around the world.

“What gets me excited about going to work in the morning is the thought that I am helping entrepreneurs build their dreams,” says Amidi. “It is not just about the money, but it’s about the chance to be a mentor rather than merely an investor.”

Get up, startup

In a discussion about startups, it is always interesting to hear someone’s genesis story; Amidi’s does not disappoint.

Back in the early 1980s, Amidi was running his non-startup business ventures out of an office in Palo Alto when he became intrigued by the energy of innovation swirling around him. Everywhere he looked, startups were blooming from seed to scene, changing the way business was conducted one crazy-sounding idea at a time.

“One of the first I witnessed was Logitech, whose offices were next door to mine in the same building,” recalls Amidi. “I had a front row seat, watching my friend, YPO member Pierluigi Zappacosta build a great company and take it public; charting their success was something of an ‘ah-ha’ moment for me.”

This “ah-ha” moment resulted in Amidi buying the building that housed himself and Logitech and, as fate would have it, his new tenants included an unknown startup called Google and two little-known entrepreneurs named Max Levchin and Peter Thiel. Amidi’s fascination with startups saw him investing in both Google and Max and Peter’s then nascent company, PayPal.

As everyone’s stars rose and then exploded out into the world, the name “the good karma building” was appropriately coined.

Future perfect

When asked what tech companies to be looking out for over the next five-seven years, Amidi says, “The automotive industry is going through tremendous change with connected, electric and autonomous cars, so there is an urgency for innovation in transportation. Similarly, I am betting there will be a huge disruption in banking and insurance.”

As he explains it, car insurance has gravitated away from the traditional call-an-agent-for-a-quote process and is now comprised of close to 45 percent of its buyers purchasing their insurance online; a full shift in the way the industry has traditionally operated. Amidi envisions home, health and life insurance, following suit.

“We are trying to find the next AirBnB of the insurance industry.”

Live and in-person

Nowhere is Amidi’s love of showcasing technology more evident than during his summits — quarterly, three-day events created as platforms for startups to find funding, investors to find entrepreneurs and corporations to find potential partnerships.

“Each summit features six different verticals, paired together for synergy,” explains Amidi. “This way, someone might come for one, but stay when they become intrigued by another analogous to their interests.”

For investors, the opportunity to hear upward of 150 pitches over an extended weekend, offers the kind of accelerated opportunities Amidi is renowned for (“Inc.” magazine calls Amidi Silicon Valley’s hottest matchmaker).

“I’m just trying to do what I can to make a positive impact on the entrepreneur’s journey,” says Amidi. “We are living in an incredible time with innovation happening in every industry. I see my job as being something of a connector and then I pray. Pray and Play,” Amidi pauses, then adds. “I might need to change the name.”

Amidi will be speaking as part of the Auto Tech Summit during the 2018 YPO Innovation Week, 7-11 May 2018.

Deborah Stoll’s work as a journalist has been featured in The Economist’s online magazine, More Intelligent Life, in LA Weekly and its food blog, Squid Ink, as well as on the music site Buzzbands LA. Her short stories have appeared in the Los Angeles quarterly Slake and the literary website Fresh Yarn. As a musician, Stoll’s songs have been featured on American Idol, Glee and CSI: Miami, and her collective work as a content creator and animator has more than 1 million views on YouTube.