A Silicon Valley accelerator is attempting to change the game of start-up incubation, reaching out to companies around the world and attracting corporate partners as large as Pepsi, Procter and Gamble and Hershey.
“90% of our value is through our connections,” says Saeed Amidi, owner and chief designer at the Plug and Play accelerator. “We will help start-ups with funding, help them acquire more customers, and help fine tune their business until it meets customer demand.”
Plug and Play also takes a special interest in start-ups from underserved communities across the globe like and having them work together. The incubator once took in a former Israeli defense military veteran and, despite the tensions between the two countries, helped him acquire investment from an Iranian businessman.
“Walking around its headquarters, you quickly realize that you are walking in the United Nations of start-ups,” says Mark Fidelman, a Forbes contributor whose own start-up is currently under the care of Plug and Play. “It’s not American, it’s not Iranian, it’s global. If you often wonder as I do what the future of entrepreneurship looks like, it can be found at Plug and Play.”
Fidelman describes the accelerator’s vibe: “It’s a start-up engine. It’s the machine shop for high performance parts and formula entrepreneurship. The whole building is devoted to Mario Andretti’s belief that ‘If things seem under control, you’re just not going fast enough.’ This place doesn’t just take on innovation — it competes with it. Its leaders have their foot on the gas and their eyes on the gauges. If something isn’t working well — change it, test it, and try it again until it works. This is how great companies are built — and we vastly underestimate the importance of these types of environments.”
With brands like Sears, Lowes and Clorox as partners, Plug and Play is creating an environment where start-ups get access to top brands, and brands get access to top innovation. Over 300 start-ups are involved in the program at any given time. Some stay for years, some for months, with the primary goal of preparing for accelerated growth and a pole position in the industry.
“We need more business solutions to real social problems. We need people from diverse cultures to create strong business relationships, because creating those bonds fosters political good will,” says Fidelman. “And that is a good thing.”
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