LA Venture: Plug and Play Founder Saeed Amidi on How His Real Estate Company Became One of Tech’s Most Prolific Investors

It started as a real estate company for startups. Today, Plug and Play operates what it calls an “innovation platform” that offers young companies office space, an accelerator program and — in some cases — invests in them.

On this episode of LA Venture, Plug and Play’s CEO and founder Saeed Amidi talks about how he evolved the company into an accelerator and investment firm, and how he uses his platform to introduce many of the world’s largest corporations to startups that are re-envisioning their industries.

Amidi initially started Plug and Play as a space for startups to build the companies, providing them with office space, in-house servers and infrastructure that could help them expand. After talking to his startup clients, Amidi realized what they really needed was money. Amidi saw an opportunity to serve as an intermediary to help his real estate clients grow.

“When we find a great entrepreneur, team and technology, we generally show them to 10 VCs and 10 corporate partners, and we capture their thoughts” on where the startup could improve — and whether they might want to invest, said Amidi.

Plug and Play now has about 540 corporate partners, including Walmart, McDonald’s and Pepsi.

“They are some of the incredibly successful companies around the world that would like to use the [Plug and Play] platform to help them understand the future of commerce,” he adds.

Today, Plug and Play’s accelerator programs — there are 17 of them — host over a thousand startups in the United States alone, including one that recently launched in Downtown L.A. Internationally, that number is about double.

“We are really planning and hoping that with our location in L.A., we would have major content producers, major advertisers, join the platform,” he said.

Plug and Play invests in about 250 startups a year, many of them in the automotive industry.

“The whole world is going through digital transformation so fast, that all of these large companies may be Mercedes or Ford or Chrysler, they are all hunting startups that can help them electrify faster, you know, beat Tesla in their autonomous race,” said Amidi.

Amidi said people always ask him whether he considers retiring.

“I tell them if I find something else to do that I will have more fun. I will do it. But, in general, what drives me is how many entrepreneurs or startups use the platform to build their dreams,” said Amidi.

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dot.LA Engagement Intern Joshua Letona contributed to this post.