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Saeed Amidi Talks Finding the Next Billion-Dollar Startup

Saeed Amidi became an entrepreneur because, as he puts it, “I didn’t want to live like a poor person.” Saeed is the founder and CEO of Plug and Play Tech Center, one of the largest and most successful tech incubators in the country. On a cold night December 1st, the Silicon Valley-based serial entrepreneur shared a bit of his life story and successes as part of the Farley Center e@nu speaker series.

Born in Iran, Saeed was attending college in the United States when the Iranian Revolution took place in 1979. Left with next to nothing, he took charge and began his first successful business, an international bottled water company. Later delving into exportation of raw plastic materials, Saeed laid down roots on University Avenue in Palo Alto. At first, he rented a room. After a few years of his businesses flourishing, he bought the building. One of his very first tenants: a very early-stage PayPal.

Plug and Play has fostered a nurturing, challenging culture in which countless businesses have evolved and thrived; Saeed estimates that 70% of the startups affiliated in some way have been successful. “We don’t think exit or IPO is necessarily final success,” he explained. Even so, “we try to go after unicorns or homeruns – those really move the needle for us.” 

Saeed’s talk at Northwestern was a precursor to a Plug and Play pitch event in Chicago to try to recruit Chicago-area startups. “I am here to spread the message,” Saeed concluded, entreating the audience to apply to Plug and Play. “The message is that I want to invest in 10 companies per year from Chicago.” It appears the Valley is looking eastward for the next billion-dollar startup. “By far, our biggest success stories are people with much experience.” Hear that, Northwestern students? Maybe you’ll be their next unicorn.

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