Plug and Play San Diego Seeks New Ways to Get Startups into Program

In a few weeks, Plug and Play San Diego will convene its fourth pitch competition—giving entrepreneurs in the region a shot at spending three months in a boot camp for tech startups at the Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, CA.

Alex Roudi, the San Diego investor and entrepreneur who helped Plug and Play open a satellite operation in San Diego, says it’s “been a blast” to watch three classes of San Diego startups go through the Plug and Play accelerator over the past two years.

“It’s wonderful to see how it can impact a company in terms of winning a critical customer or transforming the business strategy of the company,” says Roudi, who is managing partner of Plug and Play San Diego. “They are going in at one level and coming out at a much higher level.”

The Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, founded by Iranian exile Saeed Amidi, attracts many companies from outside the Bay Area, with more than a third hailing from other countries. Roudi, who has known Amidi for years, says many out-of-town startups stay on in a Plug and Play facility for nine to 12 months to give themselves sufficient time to meet investors, raise capital, and make connections with big tech companies that could become strategic partners or customers. (In addition to its tech center in Sunnyvale, Plug and Play also holds commercial office space in Palo Alto and Redwood City, CA.)

“I’m pretty sure that all of the [San Diego] companies that have done the [accelerator] program have come back to San Diego,” Roudi says, “but they remain part of the program. They still go up to the Plug and Play facility in Sunnyvale and use those offices. We just recently had a couple of companies go up there to brainstorm with people they had met up there.”

In the meantime, Roudi says the San Diego Plug and Play team has been “trying to be more proactive in terms of inviting companies to apply.”

More than 90 companies applied to Plug and Play San Diego in the spring, including startups from Tijuana, Mexico, and Colorado. From these applications, the Plug and Play team in San Diego (which consists of Roudi, Robert Reyes, and Gabriela Dow) selected 17 companies to present at the pitch competition in May. A panel of expert judges selected five finalists for the accelerator program in Sunnyvale.

Since then, Roudi says Plug and Play has been scouting other startup pitch events, including the Startup Weekend that began Friday at the downtown San Diego library, to invite promising teams to apply for the Plug and Play accelerator program. “We might end up with fewer companies, but higher quality,” Roudi says. “We really want to get to a point where we can accept everyone who applies.”

In this way, Plug and Play San Diego has been trying to strengthen its ties with other local startup organizations as a way to funnel more … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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