New Plug And Play Accelerator Could Grow Beyond Health Tech Startups

Plug and Play Cleveland is in the process of selecting at least 10 health tech startups that will set up shop at the Global Center for Health Innovation in April — but that’s just the beginning, according to Plug and Play CEO Saeed Amidi.

It may not be long before the storied Silicon Valley-based accelerator starts recruiting additional startups in other industries to Cleveland and putting them through the three-month-long growth program, which specializes in helping startups build relationships with bigger companies that could become customers or investors.

The Cleveland Clinic is playing that role for the current program, which is being funded by both the Clinic and JumpStart, a Cleveland nonprofit that works with local entrepreneurs.

But Plug and Play has already started talking to other Northeast Ohio companies in an effort to find partners that could help start cohorts focused on other industries, according to Amidi, who spoke to Crain’s at Plug and Play Cleveland’s Selection Day event on Thursday, March 1. Amidi mentioned offhand that he had meetings with a few companies, including KeyBank and FirstEnergy, while visiting town for the event, which was held at the Global Center.

At the moment, Plug and Play plans to put at least 10 health tech startups through its Cleveland program every six months. But it’s also thinking about recruiting groups of startups in finance or in the “Internet of Things” space as well, if it finds the right partners, Amidi said. That interest showed up in the printed program for the Selection Day event: More than 20 health tech startups from all over the world (including a Cleveland-based online group therapy company called TogetherSpace) were scheduled to give presentations in front of the 400-plus people who registered for the event, but toward the end of the day-long event, seven startups in the so-called “fintech” and “IoT” categories — all graduates of Plug and Play programs in other cities — were scheduled to pitch their businesses, which aren’t eligible to join this first cohort of companies.

Though Plug and Play has only officially agreed to run a Cleveland accelerator for three years, Amidi emphasized that he aims for it to stick around much longer. For instance, Plug and Play is looking to buy a house in the Cleveland area. The company has five local employees, but three more will be commuting back and forth from California.

“We thought, ‘If we don’t have a building, we might as well buy a house to show our commitment long term,'” said Amidi, an entrepreneur and investor who holds the distinction of having been an early shareholder in Google and PayPal (he gave both of them office space in exchange for equity during their early days).

Read the full story at Crain’s Cleveland Business.