Plug and Play launches 9 new accelerator programs

The Plug and Play network of accelerators and corporate partnerships is launching nine new cohorts in various industry verticals. It’s the largest group ever for the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based firm that bills itself as the largest accelerator in the world.

In all, Plug and Play will host 175 startups operating within nine different industry segments. The categories include brand and retail, financial technologies, food and beverage, health and wellness, insurance technologies, the Internet of Things, mobility, new materials and packaging, and travel and hospitality.

Plug and Play has built up this assortment of accelerator programs over the past three years as a complement to the family office investment fund that was the first real success for the Amidi family, former rug merchants who parlayed some real estate investments into a deep network in Silicon Valley.

Founder Saeed Amidi has turned Plug and Play into a global network with spaces in São Paulo, Berlin, Calgary, Moscow, San Diego, Singapore, Sunnyvale, Valencia, Spain and Vancouver.

As of 2014, the company was also planning to launch new programs for Jordan, Mexico and Poland.

The Plug and Play approach contrasts with other big valley accelerators like Y Combinator (whose demo day wrapped up on Tuesday), which have maintained a base in the Valley and pride themselves on their independence.

At Plug and Play, the model has been to partner with corporations and expose large multinationals to the Valley’s startup culture.

In the U.S. Plug And Play’s strategy has been to partner with several corporations and concentrate its portfolio companies’ efforts on working with those partners around specific technologies.

For instance, the company recently launched a retail-focused program alongside a new Bitcoin accelerator. Amidi traces the partnership initiatives back to 2011, when Plug And Play began working with Volkswagen to introduce the German conglomerate to startups focused on auto-related technologies.

Other corporations embraced the idea, and Plug And Play’s partners now include an undisclosed insurance company in an insurance-focused accelerator track, and roughly 10 other auto-related corporations have inked deals with Plug And Play around its vehicle initiatives.

The new retail accelerator launched eight months ago, and will follow a similar road map, with an inner circle of “anchor” partners, and an ancillary group of relevant retailers and brands. The Plug And Play fund will invest in 20 to 30 startups in the retail accelerator, according to Plug And Play.

For a group of another 40 corporations, Plug And Play holds private startup introduction sessions on a bi-monthly basis — and for a fee. The firm said the idea was to provide an in-depth look at the early-stage companies from the 24 countries, 30 universities and in venture capital and angel investors’ portfolios. Corporations also sponsor events in addition to the work they do with accelerators.

While there are concerns that launching such a massive group of companies into the market could dilute both the Plug and Play brand and create a lot of noise in the particular industries in which these companies are looking to complete, the accelerator defends its practices.

“Our greatest competitive edge above all other accelerators in the world is that we have a very engaged corporate partnership program: 180 major corporations (versus the 80 we had at the end of 2015 and shows how the model is working) that sign up to the industry accelerator relevant to their interests,” according to a spokeswoman for the firm. “This has created a huge slingshot for our startup companies seeking significant clients, pilot programs, corporate investment, and acquisition.”

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