Building a bridge to Silicon Valley

Published: 2 February 2009 at 10:08

A big crowd attends the Plug and Play session in Cambridge

Around two hundred people recently attended the Mumford Theatre in Cambridge to hear some positive news about finance for innovative small businesses.

At an event jointly organised by the Ashcroft International Business School and the Judge Business School, Mr Saeed Amidi, CEO of Plug and Play, one of the leading technoparks in Silicon Valley, USA, talked and answered questions about some of his company’s secrets and success stories. By providing business angel support, mentoring and easy access to premises, universities and venture capitalists, Plug and Play has nurtured companies like Google and PayPal which have gone on to be global giants. And the good news is that money is still available in these hard times and Plug and Play believes that some of the future successful companies might come from the Cambridge area.

Professor Alan Barrell, International Business Fellow at AIBS, was asked to help set up the event by Mr Amidi.

“Cambridge and Silicon Valley are world-renowned business incubators, each with their own particular strengths. When I was asked to help link Plug and play up with Cambridge, it seemed obvious we should bring the two Business Schools in Cambridge together to show off all the talent we have here and in the local business community. After the success of this event we will be setting up a team to foster closer links with our Californian friends by means of venture academies and student exchanges.”

Mr Amidi and his colleague Maud Pasturaud told the audience of entrepreneurs, students and academics about the state of the venture capital market and the current economic environment. Whilst acknowledging that there is something of a hiatus at the moment, he estimated that investments will pick up again in the Spring and gave many examples of company launches and spectacular growth in investment and market activity.

BetterPlace, a company which is setting up battery charging and replacement stations for electric cars in California, Israel and Denmark has recently attracted $200 million of seed-funding. In response to some piercing questions from the audience, Mr Amidi was particularly optimistic about companies with innovative ideas for iPhones and remote applications.

“We see international markets both as the source of and destination for the world’s leading technology companies. We have had a marvellous welcome here in Cambridge and I look forward to hearing from companies with great ideas.”

Terry Mughan of AIBS, who introduced the guests to the Cambridge audience, was delighted with the turnout.

“This event has been an innovation in itself. It has been a pleasure to work with the Judge Business School and Cambridge Business Angels and to see the large number of staff and students from both Schools here today. Our next challenge is to build on this and we are working on that already. We are considering a plan for companies and students to work and study together in Cambridge and California. With some luck and planning, the next PayPal will come from our joint venture.”