Plug & Play Expands Its Overseas Reach

The Plug and Play Tech Center is expanding its overseas reach. Next up: building stronger ties with some of America’s top universities.

Saeed Amidi, chief executive of the Silicon Valley incubator, said that last year, 60 companies from Europe, Asia and other parts of the world spent three months at Plug and Play’s facilities, as did 15 from Canada. This year the number should grow to 120.

In 2009, the incubator invited 20 to 25 overseas companies into the program.

The dramatic growth of the overseas effort comes as Amidi (pictured) is now turning his attention to building firmer bridges to U.S. research institutions, such as MIT and Cornell.

“Everyone wants to copy Silicon Valley and I think that is impossible,” he said. “But I think you can connect with Silicon Valley.”

The goal is to give overseas startups a boost and a glimpse of how things are done in Silicon Valley. But there are personal goals as well.

“My main objective is to have the opportunity to invest in the best companies in the U.S. or the world,” says Amidi, who notes he would like to find the next Business Objects or MySQL. Business Objects is the French business intelligence software maker bought by SAP and MySQL is the Swedish open source database company purchased by Sun Microsystems.

The three-month program includes introductions to angels and VCs as well as introductions to potential customers and business partners.

Most of the invited companies are a couple years old or slightly more and have raised about $2.8 million. In 2010, there were companies from England, Spain, Austria, Japan and Australia participating in the program.

So how are companies from abroad different? “I would say some of the companies are hungrier that what we have in the U.S,” says Amidi “They are hard working. They are innovative.”

But, he adds, “I cannot say they are smarter.”