Up Close and Personal With Our CEO, Saeed

Welcome to the first post in a series of monthly conversations with our CEO, Saeed Amidi. People always ask him about Plug and Play, about how he became an investor, and whether he really rented office space to Google when they were a team of five. What WE would like to know is what is […]

Welcome to the first post in a series of monthly conversations with our CEO, Saeed Amidi. People always ask him about Plug and Play, about how he became an investor, and whether he really rented office space to Google when they were a team of five. What WE would like to know is what is it like to be him.

Andrew: Thanks for sitting down with us Saeed. We’re going to ask you some questions. Things may get personal. Keep in mind this is an interview about you, not about Plug and Play.

Saeed: Sounds like fun. Let’s go.

Andrew: How was your weekend?

Saeed: Fantastic. I had a great time with family and I played a lot of golf.

Andrew: Are you good?

Saeed: Getting better. I started late at age 48, so they tell me this is pretty good.

Andrew: Is golf more fun or more business?

Saeed: Only fun.

Andrew: Are you a sore loser?

Saeed: I am extremely competitive and I hate to lose, but I have learned to smile through it. I forget about it in 2 minutes.

Andrew: When was the last time you lost your temper?

Saeed: In 7 years at Plug and Play, I think I have lost it once or twice. I don’t remember the exact incident, but I was expecting more from one of our colleagues.

Andrew: What kind of people do you dislike?

Saeed: I’ll tell you what kind of people I like. I like people that have incredibly positive energy, smart, proactive, and results-oriented. They don’t have to be extremely smart or witty. I really like people who wake up every morning and try to change the world.

Andrew: What are your pet peeves?

Saeed: Lazy people and people who take life for granted. I think if you are born in America you are privileged. You are in the top 5% of the world in terms of opportunity for growth. If you are in Silicon Valley and you like technology, you are in the top 1%. People should realize that, and embrace that, and use that to build something interesting.

Andrew: What was your first job?

Saeed: After the Iranian revolution, my father moved here and asked me to work as his translator.

Andrew: Who is the worst boss you’ve ever had?

Saeed: I never had a boss. I decided to start my own business within 60 days of translating for my father and I’m still running the same business.

Andrew: So who taught you to be a boss?

Saeed: I observe how other people motivate and manage. I read books. I attend business events, but really it is just trial and error.

Andrew: How do your employees describe you?

Saeed: I prefer to call them my partners than my employees, but I think they would consider me as highly motivated…very optimistic…sometimes I’ll lose focus and be all over the place, but at the same time I have a positive and proactive approach.

Andrew: Do you think you are all over the place?

Saeed: Plug and Play Accelerators are innovating how investments are done with startups and how we could impact the journey with additional funding, connections, helping to build business models and teams, and finally execution. It’s not a simple business and to achieve this goal, we try many new things; some work and we incorporate them into our activity, and some things fail. This is why we may seem like we are all over the place because we try many different things.

Andrew: How do you deal with failure?

Saeed: Failure is ok and I have failed many times. However, I am grateful that my successes have been greater than my failures. If you succeed in everything in life: business, marriage; it takes away from the pleasure of winning.

We did a micro-lending project in Mexico which I thought would be great. We took 6 years to build it and the total investment was around 4 million dollars and it was not successful. I tried to evaluate why it didn’t work. One of my problems is that I didn’t quit soon enough. Sometimes quitting is the best decision you can make, even if you have already spent a lot of time on it.

Andrew: How many countries have you been to?

Saeed: I’ve tried to count a few times. Maybe 20 in Europe, 15 in Asia and 10 in the Middle East and Africa.

Andrew: Did any of them surprise you?

Saeed: I am intrigued by the economies that have been built in Singapore and Dubai. They don’t have any natural resources, but they have built very vibrant economies.

Andrew: Do you like to go to parties?

Saeed: Yes. I go to a lot of parties (smiles).

Andrew: Which was your favorite?

Saeed: It was my surprise 50th birthday party. I don’t know how my wife, Samira, pulled it off. She gathered 150 of my closest friends from social circles, business partners, golf buddies, entrepreneurs, VCs. It was a truly special evening and one that I will never forget.

Andrew: Do you like surprises?

Saeed: I like positive surprises.

Andrew: What was your best decade?

Saeed: My 30’s were incredibly special because I became a father to my three children and I had enough experience and success in business to set my goals, objectives and journey for the rest of my life.

Andrew: If you could have lunch with one person, who would it be?

Saeed: Nelson Mandela. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to meet Steve Jobs. That would have been fun.

Andrew: Do you have an idol?

Saeed: No, not a specific one. Since I was a kid I have been interested in success stories and I have people I respect for being successful in business, family, and even their social lives. Unfortunately, some who have been really fortunate in some areas have been failures in other areas.

Andrew: Who would you trade places for a week with?

Saeed: Someone who is more proactive, positive and happier than me. It is amazing what Andreeson Horowitz has done in a short time. They have made an extremely positive impact in the investment world. Or Steve Jobs. I would have loved to see his dream of Apple, the way it has impacted everyone’s life, and if he knew that as he was building it. Google is also incredibly innovative and entrepreneurial. I think it would be fun to be inside the heads of people in Google.

Andrew: What is your dream job?

Saeed: I love my job now. I would love to be better at it.

Andrew: You are packing a bag that only holds 3 things. What are they?

Saeed: Pictures of my loved ones, for sure an iPad, and maybe some sort of sports equipment.

Andrew: Do you prefer waking up or going to sleep?

Saeed: Waking up

Andrew: What’s your guilty pleasure?

Saeed: I party so much on the weekends and play so much golf and tennis that I am more exhausted on a Monday morning than a Friday afternoon. Perhaps I should limit my fun and put more time in for relaxation.

Andrew: Do you like smoking or drinking more?

Saeed: Golfing

Andrew: What is the craziest thing you have ever done?

Saeed: I am very cautious. For business, it was opening Plug and Play in a large facility without knowing what I was doing. It was pretty risky. In a personal sense, when I was mountain biking I used to fly down the hill and try to be the fastest. Half the time I was out of control and could have really hurt myself.

Andrew: Would you rather be lucky or smart?

Saeed: Lucky

Andrew: Name one of the most interesting people you have met?

Saeed: Omid Kordestani. He is incredibly successful, but at the same time humble and a really good friend.

Andrew: What is your biggest accomplishment?

Saeed: In progress.

Andrew: Biggest regret?

Saeed: In 1979 I started my first business in Palo Alto on University Avenue and only focused on packaging and bottled water when I could have focused on tech and innovation. I rented office space to a company called Google.

Andrew: Worst startup idea you have heard?

Saeed: What makes an idea bad is when the founders don’t have any expertise in that area or they are not passionate or enthusiastic about the idea.

Andrew: Do you tweet?

Saeed: No.

Andrew: What would your 1st tweet be?

Saeed: “Let’s have fun.”

Andrew: When was the last time you wore a tie?

Saeed: Must have been a wedding. I can’t remember.

Andrew: On a scale of 1-10, how happy are you?

Saeed: 9

Andrew: What is your greatest fear?

Saeed: There are many different paths that I am taking right now. Some might not be the right path.

Andrew: So, failure?

Saeed: Yes, always.

Andrew: Does failure motivate or discourage you?

Saeed: It makes me hustle and motivates me more.

Andrew: What advice would you give to someone who is starting a startup?

Saeed: It is something that my father used to say. Pick the right direction, the right field, put one foot in front of the other. Sometimes you don’t see it clearly, but if you start going it will come…the picture, purpose and results.


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