When Saeed Amidi started Plug and Play Tech Center eight years ago, his aim was to provide affordable co-working space for small Silicon Valley start-ups. He never imagined his real estate venture would become such an innovation hub that massive multinational corporations would be knocking on the door to join.
Panasonic, Volkswagen, State Farm and Bosch are among the brands that have partnered with Plug and Play to tap the burgeoning tech scene and make sure they're not missing out on products that could potentially transform their industry. Now, Johnson & Johnson is joining the fold as part of Plug and Play's new Internet of Things (IoT) accelerator.
Why does a developer of pharmaceuticals, health-care supplies and diagnostics products care about start-ups focused on connected devices? It's partly the emergence of web-based health monitoring and fitness products from Fitbit, Jawbone and Pebble. The bigger story is that all companies, large and small, are being driven by tech, so having a recognized presence in Silicon Valley has become an essential link to emerging entrepreneurs and wild science projects.
"J&J wants to lead in this wave of innovation to lower stakeholder costs and improve health outcomes," said Ken Drazan, head of Johnson & Johnson Innovation, California. "This novel approach to collaboration is part of our overall strategy to engage with entrepreneurs, venture firms and emerging companies to identify and advance the most promising science and technology in areas of significant medical need."
Johnson & Johnson, through its innovation group, is the third strategic corporate sponsor of the IoT accelerator, joining State Farm and Bosch's venture arm, which announced their partnerships in July. The program brings about 20 start-ups into Plug and Play's headquarters for a three-month entrepreneurial boot camp of sorts.
They get introductions to potential partners, customers and investors while refining their product and sales pitch. The first batch started in September and ends next month.
Plug and Play has launched similar accelerators for retail, with partners such as Kohl's and Toshiba, as well as programs for media and financial technology. Each has a core set of sponsors that provide their time, executive level expertise and some capital to help the program run. For that, they get direct access to start-ups in and around their space.
"In the past, they would wait until companies got bigger and then buy it because of the technology and put it into their marketing machine," said Amidi, who immigrated to the U.S. from Iran in the 1970s. "Now they're going to come sooner and participate in the early stages of the company."