Plug and Play: How the World’s Biggest Startup Accelerator Works


On the second of July we visited Plug and Play, one of the most active investment organizations in the world at their Tech Center in Sunnyvale, California. The staff there was kind enough to come in on the holiday weekend and show us around and explain how they do business together with startup companies.

Not long ago we have introduced you to what venture capitalists do and received great feedback on the article. That’s why we thought this is a great opportunity to further elaborate on this subject matter.

You might not be familiar with each and every of the startups, who worked with Plug and Play, but I am sure you recognize names like Dropbox, PayPal, Zoosk, Sprinklr, Danger and If you want to explore more of the investments made, you should check out their entry on CrunchBase.

What Plug and Play does

Plug and Play is the world’s biggest startup accelerator and the most active venture capital (VC) investor in Silicon Valley with hundreds of investments done every year. That makes a track record of more than 2,000 accelerated startup companies since 2006. They have 22 locations worldwide in the USA, Mexico, Brazil, Spain, Germany, China, and Singapore with the objective to connect, disrupt, and innovate. Due to the high volume of VC investments done every year, they usually don’t join the board of the companies invested in, but they do offer accelerator programs to support the startups and enable them to be more successful.

San Jose Sunnyvale Plug and Play Tech Center Tour TechAcute Startup Accelerator Venture Capital in Sillicon Valley

The 12-week industry-specific programs are targeted to improve the skills of the people and connect them to the right people in global networks of entrepreneurial experts and VCs. As every industry has its special requirements and key skills, the program’s content is tailored to match the ecosystem and environment of the startup company. The accelerator programs are the Internet of Things, FinTech, Media, Retail, Startup Camp, International, Health & Wellness, New Materials & Packaging, Travel & Hospitality, Mobility, Insurance, and Corporate Applications.

Steps on the road to an exit

Accelerators and VCs are usually interested in enabling their investments to achieve and grow rapidly beyond organic growth. Here are the milestones on the road to an exit:

  • Startup applies to work with Plug and Play
  • (If selected,) Startup joins the accelerator program
  • Plug and Play invests in startup
  • Startup can use the infrastructure provided by Plug and Play
  • Accelerated growth kicks in
  • Startup continues business as a mature company or
  • Exit event with IPO or acquisition occurs

What an accelerator provides

If you decide to get funding from VCs or participate in accelerator programs, you usually give up some of your independence to run your company and you need to accept that you are now in a mentee/mentor relationship as a learner. You are correct to think that the VC’s primary interest is in profiting from an exit event, but they also enable you to achieve great things with your startup and team.

  • Logistical Support
  • Networking Events
  • Mentors and Advisors
  • Investors
  • Corporate Relationships

It should be clear to all entrepreneurs that leveraging established and matured infrastructure and the right connections can greatly help you not only to save money without compromising other aspects but also enables you to achieve more faster. When you work with Plug and Play you will be able to use their office spaces, service partners, executives in residence, event space, and on-site data center to name only a few benefits.

Thoughts from partnering founders

David Marcus Former President of PayPal“When I moved to Silicon Valley from Europe, I decided to set up shop at Plug and Play for Zong. I didn’t know anyone here, and the community helped accelerate our development and recruiting, gave us exposure through homegrown events, and enabled us to network efficiently with other startups. I highly recommend it to early-stage startups!” – David Marcus (Former President of PayPal)

Carter Cleveland Founder of Artsy“The biggest draw by far is the dense community of startups around you. You will not only be interacting with extremely passionate and intelligent entrepreneurs every day, but you will have a front-row seat as business models, marketing strategies, and the news stealth technologies succeed all around you.” – Carter Cleveland (Founder of


Even though the offices were mostly empty on the Independence Day weekend, I got the feeling that the people working there are very kind and the place radiates a familiar atmosphere, which I enjoyed very much. If you are currently working on a startup company or plan on founding one with the support of VCs and accelerators, you might want to check out the Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, CA or check out their international locations.

Having difficulties to stay on top of the happenings in the Bay Area? If you need some ears and eyes in the area, you can also follow Britta Weddeling, Tech Journalist, on Twitter.

YouTube: What is Plug and Play Tech Center?

Photo credit: Lufthansa – Oliver RöslerSee-ming Lee 李思明Loic Le Meur / Unsplash
Source: Author visited Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale / Official web page of the Plug and Play Tech Center

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Christopher Isak
Christopher Isak
Hi there and thanks for reading my article! I'm Chris the founder of TechAcute. I write about technology news and share experiences from my life in the enterprise world. Drop by on Twitter and say 'hi' sometime. ;)
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