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Mark Prisk meets “super mentor”

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"The Plug and Play Tech Center is located in three key sites: Sunnyvale; Palo Alto; and Redwood City.

"Since it began, the incubator has helped 220 tech startups – and their success rate is three times that of comparable firms by sector, type and location.

"The Plug and Play Tech Center has all the conventional services for young businesses, ranging from IT and admin to office leasing and data storage. But what marks this incubator out is how its founder, Amidi, nurtures and even invests in so many of his tenants.

"His team vet incoming firms and, once approved, take an active interest in the firm. In practice, this often means introducing the new firm to key contacts. The concept of a business community isn’t just waffle, it’s real. The incubator therefore regularly hosts business angel and VC-investment sessions on site.

"In three years he has helped startups secure some $700m in funding.

"To British ears, the sound of someone being both landlord and shareholder may jar. Fears about conflicts of interest would, I suspect, make many UK startups fear for their independence.

"And yet the principle of this makes practical sense. Startups need to tap into other businesses and investors – and what better way to do this than through an experienced entrepreneur? Equally, if Amidi has a stake in the firm himself, he has a vested interest in helping it succeed.

"All our Web Mission firms were highly impressed with Amidi, recognising a shrewd, highly successful businessman. One or two members of our team will probably go back to talk to him further.

"For me, it made me rethink whether the concept of incubators in the UK needs a radical overhaul. And maybe Amidi is the one to do it."

Mark Prisk is shadow minister for business and a Conservative MP. He ran his own business for ten years before entering parliament in 2001.

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