The seven-figure sums of investments and returns were just flying all over the place when Saeed Amidi, Silicon Valley legend and founder of the world-famous Plug & Play Accelerator, raved about his successful global financial commitments to innovative start-ups. On 14 February 2020, Amidi was a warmly welcomed speaker at the opening event of the new “Speaker Series”, which the University of Stuttgart will be hosting together with the ARENA2036 research campus and the STARTUP AUTOBAHN innovation platform. Prof. Peter Middendorf, Vice Rector for Knowledge and Technology Transfer, was clearly pleased to welcome the new format with an entrepreneurship expert and visionary who is internationally so highly recognized. And the Vice Rector was right with his announcement: “He’s really going to make a flying start!”
Stanford University as an example
Amidi predicted a rapid development of the new event series at the University of Stuttgart: 20 years ago, Stanford University started a “Speaker Series” on the topic of entrepreneurship. Today it is a weekly event where speakers such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates pass the mike to each other.
In front of a spellbound audience of about 100 visitors enthusiastic about starting a business, Amidi listed numerous examples of success stories of his companions, who sometimes made it from founding to IPO in just four months. He himself started as an entrepreneur at the age of 19, after his family had lost everything in the course of the Iranian revolution: “I could never imagine working as an employee.” Today he can concentrate on his “hobby”, the Plug & Play Accelerator. With a global network of 35 offices, he is involved in 17 technology and industry sectors and invests in 1200 start-ups each year.
A successful start-up that originated at the University of Stuttgart
Amidi's talk was supplemented by a presentation by Leonardo Uriona, alumnus of the University of Stuttgart of Bolivian origin. Together with two creative friends, with whom he had already worked in the University of Stuttgart Rennteam as part of the Formula Student and in the Greenteam of the University of Stuttgart, Uriona founded EKU Power Drives. The company, which develops environmentally friendly gas-electric drive systems for mobile, industrial applications with high drive power, started with an office in the Technology Transfer Initiative (TTI GmbH) of the University of Stuttgart. Today, the company has more than 50 employees on two continents. Apart from having a start-up budget, Uriona named commitment, focus, and dedication as the basis for success. Furthermore, having an entrepreneurial vision is not enough. The particular challenge is rather to put this vision in a nutshell and to communicate it convincingly.
Concluding panel discussion with Prof. Alexander Brem and surprise guest Dan Ram
In addition to the speakers, two other guests took part in the concluding panel discussion: Alexander Brem, the new head of the institute and professor for entrepreneurship in technology and digitalization at the University of Stuttgart, and, as a surprise guest, the start-up coach, event organizer, and entrepreneur Dan Ram. Moderator Dr. Clemens Ackermann, research coordinator at ARENA2036, opened the discussion with the question: Can you actually learn to be an entrepreneur? Everybody agreed that, in addition to the fire that burns in you, there must also be a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurial success. Dan Ram, who grew up as a polyglot, added that knowledge of different cultures and traditions is also an advantage: “The ability to see the world from different perspectives greatly enhances creativity.”
Prof. Peter Middendorf summed up the successful start: “The Speaker Series will be contributing to the vital shaping of the start-up culture on our campus.”