Plug and Play is a West Coast technology accelerator and investor which counts DropBox, Zoosk and SoundHound as portfolio companies.
It is also now home to a financial technology program, running two classes in 2015 for the first time.
The accelerator sought applications from startups focused on mobile payments, banking, security and authentication,
Anchor partners for the program include the venture arm of Citigroup, credit card company Capital One, universal bank Deutsche Bank and insurer USAA.
Plug and Play chief executive Saeed Amidi got his start 15 years ago when he was trying to rent some real estate.
Amidi and his brother, Seena, were considering startups to lease space in their Palo Alto, California, office and met a couple of young, promising entrepreneurs behind a then-unprofitable product.
The entrepreneurs were Max Levchin and Peter Thiel and the startup was PayPal. After seeing the Amidis’ ambivalence, Thiel pushed an offer they couldn’t refuse. He said he would pay his rent – then, a paltry $10,000 per month in Silicon Valley – up front, for two years.
“We said, ‘sure,'” Saeed told Business Insider at Plug and Play’s first New York demo day. “And then, we took half the money and invested it in their seed round.”
Putting more than $100,000 in PayPal’s very first funding round proved to be a wildly successful investment (Amidi declined to reveal the exact return). Plug and Play is now home to a whopping 300-plus incubated companies, according to Amidi.
The firm has also backed several other big successes since Thiel, including Lending Club. It’s also expanding its horizons, to support its growing base of startups, with a $50 million fund.
Here’s the video of Saeed breaking down the story of how he came to invest in PayPal: