Saeed Amidi ’77


This international businessman works to help tech entrepreneurs achieve their dreams

Start-up investor Saeed Amidi says that attending Williston, with its budding international community, allowed him to start thinking globally. After achieving success in the international bottled water and real estate industries, Saeed became a passionate technology investor. Along with his brother, in 1999 he founded the seed company Amidzad, which invested in emerging companies like PayPal and DropBox. In 2006, Saeed created Plug and Play, dubbed the “ultimate startup ecosystem,” which invests in more than 100 ground-breaking companies each year and has raised more than $1 billion in venture capital.

As an international student from Iran, what surprised you culturally about Williston?

What I remember the most was you had to wear a tie and you had to have dinner with the teachers. Each month we had a teacher host a dinner with us. There was always a very interesting dinner conversation. It was trying to make you feel at home. It was like a family feeling for me. I had a fantastic time at Williston. It was one of the most fun times of my life. The only thing I would do differently is study more. I could have been a great student, but I’d much rather go outside and play Frisbee than study.

How did your Williston experience impact your career path?

Even though the international student body was not very large, I remember that somehow I felt a closer affinity with the other international students. My main business is international business. I took a bottled water delivery business from the United States to ten countries around the world. I was really comfortable doing this. The international communities at Williston and at college made me think globally. I’m very comfortable doing business in California, but I’m just as comfortable doing business in Spain and Mexico, and so on.

How did you spend your free time?

We used to bicycle to Northampton. There were a few rivers near campus, and we used to go swimming. I loved the seasons. Coming from Iran, the winter was very special to me. I used to take a shower before breakfast and walk across campus, and my hair used to freeze. I just loved that. I loved the seasons. I still remember the view out of the dorm window quite well.

Why are you passionate about helping tech entrepreneurs succeed?

We help them build their dreams. What I enjoy the most these days is to be part of the journey of the entrepreneurs. I believe it keeps me young, and I get to make a positive impact on their journey. These are companies that started with an idea, and then they have grown to be so big. I feel privileged to be part of
their journey.

What advice do you have for students at Williston?

I had the capability of ending up at one of the leading academic institutions, but I didn’t dedicate myself. If I were going to live over again, I would study a little harder and try to go to one of the best schools, because it does make a difference. If you’re among the smartest and most selective student body, the biggest asset is the community you belong to. You have a leg up over everyone else, specifically in the start-up and technology world. Education is very important. If anybody has the smarts to get into top-notch schools, they should really do it.