The Biggest US Tech IPO Of The Year Might Not Have Happened If It Weren't For This Guy

Lending Club, the peer-to-peer lending platform, hit the public market Thursday, raising more than $US800 million. Its shares saw a nice little pop too, closing the day up 56%, or a little over $US23 a share. That makes it the largest IPO for a US tech company this year.

It’s a real startup success story. Before today’s IPO, it had raised nearly $US400 million in funding from VCs like Norwest Ventures and Kleiner Perkins. It has processed over $US6 billion worth of loans so far, and in the first nine months of this year, had $US143 million in revenue, up 122% from last year.

But every company starts somewhere, and for Lending Club, that place was a startup incubator called Plug and Play Tech Center. Founded by Saeed Amidi, one of the most well-connected power players in the Valley, Plug and Play provides shared office space and seed investment to early stage startups.

Lending Club’s CEO Renaud Laplanche first joined Plug and Play in 2007, after leaving his job at Oracle. It was only him and its CTO Joaquin Delgado at the time, but Amidi says it was clear from the beginning that Lending Club was on to something very big.

“What impressed me the most about him (Laplanche) was that he was really cool and relaxed. You could sense in his face and his eyes that he was going to build something big,” Amidi told Business Insider.

A few months later, Amidi hosted an event at his office space, inviting some of his close VC friends. It was meant to be a meet and greet type of event, introducing all the startups at his incubator to VCs. One of the investors Amidi introduced to Laplanche that day was Norwest’s Jeff Crowe.

Amidi says that Crowe was immediately struck by Laplanche’s demeanor as CEO. “Jeff’s eyes sort of sparked. I like the spark in the entrepreneur’s eyes, but very rarely you see a spark in VC’s eyes,” Amidi says. “And then Jeff told me, ‘Saeed, this is a good one.'”

A few months after that meeting, Crowe led a $US10 million Series A funding in Lending Club. Crowe continues to be the largest shareholder in Lending Club to this day, and is estimated to own roughly $US760 million worth of shares now.

Crowe wrote about this in a Linkedin post Thursday. He writes, “I could immediately tell, however, that Renaud was different. I asked him what his company did, and he said peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, a concept that sounded really interesting. We talked for about 20 minutes, and I was immediately struck by how thoughtful, calm, and confident Renaud was.”

And Amidi, who was also a seed investor in Lending Club, says this is the reason he loves his job so much. “My job is being a cheerleader for startups and connecting them. And not to be cliche, I just feel privileged to be a part of this.” 

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