Startup springboard

The SAP Startup Focus program has connected a huge number of startups to SAP HANA globally. Eleanor Reader investigates what the program has achieved so far, and speaks to some of the Australian startups involved with the program locally.
 

 

Following the release of SAP HANA, SAP launched the SAP Startup Focus program in 2012 as a way to encourage startups to develop new applications on the in-memory platform, thereby providing SAP with industry-specific use cases that solve real-world, big data challenges.

So far, 1100-plus applications are currently under development by a variety of startups and companies involved in the program, with more than 57 countries represented. More than 40 solutions are market-ready; many of which are on display on the SAP HANA website (see http://startupfocus.saphana.com/demo/home/all). Importantly, over 60 per cent of the companies involved in the program come from outside the traditional SAP ecosystem.

From SAP’s point of view, while the prerequisite for these solutions is using SAP technology, organisations can sell their applications as IP – thereby getting a big revenue boost from being able to on-sell what is effectively a custom-built solution on top of SAP HANA, says Ryan Blackwood, national director, business analytics, database and technology, SAP ANZ.

“That’s a really good way of new businesses actually getting a bit of a head start in the market without needing to construct their own back-end architecture and infrastructure – they can leverage what’s already there,” he says.

The starting point of the program is the Startup Forums – events held weekly around the globe that give six to 10 chosen startups the opportunity to present their solutions and use cases at an event, while learning about, and having a play with, SAP HANA.

The Australian startups – where are they now

Two Startup Forums have been held on Australian shores since the program’s inception – both in Sydney, first in September 2012 and again in August 2013.

Six startups participated in each event, and according to Blackwood, five of the companies involved – KnowledgeFlux, goCatch, SenSen Networks, baank and Summa BI – and four that weren’t directly involved in the Forum – Cleanpoint, Cosmic Creations, NextSpace and Meylex Pty Ltd – have progressed to the program’s next stage and are currently developing applications.

Inside SAP contacted seven of the 12 startups who participated in the Forum, with three agreeing to share their experiences. A trend in their responses was that while all the startups think SAP HANA is fantastic and would be an asset to their business, constraints such as budget, time and resources were slowing their project’s progression, or bringing it to a stop completely.

goCatch

One of the most successful and well-known startups who participated in the 2012 Forum is goCatch – a free smartphone application that that connects passengers directly with taxi drivers.

Created in 2011 by co-founders Andrew Campbell and Ned Moorfield, goCatch took out the People’s Choice Award (voted by SAP staff) at the event.

The gamification software and technology has great potential application for SAP HANA, says Campbell, who is looking to keep all of goCatch’s data in-memory.

“The ability to run queries against the entire database in a very short timeframe is the main [advantage of HANA], and then using that data to improve the product that we have and the service that we deliver to our customers,” he says.

The company is currently working with SAP, however Campbell explains that while they are connecting with some university resources to help, getting the project resources is proving to be a struggle. Another challenge has quite simply been finding the time.

“Hopefully early next year we can get underway,” Campbell says. “We’ve just got to complete this project, then there’ll be some really exciting things to talk about.”

KnowledgeFlux

Justin Hume, the founder of KnowledgeFlux, an enterprise knowledge and information management solution provider who participated in the 2013 Forum, is currently in talks with SAP.

He started KnowledgeFlux in early 2013 with a vision to create better tools and offer better consulting than what currently existed in the market.

“I realised the common problem with every technology I’ve worked with was often a lack of direction around information strategy, and particularly for information portals, how important it is to have an information and knowledge strategy that can be operationalised and then used to drive the technology – rather than going and buying the technology and then trying to do something with it.”

At the Forum, Hume presented a platform solution called the Collective Intelligence Accelerator – a process solution that will connect all your structured data with your unstructured data, incorporating a human aspect from social media intelligence that you “can’t get from crunching numbers”.

“I will use HANA to pull in all different sorts of data, from reviews on the internet, tweets, emails between people in organisations, as well as all the standard business data that you get out of ERP and BPM and so on,” Hume says.

Hume is building up the consulting side of his business so KnowledgeFlux can afford the resources he needs to complete the proof of concept, and is also looking to the SAP Ventures Fund, from which he is optimistic he will receive funding.

“With SAP getting behind me it gives me credibility, and my ambitious ideas have got more weight behind them,” he says.

Transactor Technologies (formerly Summa BI)

Milos Pejovic set up Summa BI about five years ago as a business intelligence tool for hospitality and retail business. The tool has since been bought by Transactor Technologies, where he is currently the business strategy director.

While SAP HANA proved to be better than their current technology from Oracle, pricing has been a major challenge. Pejovic says the numbers just aren’t adding up in favour of implementing HANA, particularly as SAP asks for a significant share of revenue.

Pejovic says SAP HANA was especially suited to Summa BI because the solution dealt with huge amounts of data: merging small data that’s coming from cashiers or retail shops with big data such as government stats about various industries and weather information.

Their proof of concept project with SAP HANA was to analyse weather and retail data to find out what was the optimum temperature that would prompt consumers to buy coffee. HANA’s advantage over their current platform was being able to conduct extra analysis such as the probability of customers buying a muffin with their coffee.

On the effectiveness of the Startup Focus program, Pejovic says, “I think the strategy would be much better if they just give it away to startups for the first four years, but they can’t give it away to free to a startup and then charge a bank $5 million.”

However, he also added: “All the startups are super-busy just trying to run their business and survive, get those investors and customers going, and HANA itself, even if somebody gives it to you for free, is a big disruption to the business operation.”

Startup success from around the globe

On the other side of the coin, out of the 30 market-ready solutions to come out of the SAP Startup Focus program globally, six are being released to the Australian market for SAP customers.

“What SAP has done is look at what customers are interested in, where we are seeing the trends happening in certain industries and which of these solutions are most applicable for the Australian market,” says Blackwood.

These solutions include WeissBeerger, the first ever real-time beer and alcohol consumption behaviour analytics dashboard for breweries and bars; Sensitel, which uses event data from store associates’ mobile phones, along with anonymous visitor data from Wi-Fi networks and additional store-based feeds, to recommend hour-by-hour staffing and positioning; and Liquid Analytics, which provides real-time actionable insights to help sales managers and representatives meet their goals.

Australia and India have taken the lead in the APJ region when it comes to embracing solutions from the program, says Blackwood.

“We both jumped ahead to introduce these concepts because we can see great potential for them,” he says. “For example, fraud management and integrating social media analytics are two hot topics in Australia right now.”

SAP is currently on the look-out to add more Australian partners and customers to the SAP Startup Focus program: “They may have an innovative idea that they want to explore; we’re very willing to introduce them to the program. Australia has a very large resources industry, which some of these applications are appropriate for, but if we had an opportunity to look at a real-time instant management system, that would be something we would love to co-develop and assist with,” says Blackwood.

He adds that the program is almost becoming the iTunes of the SAP world.

“If we get to the point where customers can just have a shopping list of prebuilt content that they can pick and say ‘yes, please implement’, I think that would be a great objective to have as an SAP customer – being able to tick the box and download certain applications as you need them.”

What is the SAP Startup Focus Program?

The SAP Startup Focus program was launched by SAP in 2012 with three driving principles:

  1. Make SAP HANA’s breakthrough capabilities easily available to the startup community for development.
  2. Offer a simple, inexpensive and effective development accelerator to all eligible participants.
  3. Work as a one-stop advocacy group to help startups navigate SAP.

Three basic stages are involved, the first being the Startup Forum events, where participating startups present their solutions and use cases while learning about SAP HANA and other SAP platform technologies.

From each Startup Forum, six to 10 startups are invited to join a development accelerator. This stage kicks off with what SAP refers to as “an intensive boot camp on SAP HANA development topics” and in-person participation is mandatory. The objective is to build, initially, a proof of concept and, eventually, a product with “explicit business value”.

SAP does not provide the startups with any funding, however they do support participants with regular architecture reviews, technical support and consulting.

There is an opportunity to be funded by the SAP HANA Real-Time Fund, which was announced by SAP Ventures in April 2012 with $155 million, but this is not guaranteed.

When startups have their product ready, they enter the last stage: Go-To-Market, where SAP’s intention is to help “program graduates” successfully sell their applications.

 

This article was first published in Inside SAP Summer 13/14. 


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