Kaustav Mitra, global program lead for SAP’s Startup Focus program

SAP, the 40-year-old German enterprise software company, is making a big push right now to engage with startup companies with a new program known as Startup Focus.

Similar in structure to Microsoft’s BizSpark effort, SAP’s goal is to get early adoption of its newly-launched high-performance database program known as HANA. But it also hopes to learn from startup companies that might be able to more nimbly attack business problems.

To drum up support, SAP is taking to the streets, launching a 15-city tour of various tech hubs around the world in the next two months. This week, SAP’s Kaustav Mitra is in Seattle, meeting with about 15 startups and touting HANA.

We chatted with Mitra to get more details on the program and what they are looking for. There’s real money at stake. In addition to the company’s accelerator program, which includes mentorship and support, SAP recently started a more than $100 million venture fund to bankroll some of the best ideas they encounter.

Mitra said they hope to have as many as 100 companies in the accelerator program, ideally with more than half a dozen up-and-comers from Seattle.

What is the Startup Focus program all about? “This is SAP’s, for the very first time in its history actually, trying to make a systematic program of outreach to startups. SAP has always been an application company, and with SAP HANA we’ve actually got some very compelling platform technology which we think could be used in a variety of use cases. Of course, by SAP itself, but also by startups that are trying to do interesting things in the real-time analytics space.”

Why is it important for SAP to connect with startups? “We’ve had 40 years of experience building enterprise applications … and there are certain types of applications that we build very well. These tend to be very heavy-duty, big enterprise applications which will take a developer team of 200 people, working for two years to deliver the application. But we’ve seen recently is that there are all kinds of really cool use cases which are completely outside SAP’s traditional base, which will still lend itself very well to this, and startups are perfectly positioned to take advantage of it because they are nimble, agile and they’ve got really, really good ideas. So, that’s the very specific interest around engaging with startups. We feel they can do things much faster than we’d be able to.”

What do startups get who are accepted into the accelerator program? “Just like any other accelerator, there’s the free licensing; the technology support; and consulting and all of the technical resources they’d need for their devs to do this quickly…. Our goal is to take the most compelling stories that we find, and really showcase them with SAP’s marketing machinery, so putting out press releases, getting them exposure at big events, making introductions to customers where appropriate, and getting them access to analysts like the Gartners and Forresters of the world. So, all the kind of things that would accelerate a startup’s access to the enterprise space, because that’s an area where we have a lot of credibility. It is basically putting a big megaphone in the hands of these startups.”

How many startups are attending the Startup Focus program in Bellevue Tuesday? “We have 15 startups attending, and my hope would be to find at least seven from here, but we haven’t restricted the number by location. If all 15 have fantastic use cases, I’d be happy to take all 15.”

Do startups go into the physical space? “There’s no physical location. It is not an incubator as such.”

Why did you want to host this program in Seattle? “Being down in Palo Alto, we all know that Seattle, and the Northwest in general, is a big startup hub and we’ve running into more and more companies in the analytics space that are headquartered in Seattle or Vancouver, and even Portland…. We’ve just been seeing a lot of nice use cases of real-time analytics being used in the mobile space, and so it just seemed like a no-brainer for us to be up here.”

On the HANA platform: “Really, the strength of SAP HANA is that it shines in uses where there is really critical business value which is realized when you can do real-time analytics on large amounts of data. HANA will go up to 100 Terabytes or so … and that’s a boatload of data. It is the ability to crunch through that rapidly if there are startups that can benefit from that, that’s where our sweet spot is…. HANA is doing very well as a product. It is the fastest ramping product in SAP’s history…. So, there have been a lot of sales, but our customers are eager to find new applications that they can run on this shiny toy that they have. So, we have a vested interest in finding startups who enjoy access to these customers.”

Here’s a look at some of the companies that are participating in SAP’s Startup Forum:

Yottamine Analytics; PathAuth; Xprevo; Appature; Alight Analytics; Crowd Computing Systems, Inc.; Applexus Technologies; Propeld; Rodax Software; Zoomingo; Carbon Credits International Inc.; InterraIT; Edifecs; Xprevo; nFluence Media Inc.; Text-a-Day.

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  • samir neji

    This is the coolest initiative that I have seen over any innovation platform. Considering the broader frameworks of support which sap enterprise can offer, this should lead to much faster adoption of technology. Thanks to all of the guys who have contributed to this initiative.

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