As I got off the plane from Cape Town, my first impression of Berlin was a cold one. The day before I was shopping for winter clothes in 30ºC heat. And as the doors opened at Tegel airport around midnight on Sunday, I was hit by icy air hovering around -6ºC.
The following morning, I reported for duty at the Data Space for the kickoff of the SAP IoT Startup Accelerator program. This is an inside look into what it’s like to be part of the program’s first cohort of startups.
What it Means to be in Berlin
The SAP IoT Startup Accelerator program gives startups a residency at the Data Space in Berlin. As a country, Germany is leading the way in the next industrial revolution with its Industry 4.0 initiative. Manufacturers here are embracing digitization and transforming their traditional facilities into smart factories using technologies like IoT. Having a physical base here is making it easier for us to serve industrial customers in the German market.
Zooming in a bit closer, Berlin is a hub for innovation, with more than 2500 tech startups calling it their home. The Data Space in Mitte is every tech geek’s dream workspace. Surrounded by graffiti decorated alleys, artisan shops and even an awesome yoga studio, this space is giving IoT startups like us an energizing place to come up with new ideas and spend late nights executing them.
It’s not your typical office setup. Doors unlock using the Kiwi.ki app and food at the Data Kitchen is ordered, made and delivered using digital tools. The office walls are clad with whiteboards for brainstorming sessions. Even the wifi network makes you feel welcome with the name SAP_WeLoveStartups. The SAP team has put a lot of thought into creating a space that fits Berlin’s reputation as a place for new ideas.
Working With the Accelerator Program Team
The accelerator program team is using a tailored approach to help each startup in a way that creates the most value. A key benefit for us is getting easy access and support around engaging with SAP. They’ve already introduced us to the right people to help our team understand the technical aspects of the SAP Leonardo Innovation Portfolio.
We’re joined in the first cohort by Synfioo, a software platform for monitoring transportation chains accurately and in real-time. The other startup in our group is Skysense, which enables enterprises to deploy drones for industrial inspection with minimal human intervention.
At XMPro we’re focused on helping industrial companies improve operational performance and transform their business models through the Internet of Things. Our Industrial IoT application builder makes it easy for people like engineers at factories, mines and oil companies to build their own IoT applications without having to code. The software lets them visually connect data sources like sensors and databases with machine learning algorithms and kick off actions in business systems like SAP. This can be used to solve real problems like:
- Reducing asset downtime by predicting when a critical piece of equipment is going to break
- Minimizing product defects on a factory production line
- Preventing environmental disasters like water contamination or oil spills
So far, we’ve had interesting conversations with the other startups over coffee, encouraged each other while filming marketing videos and enjoyed pizza together at the opening event on Monday night. By the end of the first day, we were already seeing the benefits of working alongside other IoT startups in the Data Space.
The Experience From a Startup Perspective
Accelerator programs run by large organizations can often be theoretical and corporate, but we’ve found the SAP programs to be very hands-on. To accelerate our growth, SAP is helping us reach their customer base of over 335,000 businesses. We’ve already had the opportunity to present our software to one of their key accounts.
While we’re still at the start of our journey in Berlin, we’ve been working closely with the SAP IoT Startup Accelerator team in Palo Alto since May last year. Together we built a prototype IoT solution for predicting dirty solar panels on solar farms using data from sensors, drones, weather services and SAP systems. To see it in action you can sign up for the openSAP Imagine IoT course which XMPro’s CEO Pieter van Schalkwyk co-presented with experts from Deloitte and Intel.
The city of Berlin is the perfect representation of our relationship with SAP. Berlin embraces both classical architecture and colorful graffiti. It has a rich history, but it’s not stuck in the past. In the coming months, we plan to focus on co-innovation projects with SAP in the mining and manufacturing industries. The SAP IoT Startup Accelerator program is making it possible for us to combine our startup-style innovation with the support, infrastructure and customer base SAP has built during its 44-year history. We’re ready to get to work.