Year One at the SAP IoT Startup Accelerator

To transform great ideas into even greater value, startups are collaborating with SAP product owners, developers, and sales employees in the areas of IoT and digital supply chains.

Data is the new gold. And in innovative spaces in Berlin, Germany, and Palo Alto, California, SAP is mining that gold daily as it builds up one of the world’s most important new frontiers: the Internet of Things (IoT).

The race is on for a global opportunity that is transforming the world by the second. And since its launch one year ago, the SAP IoT Startup Accelerator program is leading that race, bringing SAP customers, IoT products, and technology entrepreneurs together into a dynamic, global ecosystem.

Facilitating Brilliance

The SAP IoT Startup Accelerator team facilitates; the entire ecosystem innovates. The program is attracting veteran SAP users like global salt producer Kali und Salz (K+S), which came to the accelerator looking for a real-time tracking solution for its logistics operations. The company was eager to tap into the innovation of Synfioo, a young startup company in the accelerator program. Today SAP, K+S, and Synfioo are working closely together to produce an end-to-end solution that offers real-time estimated time of arrival (ETA) functionality seamlessly across the entire SAP landscape.

“We’re uniting SAP ERP and SAP Transportation Management with a powerful new level of innovation. It’s adding new depth and breadth across our entire portfolio,” says Franz Hero, senior vice president and head of Supply Chain and Logistics Development at SAP. “By adding Synfioo to SAP Transportation Management, we’re creating an incredibly valuable, end-to-end solution that excites and delights our customers.”

Accelerate to Innovate

The SAP IoT Startup Accelerator program is part of SAP’s plan to invest $2.2 billion in IoT by 2020. The Berlin- and Palo Alto-based initiative works with startups and customers to innovate globally in the IoT and digital supply chain business domain. Co-creation with startups, SAP products, and customers is central to the program, which was awarded “Best Newcomer Accelerator 2017” by Capital magazine. A proof of concept with a joint value proposition stands at the core.

1,000 Ideas a Day: Attracting the Best Startup Talent

From the very first day, startups begin their journey with SAP as a fully-fledged business ally. Getting into the accelerator program is a competitive process. Participants are hand-picked from a jury composed of accelerator team members and IoT product owners. Once startups are accepted, they collaborate one-on-one with SAP product owners and developers, as well as SAP sales.

“Solutions that develop together, work together. Solutions that work together, succeed together,” says Bernd Dittrich, developer for the IoT product SAP Transportation Management. “That’s the whole idea behind the accelerator’s deep collaboration and engagement model. It’s how we get to new, real-world, end-to-end solutions faster.”

Accelerator teams have become extraordinarily adept at finding the best startups. A keen eye and omnipresence means that SAP is able to scout, discover, and recruit the very best. Consider attenio. Today, the manufacturing software startup and accelerator participant is revolutionizing the way workers assemble their products. What began as a PhD research project in the shipbuilding business has become a game-changing, supply chain manufacturing solution. It uses augmented reality to significantly reduce the time it takes to build and launch a large ship.

“SAP really pushes us, our ideas, and our technology,” says Dr. Fedor Titov, CEO of  attenio. “The ability to combine attenio with the SAP Digital Manufacturing Solutions unit is helping us scale our customer base. At the same time, SAP benefits from attenio’s digitized, paperless manufacturing process and augmented reality knowledge. It’s a win-win situation.”

Fresh Entrepreneurial Capital: Cherry-Picking the Best New Ideas

The SAP IoT Startup Accelerator program’s ability to attract the world’s most promising, relevant startups puts SAP and its customers in an enviable position. Customers are more willing to adopt new technology because the program is backed by SAP. The company’s sheer size, installed customer base, and business insights mean that SAP and startups can scale quickly together. At the same time, startups have an instant marketplace to validate their ideas. It all adds up to a virtuous cycle of innovation.

“Startups are given the time and resources to fully develop and integrate their ideas with SAP,” says Eva Zauke, vice president of IoT and Digital Supply Chain at SAP, and head of the SAP IoT Startup Accelerator in Berlin and Palo Alto. “The SAP lines of business get access to new technology that has already been voted ‘most likely to succeed.’ The startup’s idea is then quickly integrated as a ready-to-launch, fit-for-purpose solution that either fills an SAP portfolio white space or adds depth to an existing SAP solution.”

Successful accelerator startups like Loginno are a case in point. Co-founder Shachar Tal’s startup promises to revolutionize the way companies monitor shipping containers on land and across the ocean. A clever combination of a patent-protected sensor and patent- pending geo-spacial algorithms make that possible. The solution, on-Schedule, built 100 percent on SAP Cloud Platform, can tell customers the real-time situation and global location of their shipment, including whether anyone has tampered with the shipping container. The increased efficiencies promise to recoup more than $50 billion for the logistics chain, insurance, customs, and homeland security.

“It was, and still is, one of our best experiences with a corporate,” says Tal. “With the SAP IoT Startup Accelerator team’s close support, we were able to produce our dream product and build it on top of the logistics industry’s No. 1 platform.”

Sweet Spot: Achieving High Return, Low Risk

The ability to attract the best talent and invest in the best ideas allows SAP customers to achieve a high return on their innovation investments with less risk. Rather than recruit and evaluate ideas at their own peril, SAP customers can instead benefit from the “intelligent human interface” of SAP experts and developers who vet and integrate new innovation. It all adds up to more immediate, tangible value.

In today’s highly competitive business environment, that matters. SAP customers find themselves in a hyper-competitive environment, in which three-month innovation cycles can mean the difference between winning or losing industry leadership.

For SAP customers, having a proven, highly refined solution like Synfioo helped them solve tough challenges without heavy, up-front investment. The transportation management solution juggles hundreds of complex variables like ferry schedules, weather, road traffic, and train station congestion. It shows transportation planners the best way to move their time-sensitive shipments forward and provides ETA information in real time. When things do not go as planned, the planner can quickly develop routing alternatives and communicate with all parties.

“SAP IoT Startup Accelerator makes leading-edge innovation a high-return, low-cost investment for customers,” says Alexander Waldi, senior vice president and member of the SAP Germany management team. “It enhances existing SAP solutions with new startup technology to make them more agile. SAP has already completed a first trial-and-error phase. That gives our customers the chance to tread complete new paths with their data, software ecosystem, and business model to try out innovations. It’s a liberating mind shift.”

Valuable Outcomes, Rich Experiences

One year on, the accelerator has demonstrated how SAP innovation can be stretched and challenged in profound and healthy ways across all job descriptions and disciplines. Because by enriching its innovation and talent pool, SAP continues to discover new ways to make existing offerings even more valuable to customers.

“SAP IoT Startup Accelerator is part of a dynamic process where all sides — SAP business, customers, and startups — add value to one another,” says Zauke. “They get a broader perspective. And that opens up new business ideas and models. It’s more than great products. It’s a new way of thinking as well innovation. And that’s providing us with rich experiences from all sides.”