The SAP.iO business unit has announced its investment into Asterisk and Innversation, two employee-created startups that will join the SAP.iO Venture Studio program for incubation.
Earlier this month, the program’s investment committee chose two new teams from within SAP to receive funding for their business ideas. The latest funding comes two years after SAP.iO Venture Studio made its first seed investment in Ruum, a Berlin-based startup founded by two SAP employees. Ruum’s founders convinced investors that they were onto something “amazing” and that they were the ones to pull it off. Two years later, Ruum has been adopted by more than 16,000 users from more than 1,700 organizations.
Those involved in the selection process say it’s always exciting when a new batch of startups make their pitches to the investment committee.
“I was amazed by the density of great product ideas and fantastic teams behind them,” said Moritz Zimmermann, chief technology officer for SAP Customer Experience and a member of the investment committee. “You could feel the passion of the teams spending nights and weekends on their big idea. It was really exciting to be part of things at such an early stage that have the potential to turn into something big.”
SAP.iO helps entrepreneurs both inside and outside the company to tap into SAP’s unique assets such as data, APIs, and customer relationships in order to build new software businesses. In the SAP.iO Venture Studio program, employee-led startups get access to funding and a unique environment to create out-sized value for enterprises across multiple industries.
Before making their pitches to the investment committee, all seven teams from across SAP had to prove that they can solve big problems in the enterprise space on a shoestring budget.
Saleah Laher, chief operating officer for S/4HANA Cloud and part of the investment committee, said that the teams in the latest round presented “some of the most daring and constructive proposals with unbelievable work in such short time.”
But not all teams can receive an investment from SAP.iO. The committee said two teams stood out during the pitch process, based on not just their concepts but also their hustle: Asterisk and Innversation.
Asterisk was co-founded by Gregor Berg and Andre Wenz from the SAP Innovation Center location in Potsdam. The team is building a tool that uses SAP’s unique data assets and the central role SAP plays in managing customers’ business processes. The tool uses a database of more than 20,000 anonymized system logs to provide enterprises with operational insights and performance benchmarks.
“Our access to SAP assets from both a data and product perspective proved to be invaluable. It’s something every startup would dream of,” concluded Wenz. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The effort began with the idea of using SAP data assets to help prioritize internal development efforts. Berg and Wenz had been looking into the topic with colleagues from the SAP Innovation Center in Potsdam for a while already, but made significant progress after joining internal accelerator program in SAP.iO, and realized that the tool had market potential.
“Prior to working with SAP.iO, all we had was a proof of concept (POC) that was developed for a keynote,” recalled Berg. “We felt that we were onto something extremely exciting, but only when we started talking to more customers did we realize the actual size of the problem.”
Innversation was co-founded by Mohit Kanoria, Amit Kumar Singh, Sharath Kumar Rju, and Hemant Rachh from SAP Labs in Bangalore, India. The team built an artificial intelligence-powered lead engagement and qualification solution that enables customers to automate some of the most cumbersome sales tasks to free up capacity for driving conversion.
“Our big vision is to make Innversation the preferred inside sales team in every business,” explained Kanoria. The team is extremely excited about helping companies grow revenue sustainably by using automation. “With Innversation we can bring back transparency and trust by ensuring that nothing is oversold, undersold, or falsely sold.”
The team worked on Innversation as a side project for more than a year. “Prior to joining the accelerator program, we had the first indicators of success, but what really helped us was SAP.iO’s structured approach to validate critical assumptions and solve a real business problem,” explained Kanoria.
He said the team also benefited from different educational activities and networking opportunities with venture capital groups and mentors: “It’s been an amazing experience and we are excited about the next steps. Everything is possible!”
The Asterisk and Innversation teams will join the SAP.iO Venture Studio to work on their projects full time beginning in 2019.