SAP’s Pro Bono for Economic Equity program was founded in early 2021 as part of SAP’s response to the social justice movement. Putting to use its decade-long experience running social sabbatical pro bono consulting programs, SAP decided to develop a program to help strengthen Black-owned businesses and social enterprises by providing them with support and expertise from its employees.
The Pro Bono for Economic Equity program was launched as a six-week initiative supporting Black-owned businesses in four U.S. cities: Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York City. SAP employees spend one week working full time with their assigned business, and five weeks working at least eight hours per week. In many instances, given the businesses supported are typically newer and smaller scale, the arrival of SAP volunteers leads to the doubling of an organization’s staff.
The program kicked off in March of 2021, with 48 SAP employees volunteering with 16 businesses. The initial results showed that 95% of businesses felt the program met their expectations and were satisfied with their experience. Meanwhile, 92% said they felt more prepared to address future challenges for their organization.
Given its success, a second phase was held in October, and the program was expanded internationally to Brazil, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. To date, employees from 27 different U.S. cities have participated. North America is also in the process of rolling out its third round.
Having just passed its first anniversary, we checked in with two businesses that participated in the first phase to see how they view the program’s benefits one year later.
SAP’s Pro Bono for Economic Equity: One Year Later
MedTrans Go is a technology platform working to solve the $150 billion problem of medical appointment cancellations. They do this by providing healthcare facilities access to a customizable suite of services to address the root causes of their cancellations, including medical transportation, interpretation, and more.
The organization’s beginnings trace back to when orthopedic surgeon Dr. Obi Ugwonali had two back-to-back patients cancel on him on the day of their surgeries. This was a moment of clarity for Dr. Ugwonali: Upon further research, he learned that a significant number of canceled appointments were due lack of transportation or interpretation, as was the case for his two canceled appointments.
He found this reality unacceptable, and after building a platform demo and an interested customer base, he partnered with Dana Weeks to found MedTrans Go in 2019. As Weeks put it, “The idea that these solvable issues are so widespread that they prevent millions of people each year from getting the care that they need gave us resolve to figure out the best way to improve access to care for these patients. Our solution does that.”
Fast forward to 2021, the health-tech startup was looking to strengthen its sales and marketing efforts and processes as they fought to continue growing during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We had a great product, our customers loved it, but it became a question of how do we get more potential customers to see there is a solution to this problem and help them understand how we can help them,” said Alexis Mitchell, MedTrans Go’s Chief of Staff.
The organization came across SAP’s Pro Bono for Economic Equity program and decided to apply — admittedly unsure about what to expect.
What they got exceeded their expectations. “It’s a gift that keeps on giving,” said Weeks. “It really was a great infusion of resources that we needed. In a sense, we couldn’t consume everything immediately, but as we’ve been going through the year, it’s a built-up system that we can go back to and pull from.”
The resource Weeks is referencing is one of the deliverables from the SAP team: a more than 30-page guidebook on digital marketing specific to MedTrans Go’s business needs.
As Mitchell said, reflecting on the program, “It really was a great way to get us to this next level, and we really can see a real impact from these six weeks. If we were to do it again, I wouldn’t have changed anything. The structure works best to meet the needs of each organization. I would certainly recommend it. SAP has such a vast network of employees and resources, you will find what you need.”
Another added benefit was the cost, according to Weeks: “I looked into how much it would cost to hire consultants, and to be able to get this for free as an early-stage startup was a huge, huge benefit.”
“It’s not just capital people need”
This is something Dr. Christine Izuakor agrees with. “If someone had simply given me a check, I would not have been able to hire consultants at the level SAP provided. This opened my eyes: It’s not just capital that people need,” she said.
Dr. Izuakor is the founder and CEO of Cyber Pop-up, an organization offering cyber security experts on demand for small and midsize businesses. The idea was born out of Dr. Izuakor doing pro bono cyber security projects for nonprofit organizations where she realized it wasn’t just nonprofit organizations that were struggling with access to cyber security professionals — this problem spans organizations across industry and size. Her vision with Cyber Pop-up is to build a world where companies of all sizes have access to the most diverse and talented cyber security professionals on the planet.
Based out of Chicago, Cyber Pop-up was also a first-round participant of the program. With her attention focused on the “normal” challenges every solo entrepreneur deals with — raising capital, gathering resources, and balancing her schedule and time, among other things — Dr. Izuakor was hoping to utilize the Pro Bono for Economic Equity program to help develop a new minimum viable product (MVP).
Dr. Izuakor was able to accomplish her goal of leveraging the program in order to create an updated, more refined MVP that would allow Cyber Pop-up to better suit the needs of its future customers and clients.
As with MedTrans Go, the Pro Bono for Economic Equity program exceeded Dr. Izuakor’s expectations: “The SAP team helped me understand the best way to build the next generation of product, allowing us to get to the next level and stay affordable. They did a ton of research about Cyber Pop-up and our market advantage and helped us create a road map that set us up for organizational growth.” Additionally, “two days after the program began, I already had wireframe mockups. I had no idea I’d get the level of output from the program I received. I was blown away from day one!”
This “output” has helped Dr. Izuakor immensely. For instance, it’s helped tell the Cyber Pop-up story to investors. “Investors want to see what you’re building; to be able to show them something tangible has helped people better understand us and our product. It’s one thing to tell a story, it’s another to be able to say you already have the product wireframes and are ready to work with a developer. It boosted my confidence.”
Dr. Izuakor also credits the work of the SAP team with helping her to win hundreds of thousands of dollars in pitch competitions. “There are not many programs out there that produce tangible benefits like the program. This program is so unique and so different. It’s almost like an extension of your team,” she said. “It’s made a world of difference for us.”
The Pro Bono for Economic Equity program will launch two separate cohorts in North America in 2022. To learn more, visit PyxeraGlobal.org/economic-equity.