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Pairing the Power of SAP HANA with the Innovative Agility of a Startup

by Ron Wessels | SAPinsider

April 1, 2013

Since the ability to innovate is such a critical cornerstone for any successful startup company, SAP quickly realized that startups were perfect candidates to come up with exciting new SAP HANA use cases. That's one reason why SAP launched the SAP Startup Focus program, which provides talented startups with the tools, support, and motivation to work with SAP HANA. In this article, you'll learn more about the program, how to get involved, and what it means for SAP customers.

When SAP introduced SAP HANA, we proclaimed it (accurately!) as a platform for innovation. And while SAP has developed several of its own innovations using this revolutionary platform, we are even more excited to see what third-party developers can produce on SAP HANA, what new use cases they can come up with, and how they can really push the technology to its limits.

That’s one reason SAP launched the SAP Startup Focus program, which provides talented startups with the tools, support, and motivation to work with SAP HANA. Why startups? Since the ability to innovate is such a critical cornerstone for any successful startup company, SAP quickly realized that startups were perfect candidates to come up with exciting new SAP HANA use cases.

SAP Startup Focus Program 101

The SAP Startup Focus program is an initiative launched and sponsored by Dr. Vishal Sikka, Member of the Executive Board, Technology and Innovation at SAP AG. The program has three driving principles:

  1. Make SAP HANA’s breakthrough capabilities easily available to the startup community for development.
  2. Offer a simple, inexpensive, effective development accelerator to all eligible participants.
  3. Work as a one-stop advocacy group to help startups commercialize and go to market with SAP HANA solutions.

A company interested in joining the SAP Startup Focus program can begin by participating in a Startup Forum (see Figure 1). These forums are live or virtual events where startups can learn more about SAP technologies and programs and about what SAP has to offer. These forums also give the startups a chance to pitch their SAP HANA use case ideas to venture capitalists, the media, and executives from SAP and SAP Ventures.

The stages of the SAP Startup Focus program

Figure 1 — The stages of the SAP Startup Focus program

A list of upcoming Startup Forums is available at Interested parties can submit a completed registration form to SAP; if a company is selected to participate in a Startup Forum, it will receive an invitation before the forum date.

From each Startup Forum, promising firms are invited to join a development accelerator (DA). Startups are selected based on how compelling their use case is, how feasibly the use case they are suggesting lends itself to an SAP HANA-based solution, and, most importantly, how the use case will benefit customers.

The objective of the DA is to build a proof of concept (PoC) and, eventually, a product with explicit business value. The DA kicks off with a virtual boot camp on SAP HANA development topics. Participants also receive SAP HANA test and development licenses and a development toolkit so they can leave the boot camp with all the tools and knowledge they need to get down to work and begin coding.

Once development is underway, SAP will continue to support participants with optional architecture reviews, technical support, and consulting. For example, we offer scheduled “office hours” into which technical teams can dial, an inclusive network of SAP HANA experts, and a private community in which teams can discuss challenges and share experiences. In addition, the startups’ development teams get the most up-to-date documentation and access to the latest versions of SAP HANA. We also encourage startups to validate their SAP HANA efforts with real customers and use that feedback when they develop their productive application roadmaps.

 Once the startups’ solutions are past the PoC stage, SAP helps promote them in several different ways, including showcasing them at conferences and events, presenting them in SAP press releases, and facilitating  meetings with the press, industry analysts, and bloggers. In 2012, the forum events led to over 150 startups joining the DA phase of the program and delivering about 50 functional PoCs. Several of these companies are now in the process of commercializing their solutions.

This program not only gives startup companies ample opportunities to promote their products, it also makes sure that customers get information about these innovative solutions and the benefits they can bring. 

The Results of the SAP Startup Focus Program: Compelling New Innovations Made Possible with SAP HANA

So what are some of the innovations that have come out of the SAP Startup Focus program so far? Let’s look at some examples.

Improving Root-Cause Analysis and Early-Warning System Capabilities

One UK-based company in the SAP Startup Focus program was able to use SAP HANA to support its root-cause analysis and early-warning solution. This solution is designed to detect defects in complex, high-value manufacturing and healthcare industries. However, the core analytics algorithm in this solution has exponential processing needs, since it cross-calculates every manufacturing parameter with every other parameter in multiple dimensions.

SAP HANA allows the core analytics algorithm to run in seconds rather than days. This is especially helpful for large manufacturers that might deal with a product recall, for instance, a situation in which every second counts.

Aiding in Fraud Detection and Prevention

A Portugal-based startup was able to use SAP HANA to power its real-time fraud prevention application, which helps payment processing companies and other financial institutions detect and stop fraud before it occurs. With this solution, companies can transform their automatic screening practices and case management processes.

SAP HANA’s real-time database architecture enables the solution to compare each and every credit card transaction with the entire history of transactions that card has performed for up to three years while the transaction is being approved — all in under 20 milliseconds. In addition, besides being fast, the solution is amazingly accurate, with a 97% higher fraud detection rate than comparable products.

Powering Tools to Help Companies Understand Their Customers and Improve Marketing

A US-based startup was able to augment its mobile apps with an SAP HANA-powered back-end system. The company’s social experience apps are designed to help brands grow and engage with their fan base while collecting valuable social and behavioral data. This data is then stored within a data hub powered by SAP HANA.

This approach allows clients to perform powerful analysis within the data hub to glean insights about their customers and create actionable customer segments that can be used to improve the effectiveness of their marketing efforts across email, in-store, and online advertising. The benefits include increased conversion rates for sales and increased customer lifetime spend.

Enabling Real-Time Alerts Across Business Networks

An Australia-based company used SAP HANA to power its Video Business Analytic (VBA) solutions, which process outputs from video cameras and sensors in real time to deliver accurate and actionable business intelligence and analytical insights to customers. For example, one of the company’s business applications is designed specifically to help prevent gas station drive-off thefts. All vehicles are registered as they enter the gas station and, if a vehicle drives off without paying, it is enrolled as a suspect in the solution and broadcast to all gas stations in the network. If the same vehicle enters any other gas station at a later time, the system identifies the vehicle, matches it against the database, and immediately alerts the operator and law enforcement authorities.

Visit to find more examples of the kinds of innovative, compelling apps available from startups.2

What’s Next for the SAP Startup Focus Program?

The SAP Startup Focus program is evolving rapidly to ensure that we can always meet the needs of the startups we are supporting. In fact, to expand the SAP Startup Focus program, SAP is doing the following:

  • Removing some restrictions; allowing pre-revenue startups to participate, for instance, will open the program to even more companies
  • Building self-service tools so startups can more easily progress into and through the program 
  • Enabling continuous onboarding to drive a world of new solutions on SAP HANA

In the future, we also plan to expand the program to include other key SAP platform technologies, such as the mobile platform and SAP NetWeaver Gateway.

If the SAP Startup Focus program piques your interest, we invite you to visit to learn more.


Ron Wessels ( currently serves as a Senior Director for the SAP Startup Focus program. Prior to SAP, Ron founded Kynergy LLC, a strategic marketing and sales consulting practice that worked with well-known companies such as Cisco Systems, Microsoft, and Universal Studios.


1 For a more in-depth case study of the success of a company in the SAP Startup Focus program, see “Serving Up Profits One Pint at a Time” in the April-June 2013 issue of insiderPROFILES. [back]


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