What does software company SAP SE offer start-ups?

Fostering talent through acceleration, incubation, education and investment

25 European Corporate Startup Stars reveals which large companies are doing the most to support new firms. These case studies highlight some specific examples of active and successful collaboration between corporates and start-ups.

A good example of…

Entrepreneurial DNA

European headquarters: Walldorf, Germany

Geographical reach: Global

Sector/s of interest: Big data, predictive analytics, real-time business, cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence and machine learning, cyber security, augmented reality and virtual reality

Works with start-ups through:

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  • The SAP Startup Focus Program, which is engaged with 3,500-plus start-ups globally of which approximately 1,200-plus are from 52 countries across Europe, the Middle-East and Africa
  • Collaborations through the SAP University Alliances
  • Sapphire Ventures, SAP SE’s venture capital fund, which has made over $1.4bn of investments
  • Acquisitions through SAP SE’s corporate development work
  • Partnerships with global accelerators, incubators and venture capital firms

Why does SAP SE work with start-ups?

Multinational software corporation SAP SE is committed to bringing digital transformation to its enterprise customers. Start-ups help with this by creating products for SAP’s technology platforms. This benefits both the corporation and its customers.

How does SAP SE work with start-ups?

The SAP Startup Focus Program enables entrepreneurs in the big data, predictive and real-time analytics spaces to develop new applications on SAP technology platforms and accelerate market traction in a structured way.

Currently, 3,500-plus enterprise-focused software start-ups, from 60-plus countries, are part of the SAP Startup Focus family. SAP also promotes start-up collaboration through an Internet of Things (IoT) incubator, the SAP University Alliances initiative, and an employee intrapreneurship scheme. Sapphire Ventures, SAP SE’s global venture capital fund, provides the growth capital start-ups need to scale their businesses.

What has SAP SE done to facilitate collaboration with start-ups?

The SAP Startup Focus Program engages start-ups by providing free software, expertise, and infrastructure credits of up to $20,000, as well as free go-to-market acceleration. This support has helped thousands of start-ups to generate multimillion euros in revenue, funding and acquisitions.

SAP SE also collaborates with later-stage start-ups through its venture capital fund Sapphire Ventures. And the SAP University Alliances, which supports and mentors student entrepreneurs, has more than 2,650 member institutions in over 90 countries.

Success story: Celonis GmBH 

Celonis GmBH aims to improve the entrepreneurial environment at universities and research institutes, as well as increase the number of technology and knowledge-based business start-ups.

After being introduced to SAP SE through a hackathon, Celonis GmBH took part in the SAP Startup Focus Program and successfully built, validated and certified its product. The product proved a success with SAP SE’s customer base, and this led to significant revenues for Celonis.


“SAP SE has an impressive, comprehensive and cohesive approach to working with scale-ups.”

Ian Wallis, Corporate Startup Stars judge


What can other corporates learn from SAP SE about working with start-ups?

  • Structured initiatives, such as the SAP Startup Focus Program, provide tangible value that helps draw start-ups into a business
  • Giving start-ups access to customers (rather than purely technology and mentorship) is very effective
  • Fostering the entrepreneurial spirit of start-ups in-house gives corporates an experimental edge. Employing entrepreneurs to work with start-ups also helps promote innovation

What is SAP SE looking for from the start-ups it works with?

SAP SE is looking for start-ups primarily focused on the enterprise, business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C) spaces. While there is no firm requirement regarding development stage, funding or geographic location, there is a focus on technology.

How can start-ups get involved with SAP SE?

Start-ups can register for the SAP Startup Focus Program. In addition, there are also opportunities for startups to engage with SAP SE through the events and hackathons it regularly participates in around the world.
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Image courtesy of SVC2UK CEO Summit 2015.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 644104.


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