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Author's profile photo Sarah Harvey

Power of Small Roundtable Highlights SMEs in NYC


Today, there are 200,000 small businesses in New York City. Someday, any one of them could become a multinational corporation like SAP, creating thousands of jobs and supporting the global economy in countless ways.

Kicking off the SME Summit on Nov. 29 at SAP’s New York offices, the “Power of Small” roundtable session featured SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott and discussed why, and how, we should help small businesses thrive in the New York City economy and around the world.

The panel began with a reminder that all businesses start off small. Forty years ago even SAP was a startup with only five employees. Any small company can succeed through innovation and hard work, the panelists suggested. Jorge Silva-Puras of the Small Business Administration ensured the audience that the state of small businesses in the U.S. has improved since the 2008 collapse. Today’s New York-area SMEs are facing new obstacles in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, as well as high costs, access to capital and talent, and technological advances.  Furthermore, different SMEs face different challenges. Not everyone is a tech entrepreneur wearing a hoodie, one panelist pointed out. Main Street businesses are much different than high growth ones, and they have different needs.

Still, an ecosystem of entrepreneurship has unexpectedly developed in NYC, said Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City. This has been perpetuated by the changing culture of the city’s universities and institutions, which increasingly foster technological innovation.

Wylde was also among the panelists who called for a change in immigration policy. One-third of small businesses in NYC are owned by first-generation immigrants, she said. Very successful entrepreneurs—many of whom were educated in the U.S.—cannot get visas and must return to their home nations. This conflicts with our country’s best economic interests, some panelists argued.

Endeavor founder and CEO Linda Rottenberg agreed. Endeavor is a global non-profit that targets entrepreneurs with the greatest capacity to help grow economy and create jobs. By partnering with SAP they have developed ways to measure the employment and GDP growth resulting from their efforts. Endeavor has helped spawn ecosystems of entrepreneurship by simply identifying startups in countries around the world. “Chaos is a catalyst,” said Rottenberg of her company’s mission to spark change in places that don’t have the resources and talent of New York City.

Finally, the panel turned to technology. Millennials are using social media to access the same information as CEOs, said Rottenberg, which is shattering the traditional hierarchy. McDermott agreed. It is a consumer-led revolution and enterprises are struggling to keep up, he said. Businesses of all sizes must adopt cloud and mobile solutions to decrease costs and access the customer. It is also increasingly essential to have real-time speed through in-memory computing technology like SAP HANA.

“Technology is the heart and soul of every business,” said McDermott. Technology, it seems, is also the Power of Small.

Watch a video of the roundtable session here.

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