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SAP HANA Startup Forum comes to Africa

The African SAP Big Data HANA Startup Forum was held this week at SAP’s offices in Woodmead, Johannesburg. The event, with a real African flair in terms of presentation, not only highlighted much creativity, but the massive growth opportunity that HANA represents for African startups to help solve problems that were previously thought unsolvable. More than 50 innovative startup companies across Africa had pitched their proposals to SAP Africa and eight finalists were selected, all of whom presented their ideas to a panel of judges from SAP and Hasso Plattner Ventures. The event was well attended – 65 people in all – by SAP employees, students from the University Alliance progamme and professors, SAP Research and members of the media (15 from both business and tech publications). The objective of the SAP Startup Focus Program was to provide startups with support to build their applications on top of SAP HANA®. 

Kaustav Mitra, VP Global Program Lead of SAP Startup Focus, took the spotlight quoting a phrase from Vishal Sikka, CTO and member of the SAP Executive Board. “The biggest thing we have learned in our 40 years as an enterprise applications company is that there are not enough applications in the world and that the problem is looking for imagination far beyond the walls of SAP to the collective imagination of all us.” Kaustav explained that while SAP will continue to build applications on top of HANA, the most exciting applications will happen outside of SAP. “Some of the things we are seeing these startups doing are developing applications for personalised healthcare, brand sentiment, propensity to churn, automation, fraud detection, investment optimisation and distribution network optimisation, predictive maintenance, supply chain risk and inside threats.

“We meet startups from all over the world and find out if HANA is a best fit for what they are trying to do and then identify the companies that are doing the most exciting things. We then take them on a technical boot camp to train their developers on HANA and provide technical support to make SAP resources available to them at no cost. Our hope is to start seeing a lot of startups coming out of Africa to leverage these opportunities and close deals for themselves.”

A contingent of students from Tshwane University of Technology and professors also attended the event, many of whom were introduced to HANA for the first time.  They expressed a keen interest in the University Alliances (UA) at HANA trainings into 2013. SAP UA aims to reach hundreds of thousands of students worldwide this year and to provide students and professors access to HANA and mobile apps.  Various students voiced their opinion of HANA and the Startup Forum saying research and development is key to understand business problems and come up with solutions that best African challenges, this is especially true in a market faced with a serious skills shortage. They indicated HANA would play a critical role to help African startups leapfrog infrastructure challenges and help them grow and run faster.

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