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Come in Innovation

Many large organizations struggle with how to foster innovation while catering to corporate budgets and existing product lines.

I would like to share my experience from the last 6 months and how we, at SAP Labs Israel, were able to successfully find a win-win formula to bring a unique solution in the connected-car space.

Crossing the chasm with the Mother Ship – SAP

So how come we were able to cross the chasm and reach innovation in a large enterprise? I believe it was the combination of several ingredients:

  • It started when the organization was able to identify an area of innovation which was in-line with corporate strategy. In our case – the connected car space. 
  • Having an executive sponsor is common sense for any enterprise project, but in this case we had the good fortune of having two executive sponsors – One with market access, chartered to define strategy, and the other with access to resources and vested interest in hosting innovative projects.
  • Unique and first of its kind in SAP, the project was to run as a start-up in an external accelerator, The Junction by Genesis Partners which is one of the leading Venture Capital funds in Israel. The accelerator program provided clear and agile milestones, separation from day to day work and a contagious startup spirit with fellow entrepreneurs and mentors.

Our journey commenced. The lab announced an internal contest, which is a great way to raise team spirit, curiosity and bring broad internal exposure. Multiple heterogenic teams spent few weeks investigating the topic at hand, and finally one team, my team (Eyal Barlev, Ido Perez and Lior Frenkel), was chosen by a panel of judges. We had 6 months to deliver a minimal viable product (MVP) for Urban On-Street Parking.


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Startup acceleration – Israeli style

We have a saying in Israel that embodies the “startup nation” spirit – ”We start fast and then we accelerate…”. We had total autonomy in choosing the technologies we adopt, the methodologies we practice and the tools we use. We disconnected from our teams and settled down in The Junction.
We were self-sufficient, nevertheless we had the luxury of consulting with the great brains we have inside SAP as well as external mentors from The Junction. Working next to dreamers, success driven and passionate entrepreneurs is inspiring and their tenacity is contagious. We were able to deliver a live proof of concept after 3 months!


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Don’t look behind you, there’s a big chasm

At last we have reached the finish line in this program. When a startup is successful, it gets “round A” funding, and we got the equivalent – The SAP board decided to commercially productize our solution as part of the SAP product portfolio.

Looking to cross the chasm with a Mother Ship? Maybe this will help.

The journey was amazing but there are some challenges to watch out for. Here are some points to consider:

  • Intellectual Property (IP) -There is a thin balance between large corporate IP exposure and openness and sharing ideas with the accelerator participants. Legal should be involved starting several months before the startup commences its journey and the rules of engagement should be well defined.
  • “What’s next?”. How is the product being integrated into SAP portfolio, what is going to happen with the team that became expert matters on the topic? Make sure that from the halfway point and on you start discussing and making plans for the post acceleration phase.
  • Budget can become a challenge as corporate guidelines may challenge spending items and the startup spirit may challenge approval duration. Outline spending items and have them pre-approved at the beginning of the program. You can consult the program mentors to see what spending items will enable the fast pace required.

Taking HANAGO, our urban on-street parking solution, from zero to demo day was an amazing experience. We proved to ourselves that we can bring a unique solution within a large corporate environment, find a win-win formula and enjoy life in the fast lane.

Look for HANAGO in the coming months, it’s an exciting solution that will save time for drivers, and enable them to enjoy a new experience.

I like this short video from Intuit CEO http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/innovation/how_big_companies_can_innovate

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