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Author's profile photo Uta Spinger

From King Shaka to SAP HANA

Lessons from a Zulu king and big dreams: at the third SAP Startup Forum in South Africa, startup companies pitched their business ideas to an expert jury in Johannesburg.


Every company was once a startup – even SAP that just recently celebrated its 44th anniversary. With the SAP HANA Startup Forum in Johannesburg, SAP revisits its roots to nurture potential technology giants of the future.

“SAP has built a big ecosystem across the African continent, but we want to bring more startups into the ecosystem”, Elke Simon-Keller, Innovation Lead SAP Africa, aid in her opening address. And Gary Parnell, SAP Startup Focus Program EMEA, added: “Although the startup scene in Africa is big and vibrant, I would like to see more success stories from young African entrepreneurs.”

And that’s exactly where the SAP Startup Focus program can help: to connect new companies to customers. A group of experts shared their experience as entrepreneurs during a panel discussion with the participating startups – from setting up your business model to legal advice, and an efficient communication strategy.

The idea of the program is to bring SAP and entrepreneurs together toward the end of the innovation cycle – precisely during the phase when young companies are ready to bring their maturing ideas onto the SAP HANA technology platform.

The Startup Focus program helps participating startups from proof-of-concept to production, providing access to SAP HANA expertise, licensing, training and education throughout the lifecycle. The program also helps startups productize their solutions by providing marketing and promotional support and access to press, analysts, and investors.

Since 2012, about 2,800 organizations have joined the global SAP HANA startup initiative, of which several have successfully developed and commercialized products based on the HANA platform.

King Shaka Says: Innovation is Key to Success

In his keynote “How King Shaka Built the First Billion Dollar App”, Dr. Nikolaus Eberl, CEO Ideas Management Academy, shared innovation secrets from Zulu King Shaka with the audience: summarized as the IziCwe Code, meaning the hunter code of his regiment, Eberl explained how the Zulu king reinvented the battle field with new weapons and strategies. Translated to today’s business battle fields, only organizations that create a culture of innovation and constantly follow this path will succeed in today’s competitive business environment.

Big Data, Big Dreams, and Big Ideas

The new startups that attended the event represented a broad range of industries and business models. Ideas ranged from a cyber police app reporting crimes in real-time, an intelligent HR solution, an efficient donation allocation program in healthcare, and a sales opportunity solution, to a cloud solution that integrates heterogeneous systems

The diverse set of participants had one thing in common: to achieve success, they need to process vast amounts of data in real time for their customers. That is where the need for SAP HANA comes in, as it leads to business models that were not possible before.

For the jury, two business ideas stood out that will precisely benefit from the SAP HANA platform, making it possible to analyze and process a massive amount of data: the Medical Aid Bible, a platform that aims to make medical aid plans in South Africa more transparent, and the FAN World Cup, which is according to founder Al Karaki set up to become the Facebook for soccer fans. The FAN World Cup will integrate both the 800 million playing soccer fans and the 2 billion non playing soccer fans on its own social networking platform.

Best Startup Idea: Medical Aid Bible

The jury awarded the Medical Aid Bible as the best solution presented because it specifically addressed an issue in South Africa. The medical aid system is not very transparent, many South Africans struggle to find the best plan for their medical needs, be it a broken leg or a premature baby.


“With the Medical Aid Bible South Africans can compare a vast variety of medical aid plans and find the right one for them”, explained startup entrepreneur Eve Dmochowska (see picture with SAP Africa Innovation lead Elke Simon-Keller on the left). “Now, it is very difficult for patients to find out if your plan covers a specific treatment or surgeon. The platform aims to make doctors and insurers work together by feeding data from doctors into the system. This way, patients will have a better transparency when comparing plans.

The Medical Aid Bible will be rewarded for the best start-up pitch with business consulting hours and an iWatch. All attending companies will be part of a 12-months accelerator program to develop enterprise apps. The feedback from attendees such as startup entrepreneur Timothy was overwhelmingly positive: “Fantastic session, the perfect solution for my business.”

And who knows, maybe one of them will develop the next billion dollar app inspired by Zulu King Shaka’s battle strategies combined with the power of SAP HANA.

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      Former Member

      Great example of how SAP is stimulating the innovation agenda in Africa from startup grass-roots level. Well done to all involved!