SAP Startup Focus Program Launches In The MENA Region

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After having engaged over 2,000 startups in 57 countries around the world, enterprise application software giant SAP has now kicked off its SAP Startup Focus Program in the MENA region as well. The 12-month program, which is aimed at helping technology startups in the big data, predictive or real-time analytics space to build their applications on the SAP HANA in-memory computing platform, had its regional launch in October with a two-day event at the Dubai Technology Entrepreneurship Center (DTEC) in the UAE.

Marita Mitschein, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, SAP Training and Development Institute at the SAP Startup Focus Program launch in Dubai, UAE.

Commenting on the launch of the program, Marita Mitschein, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, SAP Training and Development Institute, said, “The Middle East and North Africa is home to some of the world’s most tech-savvy minds, and yet many struggle to find productive employment. By launching SAP Startup Focus Program in MENA, we are enabling the region’s technology innovators to enhance their skills on one of the industry’s leading big and smart data analytics platforms, and fuel the region’s entrepreneurial spirit.”

“Ever since the global launch of the Startup Focus Program in 2012, SAP and participating startups have enjoyed great success,” she added. “To date, 175 startups have developed production ready solutions and are actively working in partnership with SAP customers. By launching the program in MENA, SAP Training and Development Institute (SAP TDI) aims to bring the startup community in the region together and provide support for promising startups in growing their innovative business plans.”

Excerpts from an interview with Mitschein:

How exactly does the SAP Startup Focus Program help startups and entrepreneurs in the region?

SAP Startup Focus Program delivers global best practices to support the region’s startup community on their journey. The program includes free support from technical SAP HANA experts to help startups productizing their ideas and making the best use of the SAP HANA cloud platform. Startup Focus teaches the essentials of entrepreneurship and offers regular industry and emerging tech thought leadership events.

Participating startups have access to a community network of entrepreneurs, partners, investors, thought leaders and industry experts. They have the opportunity to pitch to the venture community via the HANA Real Time Fund and SAP Ventures. Furthermore, we offer marketing and sales enablement support to help our startups capturing SAP’s 250,000+ global customer base and sell their market-ready solutions.

The SAP Startup Focus Program was kicked off in the MENA region with a two-day event in Dubai. Image credit: SAP.

How can startups interested to become a part of the program enroll? What are the criteria you’re looking for from applicants?

Startups can span a wide range of vertical industry sectors and solutions. For example, the most common areas for Startup Focus solutions are visualization, business intelligence, market insight (25%), social media, collaboration, gaming (17%), predictive analytics and complex analytics (13%), and IoT/sensor (10%).

The most important criteria for startups to enrol into this program, is to have a compelling use case that fits with SAP HANA. Potentially this would be ideas, which are related to big data, real-time analytics or predictive analytics.

After a use case is submitted and shortlisted by SAP, eligible startups can join the program and put the power of SAP HANA into their startup.

From a personal perspective, what are your thoughts on the MENA entrepreneurial ecosystem?

The Middle East startup scene is definitely growing, especially in the UAE, and the region is increasingly more receptive to enabling startups’ success. For example, it is much easier for startups to incorporate, and access funding from venture capitalists, and join regional incubator programs.

Demonstrating the strong regional demand for startups, in Dubai, for example, SMEs account for 95% of total enterprises, and nearly half of Dubai’s workforce and gross GDP, according to government figures.

The Middle East and North Africa is home to some of the world’s most tech-savvy minds, and within the next five years, we are convinced the next disruptive startup will come from the Middle East and North Africa.

The SAP Startup Focus Program launch in Dubai saw over 200 attendees at the event. Image credit: SAP.

What is SAP’s attitude toward entrepreneurship in the MENA region, and why is it interested in this particular ecosystem? Do you have any other steps or programs you may have lined up to help out startups and entrepreneurs in the region?

This is the first Startup Focus event in the MENA region, and we are hoping for double-digits in the number of startups that submit a business case for validation by the Startup Focus Program.

We are in active discussions with regional incubators and venture capitalist funders in order to extend the regional network and increase the support for our startups. The Middle East startup scene is definitely growing, especially in the UAE. Compared to five years ago, the region is increasingly startup-friendly, as it has become much easier to incorporate and access capital. We are positive to play a key role in shaping up the future entrepreneurs in this region.

With more than 100 million young people set to enter the MENA labor market by 2020, the region needs to invest in education to help youth find and create work places, and develop skills and knowledge needed in the Digital Economy. Startup Focus is a key initiative by the SAP Training and Development Institute (TDI), which strives to help talented young people to enter a corporate workforce within SAP’s ecosystem or establish their own companies. The Institute offers a host of programs tailored to bring SAP business skills to those who have a cultural and social understanding of a local region.

SAP Training and Development Institute is committed to harnessing the potential of young people in MENA to them help succeed in the Digital Economy. Since the inauguration in 2012, the Institute has built skills and knowledge reflecting an in country value of US$70m across the MENA region, and will continue to shape the next-generation of talent and innovators.