Sharp focus on early stage tech startups is only priority for SAP Labs: COO Mahesh Nayak

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SAP Startup Social, held in Bengaluru early this month, saw numerous big shots like Binny Bansal, CEO of Flipkart and Peter Vesterbacka, CEO of Angry Birds. Amongst the presence of many stakeholders of the startup ecosystem SAP Labs announced that 16 startups had graduated from SAP Startup Studios’ second cohort of its accelerator program.

SAP Startup Studio, is a two-year-old startup accelerator program which provides a one-year end-to-end engagement platform for startups to accelerate their growth journey.

In an interview with Managing Editor of Entrackr, Astha Shukla, Mahesh Nayak, COO of SAP Labs talked about the company’s focus, criterion, and journey as an incubator and accelerator. He also threw light on the startup ecosystem of the country and SAPs future plans in accordance with the ecosystem’s growth.

SAP Labs have been incubating startups since 2016, can you throw light on the sectors SAP has been focussing on? Criteria that SAP looks into in a startup.

We have been incubating startups In India from last 3 years through Startup studio. During 2016-17, we incubated around 7 startups, 2017-18, we incubated 16 startups. We are primarily looking at startups that work in the Technology sector. One of the things that we strive to find in a startup is that they must be early-stage startups. The reason is that we get the space to mentor such startups and give access to our customer base and here we can look at good synergies that exist between their solutions and ours. In the best scenario, we also look at some kind of co-innovation that may develop between us.

Based on your experience, what are the key strengths and weaknesses of Indian Startups?

A couple of years ago it was more of me2 trend, at the moment it is no more me2, a lot of startups are actually looking at the problems segment that actually bothers the end consumer and people of the country. The technology sector is where I am more interested. There are a lot of ways to tackle a certain problem, which one survives, which one doesn’t is a million dollar question. In short, today the Indian Startup ecosystem is working on newer things and it is no more restricted to me2 trend.

Currently, there are a lot of incubator programs working on the ground, how is SAP Labs different from them?

I do agree that there are a lot of incubators in the country. This is one of the incubators programs of SAP Labs, we have others as well. Most of the incubators programs typically work on the formula where they have a platform and something is built on top of their platform by startups and then consumers are given way to use such applications. SAP Labs had such kind of programs but different thing about this Startup Studio of ours is that it lets the creator build something on any platform, whether open source or SAP, non-Sap platforms. The partnership comes within one year of in-house mentoring sessions with us, where they utilise our resources and sometimes also get a chance to co-innovate with us. One big difference is we are technology agnostic, we look at doing something which is meaningful for them rather than just popularising technology for them.

What are your long-term plans for Startup Social?

Startup social for us is actually a place where we get in-house startups, as well as the community of the startups, get the VCs, the mentors, people who have been successful, together. This is also the third version of startup social that we are actually working on, we have grown stronger on a year to year basis in terms of the kind of people we get to the startups that are actually participating.

The intent is to actually have a common platform where everyone related to the startup ecosystem, come together and interact with a hope that we can do something more with that community. The future plan is to get bigger and get more and more startup on our platform.

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