CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Objective Logistics is the kind of startup application developer software giant SAP wants to lure to its HANA platform.
The Boston-based company uses analytics and gamification techniques to help restaurants improve customer service and sales. Servers who perform the best are automatically scheduled into their preferred shifts, and can track their performance on a leaderboard against their peers. Objective Logistics is looking to expand its offerings to create applications for sales force workers in businesses like car dealerships and retailers.
SAP is holding forums around the world to strike up partnerships with entrepreneurs like Objective Logistics which are building new business applications. On April 5, the forum came here to Hack/Reduce, a non-profit partnership between local business, universities and the state government to promote big data technologies and education.
SAP’s strategy to expand HANA’s customer base was reinforced during a panel session on big data with Boston-based venture capitalists, Chris Lynch of Atlas Venture, Antonio Rodriguez of Matrix Partners and Kent Bennett of Bessemer Venture Partners. Lynch, who is a co-founder of Hack/Reduce, said that real success stories in the burgeoning big data market will come “at the top of the stack” from the companies who build applications that are useful and usable by business practitioners.
“I would rather be Zynga than Vertica, and Zynga was run on Vertica,” said Lynch, who was CEO of Vertica before it was acquired by HP.
Objective Logistics already has received funding from Google and Lynch’s firm, Atlas Venture. Eric Poley, the company’s vice president of customers, said they attended the forum to get a look at a possible technology to help them grow bigger, and to meet people. “It’s never a bad thing to explore other resources that could let us hit that scale that we’re looking to from an overall technology standpoint,” he said. “As we grow, our valuation is going to be based upon [the issue]: is the technology truly scalable, ready for prime time commercialization.”
Poley said access to SAP’s network of customers was another strong draw to the event. He said they’ve taken full advantage of Google’s 2011 acquisition of the Zagat Survey and its restaurant contacts. “We tap into the power of that Google network daily,” Poley said. “Playing up the network and leveraging the power of the network of our investors is key to a small team like ours.”
From SAP’s perspective, the message to tech startups looking to grow is the same whether the forum is in Boston, Bangalore, Burlingame or Brazil: if your app runs better on the in-memory database HANA, we have some customers we’d like you to meet.
The SAP Startup Focus program offers a free instance of HANA to startups as a development environment; applications that run well are given opportunities for cross-marketing and promotion, as well as business development and growth. A key tenet of the proposed partnership is that SAP doesn’t touch the intellectual property, according to Scott Jones, SAP’s senior director of startup technical enablement.
“We don’t see any code,” Jones said. “We don’t want to see any code. It’s yours. We’re not asking for money, we’re not asking for IP rights, we just want you to take a look at our platform.”
SAP wants to add value to HANA by finding innovative applications to package with the in memory database. SAP’s software is largely focused on enterprise, so the startup applications also help round out the offering portfolio Kapanen said. Partnerships with startups give the company more to discuss with customers: instead of going in with two or three use cases, sales staff “add the startup solutions and go in with five or six,” he added.
In return, startups get access to the HANA database, but also access and an introduction the global customer list of the third largest software company in the world. There are cross-promotional opportunities, demo opportunities at the dozens of industry events that SAP holds or attends, and development help, if desired.
Kapanen said there are currently 30 startups globally that are well along into the startup program, and 200 overall that have submitted proposals and proof of concepts to gain free access of HANA.
Lynch, the venture capital investor, said that success in the field comes down to finding a great application of that technology that’s usable in a specific business case. “It’s about building vertical applications and disrupting businesses,” Lynch said. “If you focus on verticals, you’ll win.”
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