SAP-Techstars to fund at least 10 artificial intelligence startups every year
Alexa Gorman, global vice-president of SAP.iO Fund says that SAP will facilitate the startups to relocate to Germany

European software major SAP and startup accelerator Techstars will invest in at least 10 artificial intelligence (AI) startups every year through its SAP.iO Foundry in Berlin.

SAP.iO is an initiative of the tech giant to create an ecosystem of products and software by working with entrepreneurs. In 2017, five Indian startups were among 10 companies selected by SAP.iO’s AI accelerator’s first batch.

“We are looking at enterprise applications from startups that are founded around a year ago,” Alexa Gorman, global vice-president of SAP.iO Fund, told VCCircle over a telephone call from Berlin. “By restricting our focus, we can add value in terms of marketing assistance and mentorship for these startups.”

Under the initiative, it operates a foundry that runs accelerators in partnership with Techstars – the largest startup accelerator programme in the world – while the Fund independently invests in startups.

SAP had last year announced the SAP.iO Fund with an initial seed investment of $35 million to make early-stage investments in software startups that can expand its ecosystem.

It will focus on startups working in AI, machine learning and blockchain technologies.

Gorman said that the fund will look at startups from outside SAP’s accelerator programmes as well.

“Not all of these companies are looking for investment,” said Gorman. “We will continue to work with them even after the accelerator programme. We have also made an investment outside of our accelerator programme in Bangalore-based AI startup Niki.ai.”

Accelerator programme

SAP has an innovation centre in Berlin and the selected startups of the Berlin accelerator will interact with as many as 70 senior executives for mentorship during the three-month programme.

The SAP.iO division also runs accelerators in Berlin, San Francisco, New York and Tel Aviv.

SAP also has accelerators across the globe outside of the foundry division that focus on different themes. The Indian accelerator in Bangalore is part of SAP Startup Studio Accelerator programme and focus areas including the internet of things (IoT).

“All our accelerators are complementary to each other. The startups get access to all our customers. We would like them to work on SAP cloud products but need not necessarily do so,” Gorman said.

The applications for Berlin’s AI accelerator open in February and the programme starts in September while the demonstration day happens in December.

Gorman, who is also the mentor of the Berlin AI accelerator. said that the selection of five Indian startups in 2017 was a coincidence.

“The selection was based on the theme we had and only 2% of the startups that applied got through,” she said.

Praktice.ai, an AI-based platform that facilitates patient-doctor interaction, was one of the startups selected in 2017.

“The accelerator stint helps us with great market access in Europe and the US,” said Akhila Adabala, chief operations officer and chief medical officer of the company that initially operated out of Bengaluru and Singapore. “We were looking only at sales strategy initially but we have improved our product as well. The interactions with potential customers helped us in greater product-market fit.”

Based on 10 million interaction datasets, the platform can automate follow-ups, optimise schedules for doctors and hospitals thereby increasing their efficiency.

SAP also facilitates support services to help the startups move to Germany, with praktice.ai eventually relocating to Berlin.

“If teams wish to stay longer, SAP helps in assisting with visa extensions or space within SAP office are given to the startups,” Gorman said.

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