Entrepreneurship in the Middle East has grown exponentially in recent years. In many ways, entrepreneurship is becoming ingrained in the region’s culture. Evidence of this growing acceptance of and push for startup growth exists in the many startup accelerators and incubators that operate throughout the region. The demand for entrepreneurial assistance continues to grow, which has encouraged many major international companies to enter the region. For example, Google recently teamed with AstroLabs to create a collaborative, supportive space for area entrepreneurs. Another major company, SAP, also recently became active in Middle East entrepreneurship. In October, SAP, an enterprise application software developer, launched its SAP Startup Focus Program in the Middle East and North Africa.
An Overview of the SAP Startup Focus Program
Through the SAP Startup Focus Program, SAP has engaged more than 2,000 young companies in more than 50 countries since 2012. The program, which runs for 12 months, allows startups in the real-time or predictive analytics, as well as big data, space to harness the power of the SAP HANA in-memory computing platform. The regional launch of the program was marked by a two-day celebratory event at the Dubai Technology Entrepreneurship Center. The senior vice president and managing director of the SAP Training and Development Institute commented on the many talented engineers in the Middle East who struggle to find employment. The Startup Focus Program aims to provide these innovative individuals with an opportunity to learn a big and smart data analytics platform, apply it to their own ideas, and launch new companies.
Since its inception, the program has empowered 175 startups to create production-ready solutions that they have brought to customers through SAP. The program includes free support from SAP HANA experts as they develop products from their ideas. SAP HANA is a cloud platform that entrepreneurs can use regardless of their geographic location. In addition, participants receive instruction in the fundamentals of starting and leading a business. SAP will also frequently host local events for leading technology professionals. Participating entrepreneurs gain access to an expansive SAP network of investors, thought leaders, and industry experts and have the opportunity to pitch ideas through SAP Ventures and the HANA Real Time Fund.
Participation in the SAP Startup Focus Program
SAP invites applications from a wide range of startups. The most well-represented sector is market insight, which accounts for about 25 percent of all program participants. Other common sectors include visualization, collaboration, social media, business intelligence, and complex analytics. About 17 percent of participating startups focus on developing games. To apply, startups should have a clear idea of how the SAP HANA framework will benefit them and their ideas. Since SAP HANA mostly relates to big data, real-time, and predictive analytics, entrepreneurs should have ideas that incorporate these functions. SAP considers all applications and bases acceptance into the program on the projected use of the HANA framework, as well as the degree to which its resources will benefit the startup.
In the coming months, SAP hopes to see a double-digit number of applications from Middle Eastern startups that want to participate in the program. Understanding the vast potential of the region, SAP is in discussions with several regional incubators and venture capitalists to create a larger network and expand its resources for entrepreneurs. SAP recognizes that recent changes in access to funding and fewer hurdles to incorporation will continue to fuel the development of startup culture in the region.
Through its program, SAP hopes to further jump-start the Middle East’s trust in entrepreneurship and expand opportunities for the millions of smart, young minds set to enter the Middle Eastern labor market by 2020. An initiative of the SAP Training and Development Institute (TDI), Startup Focus fundamentally aims to increase entrepreneurship and expand opportunities for young people to enter the SAP ecosystem’s workforce. TDI identified the Middle East and North Africa as one of the parts of the world with the greatest potential for success in the Digital Economy. So far, TDI has invested more than $70 million in the region to create programs like Startup Focus that will allow the next generation of skilled workers to hone their talents and convert their unique ideas into thriving businesses.
In order for startups to succeed, entrepreneurs need a deep understanding of local culture and social norms. SAP’s programs in the Middle East aim to train people with a thorough understanding of what the region’s consumers need and expect. TDI will continue to identify opportunities for developing region- and country-specific programs to introduce entrepreneurs to the expansive SAP network and teach them how to make use of products like SAP HANA that have the power to launch Middle Eastern startups to new heights. Middle Eastern entrepreneurs interested in the real-time, big data, and predictive analytics space should look at the SAP HANA framework to see how it could fuel the development of their products and consider applying to take advantage of this amazing opportunity.