Nitish Agrawal is the lead of the Asia Pacific & Japan Operations for the SAP Startup Focus Program. Right before the summer, E-3 had the opportunity to talk to him about his experiences with the startups in the program.
E-3: Mr. Agrawal, what exactly is it you do at SAP Startup Focus?
Nitish Agrawal: I am fortunate to wear multiple hats in SAP Startup Focus Program. I lead the Asia Pacific & Japan (APJ) operations of the Program that includes the following at a regional level:
- Recruitment of promising startups in the areas of strategic interest to SAP,
- Helping them build niche solutions with great market potential,
- Validating the startup solutions and getting those certified by relevant teams in SAP,
- Working with the startups to make the solutions market-ready by advising on the right business and deployment model.
We recently started operations in Middle East & North Africa (MENA), and I have expanded my charter to help our local team in getting the required foundation to support the local startup ecosystem.
Finally, I have had the privilege of working with European startups for the last 3 years as I have been validating their solutions built within our program for completeness and guiding those startups on the technical, functional and business aspects.
The above responsibilities give me an all-round view of the startup engagement and I find it very exciting to play a pivotal role in the success of our startups in multiple capacities.
E-3: What are the challenges you face on the job?
Agrawal: The entire startup ecosystem is fraught with challenges, and all the stakeholders share their piece.
As a Global Accelerator Program with a clear focus on monetizable innovation, there is always this pressure of putting the money where the mouth is to drive quality startup engagement resulting in enterprise-grade solutions that can achieve customer success within expected timelines.
As a regional lead, these challenges flow down to me. Since the startup ecosystem is so dynamic, there is always this danger of being drawn into a specific engagement thereby missing out on some great opportunities.
So, the key is to have a sharp eye in finding that needle from the haystack to maximize the returns on investment.
As a Value Engineering (Validation and other GTM Support) lead for EMEA & APJ, the challenge is to assess the potential of the startup solution by going through the MVP, planned features of the product, and most importantly the construct of the team.
This paves the way for our GTM efforts resulting in success or failure of the startup. From a technology perspective, it’s important to keep pace with the latest innovation, and guide the startups accordingly so that they could build solutions using the cutting-edge technology and get first-mover advantage.
Overall, being a trusted advisor of the startups is a great responsibility that comes with challenges. These young companies are hungry for success, and so going the extra mile in improving the chances of success is both exciting and challenging.
E-3: Can you share the best moment you had so far?
Agrawal: I had multiple great moments in my stint at SAP Startup Focus but a couple of startup stories are itched in my memory as I feel fortunate to play a role in their success stories.
Retigence is a startup that was born in the IT capital of India, Bangalore in 2014. I had the privilege of getting associated with the founder (and the only member of his company at that time!) in the early days.
We had multiple brain-storming sessions at various stages – Starting from the solution proposal ideation to innumerous discussions on technical, functional and business strategy resulting in a great journey for the startup where it boasts of more than 25 customers and a great investment support from one of the prominent Venture Capitalists of India.
Another startup Green Cosmos had a different story. We successfully built a very compelling solution in the Energy Efficiency space. I was glad to provide the mentorship required by the startup to get a successful exit. Being thanked by the founders for contributing to their startup’s more than expected valuation was heartening!
Being acknowledged by our startups every time they add a feather in their cap is a great feeling and pushes me to work for their success by going an extra mile!