Attending SAP iO's Foundry Demo Day

Yesterday I went to a female founder demo day hosted by SAP iO's NYC-based foundry, a program that provides access to SAP APIs, technologies, and opportunities for exposure to SAP customers. The first cohort was comprised of women-led B2B enterprise startups who spent the last four months working part time in a space at SAP's Hudson Yards office.

Attending as a fellow corporate venturer, and one who is trying to expand our own incubation efforts and events programming, I was impressed by the turnout and pitches. A few things in particular struck me:

  1. Even though it was very explicitly billed as a female founder demo day, the room was still essentially a 50/50 split, male/female. I feel like in years past many might have assumed this type of event and founder base was meant only for a female audience
  2. At the end of their pitches, the founders went beyond asking for something, and told the audience what they wanted, e.g., "if you can open doors for us or want to invest, come talk to us afterwards, space is running out"
  3. The role of a corporate venture relationship is more about partners than customers. The right enterprise partnership can provide more validation and open more doors than the right customers are able to do

And then a few questions came to mind as well:

  1. Is a corporate VC more appealing when it is a technology-based company, because startups in their portfolio/foundry/ecosystem gain access to both the tech tools and the CVC customers? For instance, the startups in this cohort gained access to otherwise expensive SAP tech, while also getting exclusive access and introductions to SAP's corporate customers…how can my company as a life insurer (that is in great need of digital transformation, innovation, etc.) provide an equal value prop?
  2. Blockchain has a lot of hype, and executives talking about it, but I really wonder how older incumbents are going to embrace the technology when its premise is in distributed authority/information/ownership, and from what I have seen with older enterprises is that they are inherently more siloed and territorial?

Looking forward to the next cohort which will be, amongst other things, wellness-focused.