The Ascent Podcast – LaaS: Leadership as a Service

In episode six of the Ascent podcast, Andrew Tarvin speaks with Vanessa Liu, Vice President of SAP.iO Foundries North America. They discuss topics including diversity and inclusion in the start-up community, habits of successful entrepreneurs, and Vanessa’s experience working with founders at SAP’s accelerator. Andrew and Vanessa also discuss thoughts on their outlook for 2021 and the changing nature of the start-up community.

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SAP Commerce Cloud Dresses up Digital Storefronts

COVID-19 has caused disruption across the global economy, forcing companies to alter tried-and-true business processes and meet customers where they are. 

With in-person interactions no longer the default option, companies are investing in digital commerce sites for business and consumer transactions.

SAP Commerce Cloud is aiming to make it easier for businesses to open these digital storefronts and customer engagement platforms to support B2B, B2C and direct-to-consumer sites all on a single platform, said Paula Hansen, senior vice president and chief revenue officer for SAP Customer Experience.

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AI for Leaders: A Look at SAP.iO Grad Cultivate’s Leadership AI Coaching

Cultivate was initially founded through Samsung NEXT’s ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ accelerator program. In 2019, SAP’s early-stage venture arm, SAP.iO, participated in the AI company’s Series A funding where it raised $8 million to grow its go-to-market team and product offerings. Since then, Cultivate has accumulated a total of $10 million in venture capital and partnered with multiple leading academic institutions to further its mission of a digital leadership platform.

Leveraging AI for Leaders and the New Digital Workforce

Cultivate was founded with the vision of empowering next-generation leaders through an AI-based leadership development platform that supports them in improving their teams’ employee experience. The platform uses the latest techniques in Machine Learning (ML) and Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) to derive social insights from digital channels to help leaders realise their full potential.

According to Joe Freed, co-founder and CEO of Cultivate, the company aims to address a leadership development gap to help managers self-evaluate their digital communications with insights on their own behaviours. He comments:

“Managers are overloaded with email and chat, but they still have to be managers of people. When it comes to things like well-being, burnout, inclusion, and engagement, a lot of how you can influence your team can be through digital communication. But we don’t have a lot of tools to help us with this.”

Enterprise leaders who opt-in to the AI coaching platform get access to a digital coach that scans and analyses the words and the metadata collected from various digital communication channels such as Office 365Google SuiteTeams and Slack. The Cultivate AI for leaders then delivers personalised, continuous and easy-to-execute actionable leadership insights to managers themselves, helping them strengthen their workplace relationships and ultimately improve the employee experience.

According to Cultivate, a manager using the digital leadership coaching platform can also give feedback to the Cultivate AI to adjust the feedbacks being generated based on the context of their relationships with their team members.

Companies using the Cultivate AI for leaders include:

  • SAP
  • Qualtrics, an SAP-owned company and leader in XM technology
  • McKesson Corporation, a global leader in pharmaceuticals and health information technology
  • BASF, the largest chemical producer in the world
  • PwC, considered one of the Big Four accounting firms
  • SamsungNEXT, a ventures and innovation group within Samsung

At SAP, the Cultivate platform was deployed at an initial small pilot. After confirming that the AI’s feedbacks were highly beneficial, the SAP team did a larger roll-out to approximately 250 sales managers, where 79% of those eligible to participate chose to do so.

Today, SAP has deployed Cultivate to over 500 managers. The German multinational company reports that 96% of managers have remained engaged with Cultivate since the initial roll-out.

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SAP.iO recherche des startups AgTech & GreenTech pour ses deux nouveaux programmes d’accélération

SAP.iO Foundry Paris lance un nouvel appel à candidatures pour son programme d’accélération de startups orientées agri-business. Cette 6ème promotion de l’accélérateur de startups de SAP retiendra 6 à 10 pépites tech et Agtech pour son programme de 10 semaines débutant en avril 2021. Les startups françaises mais aussi européennes peuvent candidater dès aujourd’hui jusqu’au 31 janvier 2021. Un autre appel à candidature est ouvert aux startups Greentech Françaises pour ses programmes de Berlin et Munich.

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Every Return Saved Is a Win for Consumers, Brands, and the Planet

If the CEO of Presize has his way, clothing returns will be a relic of the past, and online retail brands will not sacrifice business for the sake of the environment.

The startup’s cloud-based app uses artificial intelligence (AI) to calculate clothing sizes for individual online shoppers. Much more than welcome relief for anyone who has ever hesitated to buy clothing online because they were uncertain of their size, the tool reduces size-related product returns by 50% on average.

“Sustainability is core to our mission,” said Leon Szeli, co-founder and CEO. “Every product return we save is a win for the consumer, the brand, and the planet. Every item of clothing that consumers scan using our app means fewer returns. This contributes to a lower carbon footprint for the planet, less time wasted for shoppers, and greater cost-savings for retail brands.”

Sustainability Is the Perfect Fit for Online Shopping

Based in Germany, Presize serves well-known clothing apparel brands in that country and throughout Western Europe. Its online sizing tool has provided half a million recommendations to delighted consumers. Instead of second-guessing ambiguous size charts, shoppers simply click on the “find my size” button, answer basic questions that include their height, weight, and gender, upload a video of themselves if they choose, and then the algorithm provides their best size for that product. Behind the scenes, AI-fueled algorithms learn from dynamic data analyses.

“We constantly train the algorithm using data from hundreds of thousands of human shapes and other variables, plus stock-keeping units (SKUs) from clothing manufacturers, and layer that with product return information,” Szeli said. “Once someone saves their size ID, it can be applied to any brand that uses the Presize app, making shopping much easier. Shoppers can even share their size information with family and friends.”

According to Szeli, online retailers that use the Presize app on their website have increased conversion rates, meaning consumer sales, by up to 25%. As with any AI-based tool, user adoption is critical for calculation accuracy. Szeli said that approximately 10% of shoppers use the tool when it is available on a brand’s site.

“A big part of sizing uncertainty is the diversity between brands, Szeli explained. “Every product is different, and we want to help consumers regardless of what brand of clothing they buy.”

Digital Insights for Sustainable Results

Presize is the culmination of Szeli’s two major career passions: conducting research and having a positive impact on the world. As a university student in the U.S. and the UK, he focused on human trust in AI-based technology. However, he quickly realized that he wanted to accomplish much more than producing papers for niche audiences. When he met his co-founders, who were working with computer vision and AI, they embarked on a journey to literally change the world – beginning with online shopping.

“I wanted to do something entrepreneurial that would have a much wider impact and change people’s lives for the better,” Szeli said. “I saw the problem of product returns as a sustainability issue that wasted environmental resources, as well as time and money for businesses and their customers.”

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Q&A With Cogniac | SAP.iO Interview Series

Rheaply’s VP of External Affairs, Tom Fecarotta, met with Vahan Tchakerian of Cogniac to discuss their organization’s mission and involvement in the SAP.iO Foundry Cohort.

This is Part 1 of 3 in Rheaply’s discussions with other SAP.iO cohort members. Stay tuned for future Q&A’s with Wise Systems and Ivaldi.

Cogniac Q&A

Tom: I’m going to steal this first question from an investor who asked us this. Give me the high school version of the boilerplate and the version for a college student who maybe knows a little bit about AI.

Vahan: I always try to simplify things down. So we know our business, right, but when we introduce it to a new set of people, it’s always like, “what is AI?” Because AI is so universally used — everything is about AI today. For our purposes, we offer an AI platform — a software platform — where we’re working with a combination of neural networks and a deep learning component to automate visual inspection tasks. So anybody doing any sort of inspection is a candidate to use our solution. What’s really beneficial about what we do and how we do it is we’re offering a superhuman level of accuracy in work. In today’s world, inspections and products are super complex — at this rate, humans are missing stuff. We’re not only able to catch these things but catch them quickly, so we are really preventing any sort of downstream failures, etc. — that’s one of the benefits, along with more efficiency.

Tom: James, anything to add to that?

James: No, as Vahan mentioned, it’s going above and beyond what a human is currently capable of — that superhuman aspect is one that we tend to focus on. It’s a game-changer in the visual inspection world because it’s doing so much more at such a high level and operating at such a high degree of accuracy that it’s going to fundamentally change visual inspection and the AI industry within the manufacturing verticals we work in.

Tom: Yeah, that’s really interesting. Talk to me a little more about the application itself. Walk me through the use case for an end user and what that experience looks like.
Vahan: Sure. What we’ve tried to do is make the engagement super simple, to the point that there are no data scientists required — it’s literally technician-level work. Let’s say I’m talking to a potential customer — they have a subject matter expert on a given use case, and what the subject matter expert would need to do is label a few images. In traditional machine vision, somebody would be required to label tens of thousands of images, if not hundreds of thousands; in our case, it’s a few hundred images in what we call established ground truth. Everything we do is teaching with examples, right, in the simplest form. 

Let’s say we’re looking at a cast part — there’s a good part and a bad part. We have to have enough examples of a good part and a few more of a bad part to establish the ground truth of what that looks like. Then we upload that in our platform and the platform starts to make predictions against that data. So consistent labeling is key, and also key is having enough of a dataset of images where you establish ground truth to get the engine running through what we call AI creating AI. So then we look at these predictions, and the subject matter expert says, “You know what, this is kind of close, this is not close,” and so forth. Then there’s some fine-tuning back and forth between the subject matter expert and our platform, and within a couple weeks you’re looking at 95, 98, 100% model accuracy. So that’s the benefit of getting there really quickly, and if you’ve gone down the wrong path, it’s really easy to re-establish yourself and how you do your labeling.

Tom: Is this set into a maintenance system or some kind of internal system that can tell users about the health of item within a warehouse? What does the integration set look like?

Vahan: When we find something that is outside of the norm or there’s an issue, we would send an alert in any way the customer would want to see. Our platform is cloud-based or can be on-prem. Most of our customers are in the cloud. With a cloud solution in a manufacturing environment where someone needs super fast response, alerts — under a second, for example — then you would incorporate what we call an edge appliance. This edge appliance is basically doing the processing of the application at the edge — and if it finds something that’s outside the norm, it can send an alert to any user in any form that’s needed.

Tom: Wow, that’s really cool. I think we’re similar in the respect of wanting to make the process of finding things and understanding their utility easier, and in your case, you’re also working to determine what is potentially needed to improve a particular asset for people. And I think that’s really interesting.

This is a perfect segue into sustainability. Read More….

BigID Raises $70M to Become New York’s Newest Unicorn

’s estimated that the total amount of data is expected to reach 59 zettabytes this year with 90% of that data created in the last two years alone. With such an exponential increase in data, companies are racing to protect the data they maintain and regulatory initiatives like GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act are formalizing standards.  BigID is the data intelligence platform that leverages advanced machine learning and automation to allow customers to seamlessly protect sensitive data, be compliant will data privacy laws, and ensure compliance with data sharing requirements.   The company offers a foundation product that provides companies with visibility of all their data across the data landscape and additional apps provide added intelligence and specialized insight into privacy, protection, and perspective.

AlleyWatch caught up with Cofounder and CEO Dimitri Sirota to learn more about the data protection ecosystem the company has built, its future plans, and recent round of funding, which comes at a $1B valuation and brings the total funding raised to $216.1M for the company founded in 2016.

Who were your investors and how much did you raise?

This was our Series D round. Salesforce Ventures and Tiger Global co-led the round with participation from Glynn Capital and existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners, Scale Venture Partners, and Boldstart Ventures.

Tell us about the product or service that BigID offers.

BigID’s data intelligence platform enables organizations to know their enterprise data and take action for privacy, protection, and perspective.  Customers deploy our product to proactively discover, manage, protect, and get more value from their regulated, sensitive, and personal data across their data landscape. Our ML-based data discovery foundation helps organizations know their data across their entire data landscape (from mainframe to cloud to on-prem), and our app framework lets you action that data – we have apps for privacy, security, and governance that range from a data risk app to a data retention app to a data remediation app and more.

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Fresh from Demo Day: the technology that wants to overpower your air conditioner and the system that will connect to almost any drone

The most interesting graduate from the latest cycle of SAP.io – the accelerator from SAP Global – is Trendemon. At Trendemon they have created a platform for companies designed to improve their ability to understand and accelerate the impact of their marketing efforts on sales. Trendemon has developed a platform that maps the customer’s journeys, ranks the impact of the company’s various content on business goals and personalizes the content on the site.

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SAP Among the World’s Top 25 Startup-Friendly Companies and Winner of Corporate Startup Accelerator Award

WALLDORF — SAP SE (NYSE: SAP) today announced it has been recognized with a Corporate Startup Stars Award as one of the Top 25 most active companies to encourage open innovation with startups.

SAP also received a Corporate Startup Accelerator Award for its acceleration efforts and identifying worldwide best practices in corporate-startup collaboration. The announcement was made at the digital award ceremony hosted by open innovation advisory firm Mind the Bridge and the International Chamber of Commerce, on December 15.

Engaging with early stage startups is an important aspect of SAP’s holistic open innovation approach to remain agile and resilient in today’s global marketplace. This includes dedicated programs within SAP’s early stage venture arm SAP.iO to scout and accelerate new ideas and talent inside and outside of the company.

“At SAP, we know that we can mutually benefit from outside-in perspectives to inspire innovation and drive business impact for our customers,” said Juergen Mueller, chief technology officer and member of the Executive Board of SAP SE. “Since 2017, we have helped scale more than 270 promising startups across all lines of business and industries in nine locations across the globe. Providing them with the access and resources they need to build on SAP solutions complements our portfolio and internal innovation efforts, which enables our customers to gain even more value from their SAP investments.”

For the fifth year, startups have been asked to nominate the companies that are most active and friendly in working with small businesses. Started in 2016 under the European Commission’s Startup Europe Partnership initiative, the Corporate Startup Stars Awards have been scaled to include corporations and startups worldwide through the partnership between Mind the Bridge and the International Chamber of Commerce.

“SAP has consistently proven to be one of the most startup-friendly corporations worldwide by engaging with startups in multiple modes, ranging from acceleration and partnerships to investments and acquisitions,” said Alberto Onetti, chairman, Mind the Bridge. “We appreciate the approach SAP.iO has taken and its recent evolution. The combination of startup and employee-driven innovation and the renewed focus on scaling companies makes SAP.iO a benchmark globally for rethinking and optimizing the corporate accelerator model.”

To learn more about how SAP is helping innovators inside and outside of SAP build products, find customers and change industries, please visit SAP.iO.

Visit the SAP News Center. Follow SAP on Twitter at @SAPNews.

Media Contact:
Lesa Beber, +1 (650) 390-1629, lesa.beber@sap.com, ET
SAP Press Roompress@sap.com

Paradox Takes Home Gold and Silver in Brandon Hall Group’s 2020 Excellence in Technology Awards

Paradox, the leading Assistive Intelligence platform for talent experience, announced today that it was recognized with two Brandon Hall Group Excellence in Technology awards, including the Gold award for Best Advance in AI for Business Impact — a new award introduced for 2020 in the Future of Work category. Paradox also won Silver in Best Advancement in Talent Acquisition Technology for the second consecutive year.

“With the help of our clients, Paradox has been fortunate to create new opportunities and accelerate innovative solutions to allow these organizations to stay agile during some of the most challenging times most of us have ever experienced,” said Aaron Matos, Paradox’s founder and CEO. “It’s always been our mission to make best-in-class products that solve real problems for our clients, and we’re grateful to have been able to deliver on those promises and help them adapt to 2020’s many obstacles.”

Brandon Hall Group is a globally renowned research and analyst firm with more than 10,000 clients and 25 years experience delivering research-based solutions. The Excellence Awards recognize the best organizations that have successfully deployed programs, strategies, processes, systems, and tools that have achieved measurable results. The program attracts entrants from leading companies around the world, as well as mid-market and smaller firms.

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Exploring AI in Logistics and Last Mile Delivery, Innovation in Customer Experience, and A Rebel’s Story of Normalizing Hijabi for Women in Stem w/ Layla Shaikley of Wise Systems

This is a story that is unique and one that needs to be evangelized. Layla Shaikley, co-founder of a tech start-up that has seen explosive growth in logistics tech and AI-driven optimization within last mile stumbled into supply chain. She actually has a background in architecture and design. As an Iraqi woman, she wanted to make mobility safe during the most recent Iraqi war. It was during an elective class in the media lab at MIT (while she was getting her 2nd masters degree) that a seemingly small class project – “how to change 1 billion lives with technology” – would change the course of her life forever.

Besides from being absolutely brilliant and an advocate for women in STEM, Layla is passionate about normalizing Hijabi in our domain and helping college graduates and millennials land the job of their dreams. She has a massive TikTok and Instagram following with millions of views (username @laylool). Layla believes that drivers have a really HARD job and so many focus on the last mile, but what about the last 100 feet?

Layla believes that the future of work is still human and the driver’s experience IS the customer experience in many ways. In Episode 48, you’ll learn about Layla’s passion in customer service and solving wicked problems in logistics, problems that are relevant when we imagine the future of work, autonomous supply chains, drones, and autonomous delivery. She shares outcomes from customer stories of dramatic effects realized in CO2 reduction when using Wise Systems’ AI-enabled optimization.

The expectation for enterprise applications is that they are as seamless like in the consumer world. Layla unpacks Dominos and Zappos examples where customer loyalty comes from good customer experience. She also describes diversity as a business imperative and insights as an SAP.iO foundry superstar (shout out to John Licata)! We have a huge industry with rapidly evolving needs. Where do you stand on innovation and embracing diversity for better product design and customer outcomes.

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Moments of Opportunity and Innovation in the Consumer Products Industry

With the support of the latest startup innovations, consumer products companies are thriving and exceeding consumer expectations in moments of opportunity, now detailed in a new report by SAP.

The consumer products industry has had to move quickly to respond to the various implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. The digital transformation of all industries has been accelerated due to challenges such as radical demand shifts, supply chain reconfiguration, seasonal workforce interruptions, and the repurposing of manufacturing capacity.

The cascade of new trends from within the consumer products industry, coupled with the need to rethink consumer engagement, strengthens the need for consumer products companies to cultivate innovation coming from startups and new technologies.

New Wave in Consumer Products

Five key trends are fueling a new wave of innovation in the consumer products industry.

  1. There has been an increase in venture capital funding for consumer products companies, where disruptive companies are entering the market at a rapid pace, leading established players to question old operating models.
  2. More and more consumers – specifically Millennials and Generation Z – are emphasizing the importance of reducing the environmental impact of their consumption habits and are willing to pay more for organic and all-natural products.
  3. There has been a shift in which types of companies are dominating the market. Whereas previous industry leaders were companies with the most resources and highest manufacturing capacity, today the companies with the most innovative ideas and talent are entering and leading the market at an unprecedented pace.
  4. There has been a sharp decline in the cost of resources in various categories, eliminating the cost-based barriers to market entry and allowing companies to scale like never before.
  5. Consumer products companies no longer think in terms of “moments of truth,” where there is a linear path to purchase with well-defined touch points to influence a purchase. Rather, in order to succeed, consumer products companies need to meet consumers in moments of opportunity, in which they can orchestrate an ecosystem to deliver personalized and unique experiences in service of achieving an outcome.

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Video-Powered Virtual Storefronts Fuel Next E-Commerce Boom

According to Gartner researchers, live commerce is one of the hottest digital selling trends as retailers and even business-to-business (B2B) companies engage customers with personalized sales through streaming video.

To be clear, these are not yesterday’s social brand ambassadors. TVPage has pioneered this latest trend, offering an artificial intelligence (AI)-based cloud platform that brings together store associates, approved influencers, and products for the most dynamic online e-commerce machine to date.

“We are at the forefront of social e-commerce, using video to put virtual yet personalized salespeople directly in the online store,” said Allon Caidar, co-founder and CEO at TVPage. “It’s a full-cycle marketing engine for customer engagement and online shopping, turning companies into their own social media destination that pops up as people search for products.”

Bustling Virtual Storefronts

Large retailers and other companies worldwide are using TVPage to replicate the kind of expert selling consumers crave. For example, when a retailer signs up, it gains a virtual storefront for its own sales associates – as well as independent influencers – all of whom serve as social brand ambassadors. Using a mobile app or web browser, these ambassadors keep consumers engaged by uploading videos, photos, and other information about products on the retailer’s website. They use social media to share their content, answer customer questions, and invite interested consumers to special online events.

“Consumers can chat with social brand ambassadors anytime to find out if a product comes in a different color or size,” Caidar said. “Ambassadors might decide to schedule beauty makeovers based on the questions they’ve received or spotlight gaming releases that reflect breaking trends. Customers can purchase products directly from their videos.”

Companies can set and monitor social ambassador metrics from one dashboard, paying their own employees based on individual performance goals. TVPage also helps its customers find and manage independent influencers, including sourcing and paying freelance social ambassadors.

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