One ship, 20 mentors, 100 days, 11 startup ventures and the conviction that entrepreneurship powered by technology can change the world.
Global business software leader SAP is participating in an innovative worldwide entrepreneurship support programme called Unreasonable at Sea. This is a business accelerator initiative that is taking 11 innovative startups on a journey around the world by ship, stopping at various countries where entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to take part in workshops and engage with local experts to help them consolidate and expand their business proposals. The voyage will see the entrepreneurs interacting with world leaders, governments, venture capitalists and other entrepreneurs on stops in 13 ports, including Mauritius and Cape Town, South Africa.
Unreasonable at Sea is so named due to George Bernard Shaw’s theory that all progress depends on “the unreasonable person seeking to change the world”, meaning that an unreasonable approach is a prerequisite to achieve something that’s never been done before. For this initiative, the founders of the Unreasonable Institute and George Kembel, the founder of Stanford Design School, teamed up with Semester at Sea and various partners, including SAP, to roll-out this 100-day adventure across 25 000 nautical miles. The founders of Unreasonable at Sea are guided by the belief that technology is currently solving some of the greatest challenges of our time.
During this voyage, SAP is providing technology and business support as well as design thinking mentorship to the entrepreneurs. Design thinking is a problem-solving discipline that uses designers’ methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and focusses on how a viable business strategy can turn into market opportunity and customer value. Both Design Thinking and SAP’s rapid in-memory platform, SAP HANA®, bolster SAP’s global Start-up Focus Programme that is supporting and empowering start-ups. SAP was founded as a start-up itself in 1972 and now generates over 16 billion euros in annual revenue.
The group of 11 entrepreneurs on-board originates from 10 countries and five continents, including Africa. Their expertise ranges from astrophysics and artificial intelligence, to engineering and design. Scientists and doctors are included too. What unites this group is a shared conviction that technology will help define progress in our time, as well as a common passion to experiment and to scale globally. Two African entrepreneurs selected for the programme come from SolarEar / Deaftronics from Botswana who manufacture the world’s first digitally programmable and solar-powered hearing aids and AquaPhytex, a Spanish company with operations in Africa that produces water treatment systems using plants instead of chemicals to treat waste water.
During the voyage, the group of elite entrepreneurs are being mentored and guided by 20 of the world’s most prominent business thinkers, including Megan Smith, vice-president of Google, Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress and Nobel Peace Laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Carly Cooper, Design Thinking coach at SAP and Benjamin Boeser, UX Strategist, Office of the CTO are the SAP ambassadors that are sailing with Unreasonable at Sea, and have joined official partners SAP HANA and Microsoft Xbox. This unusual initiative unites great international mentors with high potential entrepreneurs and guides them.
For the Cape Town leg of the voyage, an SAP Unreasonable at Sea event is expected to be attended by 100 people drawn from SAP customers, entrepreneurs, NGOs, venture capitalists, academics and the media. The entrepreneurs will each be given five minutes to pitch their business idea to a judging panel made up of the founder of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg; Prince Fahad Al Saud of Saudi Arabia; serial entrepreneur, Kamran Elahian; Derek Kudsee, COO of SAP Africa and Marc Balkin of Hasso Plattner Ventures.
“This initiative is an exciting experiment that places entrepreneurs on a unique accelerator programme focused on solving extremely difficult social and environmental challenges with a view to empowering them to take forward their ventures into new international markets,” says Pfungwa Serima, CEO SAP Africa. “Together with the other technology companies participating in this exhilarating venture, SAP is encouraged to see how technology will be leveraged as the crucial element to help solve some of the world’s challenges. SAP is proud to be a part of this innovative programme.”