On Sunday, January 20, software giant SAP became the latest company--and, it says, the only business software company--to target a share of its venture investments directly to women and underrepresented minorities.

Its fund, called SAP.iO, was launched in 2017 and invests in business-to-business startups that are a fit with SAP's own technology platforms. With $35 million to invest, it's already put about $4 million to work in 15 companies, 60 percent of which are in the U.S. Now, under an initiative called SAP.iO No Boundaries, the fund will invest 40 percent of its money in women and underrepresented minorities, says SAP chief strategy officer Deepak Krishnamurthy. He says the company will start ramping up its Asia-Pacific focus within the next year.

"Roughly 87 percent of venture funding goes to white male entrepreneurs in the U.S., depending on what statistics you use," says Krishnamurthy. "There has been unconscious bias of sexism, racism, and bro-ism. We wanted to at least triple the share going to women and under-represented minorities in our fund."

For a global company such as SAP, the meaning of "under-represented" will vary by geography. "Indian and Asian men, we may not count them as under-represented in Silicon Valley," says Krishnamurthy. "But that will change when you look at it in a European context."

SAP also runs a series of business incubators, called SAP.iO Foundry, in cities including New York, Paris, Berlin, and Tel Aviv, with three more locations soon to be launched. Some of the companies are pre-seed, but Krishnamurthy says others have already raised their Series A and are looking to scale. The incubator does not take an equity stake in its companies.

The most recent cohort of companies in the New York incubator, says Krishnamurthy, is entirely composed of women and minority entrepreneurs, all focused on social impact. These include Atipica, which makes software to help companies meet their diversity and inclusion goals, and COI Energy Services, which helps utilities and businesses better manage energy resources. An accelerator in San Francisco will focus on human resources technology.

SAP aims to fund and incubate more than 200 companies, led by women and under-represented minorities, in the next five years.

Published on: Jan 20, 2019