So whose private jet is louder? Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s, or that of his fierce competitor over in Germany, SAP CEO Henning Kagermann. You might be hearing Kagermann’s landing in the Bay Area more frequently, because he signaled yesterday (or here) that he’s on the prowl for more acquisitions. Yep, Larry’s been having all the action, and Kagermann wants in too. In fact, Kagermann brought over his entire executive team to Silicon Valley this week. On Tuesday, we were invited down to a session where Kagermann interacted with local venture capitalists. Kagermann, notably relaxed (he was even missing a belt), jumped out of his chair…
…at one point when a venture capitalist suggested SAP wasn’t partnering well enough. “We’re a very reliable and perfect partner,” Kagermann insisted, until that point sitting politely in a chair amid the audience. He said SAP has 200,000 people working on partnerships. Overall, the session appeared to go well, even if some VCs were testy at times. Jim Watson, partner at CMEA Ventures, moaned that he had a portfolio company that had struggled through 15 months of paperwork trying to work with SAP’s platform, and hadn’t gotten through to the right person at SAP, despite calling ten different people. Others complained that SAP is theoretically no better than Microsoft in its offer to partner: While SAP invites start-ups to build software appliations to run on SAP’s platform, it makes no promises that it won’t try to eat their lunch later by forming an in-house competitor. Kagermann and his executives explained that all a start-up needed to do was make sure it stayed five steps ahead of the SAP or other competition. But Frans T. van Schaik, an investor at Logispring, didn’t think that was a very good proposition: “You say all we’ve got to do is run as fast as possible,” remarked Schaik. “I’m not sure that’s a compelling partnership model. I guess you’d have to be a bit more accommodating if our start-ups are going to be partners.”
Conclusion: If you’ve sitting by and listing to all this Oracle warpath bluster, and wondering why SAP is being so polite, don’t worry. Kagermann appears ready for the challenge.
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