From student startup to world leader
E-commerce - the next big thing?
Five students, two rented apartments in Munich and a realization fuelled by a lot of takeout pizza: selling stuff on the internet might just be the next big thing and if it was, businesses were going to need software to do it.
Back then no-one knew if e-commerce had a future. Amazon was two years old and eBay was still called AuctionWeb. Google didn’t exist. But Carsten Thoma, Moritz Zimmermann, Klaas Hermanns, Christian Flaccus and Andreas Bucksteeg reckoned it had a future.
Using the apartments as offices and meeting investors in the café downstairs to avoid the pizza boxes, hybris (with a lower-case h) took shape. The friends began to develop software for e-commerce.
“We spent more time in ‘the office’ than at university,” says Flaccus. “We were all young – 21, 22 – and it felt like we could achieve everything.”
Proper money, difficult times
Thoma picked investors carefully, choosing those who supported hybris for its long-term view and focus on software as much as for their money. It was becoming clear that actually making money from the internet took serious work. Huge, long forgotten outfits such as pets.com and webvan.com underwent massive and very fast growth but collapsed even faster.
Many rival firms developed new products other than software to keep the cash flowing and to keep investors happy. hybris didn’t and could (just about) still afford to put software first and the product improved.
The bubble bursts
Then the dotcom world disintegrated and the money dried up. There were times that hybris couldn’t pay its staff. It closed offices in France and the UK and retreated to Munich. The key investor, Günther Lamperstorfer, offered money but with an ultimatum – everyone takes a 50 per cent pay cut or 50 per cent of the staff have to go.
They chose the pay cut.
Yet the hybris team knew they had something special. “We struggled every month,” says Zimmermann. “But we were secretly confident that it was really good. It was such a place of collaboration and teamwork.”
New customers and a different approach
The fallout demanded a new business model. Instead of selling what was essentially a boxed software product to small and midsize enterprises, hybris began to develop and sell web-based product to much larger firms.
A proper sales organization. And lots of channels.
“It got better every month,” says Martin Moser, now hybris’s director of knowledge management. “Although there still wasn’t much money to go round.”
hybris also knew that there was something in multi-channel commerce. Early mobile phone platforms hadn’t worked but the firm saw the potential. The advance in technology meant hybris had an opportunity to become a true multi-channel software provider. It was a risk but it paid off.
Growing into the future
In 2011 hybris merged with Montreal-based iCongo, another business software company. This gave hybris access to the North America market and doubled its size. “It was a big change,” says Moser. “We were suddenly a new, larger company and we needed guidance.”
Enter SAP. The software pioneer wanted innovation. hybris needed size to grow. And SAP was interested in learning from hybris’s culture, the thread of bold thinking, straight talking and collaboration that has remained constant throughout the firm’s 20 years of change. In 2013 hybris joined the SAP family to become part of the market leader in enterprise application software.
A new way of doing business
On January 1 2016 hybris became SAP Hybris, replacing the lower-case h with an upper-case H to signify the change. Today, SAP Hybris is responsible for all of SAP’s customer engagement and commerce business. We leave outdated traditional customer relationship management systems behind. Often excessively complex, they are outclassed by our cloud-based software that simplifies, transforms and helps customers deliver a consistently great experience.