Consultants Battle at SAP’s Hack2Build for Shot at Market Success
Avvale Emerges Victorious at SAP’s Hack2Build with Circular Business Solution, Powered by SAP Build
Consultants eat pressure for breakfast. But what happens when you give them a deadline of four days to completely invent an innovative solution? At SAP’s Hack2Build, teams of consultants race against the clock, vying for the spoils of first place– the opportunity to take their solution to market alongside SAP. This year, Avvale’s Innovation team won it all with their circular application, RECLAIM. Nathan Williams, Aaron Wojton, Diego Silva, Matthew Best, and Sebastiano Marchesini shared their perspectives and described a glimpse of the drama, pressure, and moments of levity that led them to first place.
Q: What exactly is Hack2Build?
Nathan Williams: Hack2Build is four and a half days of SAP partners competing to build out their use case and solution using various services of BTP. Day one was a kickoff where we got a rundown of some of the services that we would be using from SAP Build such as SAP Build Apps, Work Zone and Process Automation. And then from there we have the rest of the week to literally work around the clock to bring our vision to life and develop our solution. And then, finally, Friday was the Demo Jam where we got to sit and watch our competition, watch other partners, share great use cases, and then, of course, present ourselves.
Q: What solution did your team create?
Sebastiano Marchesini: For our solution, RECLAIM, we had the idea to create something around a circular journey for clothing built into an application on your phone. It would leverage your phone’s technology like the GPS and camera and additionally, machine learning and AI. How it works is that you take a picture of your clothing that you’re done wearing and your camera scans it and the app rewards you with points as you recycle or offer up the clothing to be purchased or rented by someone else.
Diego Silva: We just kept brainstorming during the meetings that week and thinking up new ideas, like the ChatGPT integration into our Work Zone componentWe leveraged ChatGPT to provide real-time suggestions, observations, and highlights around our sustainability efforts. And these insights were driven from data directly from the S4 component of our solution.We were adding features until the end which was really cool.
Nathan Williams: As a company, sustainability and circularity has been a focal point for years. We approach Hackathons the same way that we approach customer use cases that often have challenges or peculiar requirements. For this competition, we took a look at an important challenge that our world is facing around what we call the linear economy. That’s essentially where companies or individuals extract raw materials, manufacture them, then we as consumers, use them, and finally they’re disposed of, oftentimes in a landfill or recycling institution, as they reach their end of life.
So we saw an opportunity to figure out a way to extend the product’s end of life. We thought, What if we can circulate it back into the economy for a new use? So it’s new to somebody else. Sebastiano brought up the clothing idea. So, when I’m done with my sweater, It might be the end of life for me, but someone else might really be able to use it, rent it, or repair it. We’ve been thinking about this challenge for a long time. And then when the Hackathon came up, we thought, This is the perfect time to bring this idea and showcase it in a fun, competitive way as well.
Q: You all are on a team in real life, too– not just for Hack2Build. How do you work in real life versus during extra high-pressure situations like this event?
Matthew Best: I’d say in general, we all work together really well. We each have our unique areas that we specialize in and just our ability to collaborate with each other during regular situations has prepared us for high pressure situations like the Hackathon. It’s a lot of prep work, and then having the ability to execute during crunch time together as a team.
Q: What obstacles did you all face during the competition? There must have been times where you hit a snag or encountered something unexpected.
Matthew Best: Yeah, we definitely hit some snags, that’s for sure.
Aaron Wojton: Multiple. One big hurdle was just trying to get authentication for the BTP services that we were using. Getting our users to be able to use them to access them correctly and do the things we needed to do. But we managed to get through those issues. Took us pretty close to the finish line before some of those were sorted out. So it was a bit hairy at some points but we did it.
Nathan Williams: No one wants to talk about the elephant in the room, the blunder that actually led us to the win?
Matthew Best: The elephant in the room is the AI component, which was arguably the basis of this entire project. Everything was working well the day before, even the day of, while accessing our AI model. Then moments right before the actual demonstration where Sebastiano’s doing the efforts model, it just stopped and it completely disappeared. How did we get through it? Well, we got through it with Sebastiano’s quick thinking and we pulled off very smoothly.
Sebastiano Marchesini: That part was super exciting. It was one of those classic moments where it’s like, the clock is ticking. I’m trying to decide if I should wait or do something in the moment. But I’m the type of person that does something in the moment. I was listening to previous presentations where the judges were asking to see something behind-the-scenes and I just leaned into that. Because the application was working that morning, but not as we were presenting. So I showed the inside of the application, what we really did with the low-code/no-code platform. And it worked.
Nathan Williams: Which is interesting because that pivot that Sebastiano did was probably one of the reasons why we came out in such good shape, because it showed the judges a behind-the-scenes look at our code, it showed authenticity. It showed them that we had actually built something that week. So I think they really appreciated it and that’s one of the lessons from Hack2Build– nothing is ever going to be perfect. And it doesn’t have to be perfect. You just have to be transparent, show where you were unique, and show how your solution can turn into something that could be valuable for customers.
Q: A few of you worked on the 2021 Hack2Build-winning solution, Intelligent Accounts Payable. What did you take away from that year and bring to this year’s competition?
Aaron Wojton: One thing that I think we talked about a lot more this time was preparing for the presentation more and really locking down our core message. I know Nathan and Sebastiano spent a lot of time doing dry runs to really nail the timing. I was timing them during the presentation and they were spot on, even with the hiccups.
Nathan Williams: Having a real business challenge was the differentiator for me. We created something that we can sell to multiple customers across multiple industries, while pushing the boundaries of the technologies within BTP. And then also adding some wow factors, like integrating Chat GPT in a responsible way and so just had some really fun surprises along the way to tell our story. To me, the winning formula to Hack2Build is straightforward: Leverage the SAP ecosystem, assemble an A-team, have a really good time, embrace the journey, and definitely over-prepare.
Q: How does it feel to create something that can go to market and advance more circular business strategies?
Sebastiano Marchesini: For me, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s something that I care a lot about, empowering the circular economy and doing our part to heal the planet. With Hack2Build, we focused on creating a solution from start to finish, the way we envision it. And to have SAP’s support behind us and moving forward as we go to market– it’s a big deal.
Q: How will you showcase the value of the solution moving forward?
Nathan Williams: As winners of the Hack2Build, SAP empowers us right out of the gate to bring our solution to market. We are developing a video that will go live on the SAP HANA Academy Youtube channel which has tens of thousands of subscribers. This will allow us to showcase our solution from a technical perspective. And then also more importantly, we start our journey with SAP alongside us to develop a Qualified Partner Package Solution, or QPPS. We get support from SAP to build and sell our solution on the SAP Store. These QPPS offerings are tightly integrated solutions. The idea is that SAP helps certify it so that we can deliver it in a way that’s low risk, predictable, and affordable. We have an immediate go-to-market strategy. That’s really exciting and important for us.
Q: What are you most proud of coming out of this competition?
Matthew Best: I’m a very competitive person, so in any competition, I’m in it to win it. It feels good to know all the effort that we put in led us to winning. First place is the ultimate achievement.
Diego Silva: I’m with Matthew. If you ever saw the back of my office, I have a few trophies which tells you that I’m a pretty competitive person. Winning that, to me, was a really big deal.
Aaron Wojton: The aspect of learning something new. Before this event, I had never touched SAP Build WorkZone. So I completely learned it from the beginning, over the course of the event, and I think it turned out pretty good. Going from square one to creating a solution that won is definitely something that I’m proud of.
Sebastiano Marchesini: The connections we created with SAP are invaluable. Within the span of a week, we grew in our knowledge and network, which is really important for us to bring home and continue to build.
Nathan Williams: Outside of the competitiveness, I think we all share that– it’s a great way to connect with the team. We had a great time together. It’s high stress, but as you can see, from the chats that we have going on the side, we have a ton of fun. We also goof off, we make jokes, and it adds some levity to our otherwise intense life as consultants with difficult projects. I love the connections we make.