SAP's venture capital arm has sunk an undisclosed sum of money into LinkedIn, the business-oriented social-networking site.
While there are obvious parallels between the two companies, particularly the current and potential new SAP customers among LinkedIn's reported 30 million-plus members, it's too soon to know exactly what SAP has in mind, observers said Thursday.
"Bear in mind SAP Ventures is somewhat independent of the mothership -- the investment doesn't necessarily mean SAP is looking at a potential future acquisition," said James Governor, an analyst with Redmonk. "However, SAP is clearly thinking about changing notions of identity, community, knowledge and 2.0, especially given the Business Objects acquisition."
451 Group analyst China Martens said there's clearly a way for SAP to connect its software offerings with LinkedIn.
"There's interest among CRM [customer relationship management] players to find ways to prefill their systems with content -- LinkedIn could help there -- as well as on the HR side," Martens said. "Also, all CRM players are keen to push the social-networking side of CRM ... There could be something of this too."
However, Martens noted that SAP Ventures has made a variety of "very good bets on interesting companies in recent years," including on open-source companies like content-management player Alfresco and BI (business intelligence) vendor Jaspersoft.
At least for now, SAP is saying little about how its relationship with LinkedIn may evolve.
"Part of our overall venture strategy is to invest selectively and prudently in smart, leading technology companies," said spokesman Saswato Das.
SAP has no immediate plans regarding LinkedIn beyond its financial investment, Das said.
Ellen Levy, vice president of corporate development and strategy at LinkedIn, said more information will be forthcoming later about how the companies will work together.
"It was intriguing to us how we both share a philosophy on how work is going to evolve," Levy said of SAP. "This was a very natural fit."
Levy declined to name any other vendors who may have discussed investing in LinkedIn.
The company would not necessarily turn down an offer from another enterprise software vendor, such as SAP's rival, Oracle.
"We'll do whatever we think makes the most sense for our community," Levy said.
SAP's stake is part of a US$22.7 million pot raised by LinkedIn. Other investors in the funding round include McGraw-Hill and Goldman Sachs.