In 1972, five brave young IBM employees decided to forego a secure future and see if they could make their own ideas work better for them.

Dietmar Hopp, Hans-Werner Hector, Hasso Plattner, Klaus Tschira, and Claus Wellenreuther launched a company called Systems, Applications, and Products in Data Processing in Mannheim, Germany.

sap founders

The five wanted to develop a standard application software for real-time business processing. They worked on this idea and after a year, they completed their first financial accounting software. This later came to be known as the R/1 System, with R standing for “real time”.

That was four decades ago. But who are these five men, really, and what have they been known for since then?

DIETMAR HOPP was the CEO of SAP AG from 1988to 1998. He was chairman of its supervisory board from 1998 to 2003 and a member of the board from 2003 to 2005. When he left the board, he kept about 10% of the company’s shares. When he left, the street on which the SAP AG headquarters was located was named in his honor.

The following year, Mr. Hopp transferred 70% of his wealth — amounting to 4 billion euro — to a charitable foundation. Dietmar-Hopp-Stiftung is one of the largest foundations in Europe; it supports sports, medicine, education and social programs. Hopp is also the chief financial backer of the German football club TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.

Perhaps is as well known for his ownership of an exclusive resort in Southern France, Domaine de Terre Blance, which he bought from actor Sean Connery.

HANS-WERNER HECTOR is a mathematician by training. He obtained his Master of Science from the University of Saarland. He was largely responsible for building the North American market for SAP. As one of Fortune’s richest, his charitable foundation supports art, historical preservation , and research for the cure of cancer and AIDS

HASSO PLATTNER has received numerous awards and distinctions. Commonly referred to as the “technology guru,” Plattner is a recipient of the prestigious Leadership Award for Global Integration of Germany’s manager magazin.

In 2001, Time Magazine Europe ranked Plattner first in its list of most important and influential IT personalities.

Plattner is the 10th richest man in Germany and 147th in the world. His interests lie in golfing and sailing.

KLAUS TSCHIRA had just obtained his degree in Physics when he started working for IBM, right before he founded SAP with his colleagues. He served as member of the board from 1988 to 2007.

In 1995, he established his foundation KTF (Klaus Tschira Foundation) with the objective of supporting project in natural and computer sciences and mathematics, with emphasis on public understanding of these fields.

CLAUS WELLENREUTHER studied business administration and specialized in operations research. While he was one of the five founders of SAP AG, he left the company in 1980 for health reasons. Two years later, he founded DCW Software which specialized in middle-sized ERP software. In 2003, this company was acquired by his old friends as SAP and later merged with a SAP subsidiary.