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Amazon Web Services (AWS), the largest and most lucrative cloud services provider in the world, has been running accelerator programs for startup founders for years, equipping them with knowledge and expertise on how to build their companies, as well as AWS developer credits. AWS told VentureBeat it has assisted thousands of startups with its accelerators. The Impact Accelerator launched last year has helped 70 underrepresented Black, Latino, and female entrepreneurs in the U.S
But the cloud arm of the ecommerce giant also had an issue: It was receiving many applications from early-stage startup founders it couldn’t accommodate in existing accelerator programs due to the program requirements.
“We were rejecting probably about 48% of the startups that applied because they were too early,” said Denise Quashie, the head of startup programs at AWS, in a video interview with VentureBeat.
Now AWS is launching a new, fully virtual global educational and informational program tailored directly toward early-stage, pre-seed startup founders: AWS Build, which is, as of today, officially open for applications. Startups can apply here.
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The 10-week-long initiative will kick off this year on October 9 and run through December 15, 2023, providing technical and business guidance in the form of online streaming talks by AWS solutions architecture experts and outsiders, lessons, QA discussions and open forums, community events, and more, all with the goal of getting pre-seed startups to successfully launch a minimum viable product by the program’s end.
Deep technical expertise, cloud credits and more
Entrepreneurs who apply and are accepted — Quashie says AWS will accept an inaugural cohort of a staggering 500 companies from around the world in all regions AWS operates — will be able to participate at their own pace, with weekly virtual interactions.
Though the program is not restricted to software startups — hardware startups are also welcome to apply — the founders who participate will receive up to $2,000 in AWS credits to aid in the development of their products and services in the cloud. Neither AWS nor Amazon will be taking any equity stake in the companies that participate.
Quashie added, “The idea is to offer assistance to these startups right from the early stages of their cloud journey. They can tap into AWS’s deep technical expertise to bring their products to market more effectively.” She continued, “Startups need to have a working prototype and a technical leader on their team to benefit the most from AWS Build.”
After the program concludes, the participating founders will be invited to join the AWS Build community, a global virtual network of peers and technical experts. This community will continue to offer collaboration and advice as the startups grow.
To apply to AWS Build, applicants must join AWS Activate, AWS’s startup hub. Here, they can access business and technical content on various relevant topics, ranging from fundraising and legal guidance to technical documentation on solutions architecture.
They must also already have a technical lead or cofounder, or an expert who can take full advantage of the highly technical lessons offered through AWS Build.
Why AWS wants to help pre-seed founders
As for what AWS gets out of providing all this support for pre-seed startups and founders, Quashie offered her perspective to VentureBeat: “It’s about identifying the startups that are solving super-complex problems, and using the cloud to do so … it helps us meet those founders and entrepreneurs that are super-inspiring to us. We learn a lot from them, too, about gaps in our services that can help them.”
Quashie noted that “graduates” of the AWS Build program — those that have completed it — may also be eligible for other AWS Accelerator programs as they mature and grow, which introduces them to venture capitalists (VCs) and customers.
“For me, the big part that I hope that they get out of this is the community,” Quashie said. “We know being a founder, especially at this stage, can be lonely. You likely don’t have a large team that you’re working with— maybe you’re even a solo founder.”
AWS Build will connect these founders to experts and their peers, offering a network that they can turn to for advice, problem-solving strategies, shared gripes and challenges, and inspiration.
AWS has been a leading player in the cloud industry since 2006, continually expanding its services to number now in excess of 240, from compute, storage and databases to machine learning and artificial intelligence, serving millions of customers globally. AWS Build is the latest addition to its extensive portfolio, continuing the company’s commitment to fostering innovation and entrepreneurship.
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