Amazon Web Services (AWS) was born as a startup. And startups, in turn, have been the first customers to recognize the power of the cloud and leverage the broadest and deepest set of cloud services to quickly turn their ideas into new businesses. Since 2013, the AWS Activate program has supported startups with critical resources and expert guidance, with the aim of providing scalable and cost-effective infrastructure.
AWS continues to be the top choice for startups that want to change the world, thanks to AWS’s commitment to rapid iteration and for the tools and services specifically designed to address the fast-paced startup landscape. About 80% of the world’s unicorns (privately held startups valued at more than $1 billion) listed by PitchBook run on AWS.
AWS Activate launched 10 years ago as part of this commitment. Since its inception, AWS Activate has provided $6 billion in credits to startups around the globe, to help them build their solutions in the cloud. As of today, more than 280,000 startups worldwide have used AWS Activate on their cloud journey. The program empowers startups at every stage of their journey and equips them with the resources they need—from fundraising and legal guidance to technical documentation on solutions architecture—to help them bring their ideas to life.
For example, Airtasker, founded in 2012 and a long-time AWS customer, is a community platform that connects people who need to outsource tasks and find local services, with people who are looking to earn money and are ready to work.
“Having people come on board early and believe in your vision and movement definitely helps to create momentum,” said Tim Fung, co-founder and CEO of Airtasker. “It's been really powerful to have a partner like AWS doing that.”
AWS Activate members have access to tools that help their startup build and grow, including:
- Up to $100,000 in AWS credits
- Curated training and guidance from experienced startup experts
- Exclusive offers from dozens of technology vendors and AWS Partners, like MongoDB and Hubspot, valued at up to $800,000 in total savings
- Networking opportunities with hundreds of thousands of peers and the chance to connect to potential investors with new tools like Showcase
Shifting landscape: The startup environment transformation
By developing products and accelerator programs and fostering a robust venture capital network, AWS has played a key role in nurturing innovation in the startup space. One of the key relationships connecting AWS to startups in their earliest stages is with Techstars, the largest pre-seed investor in the world.
“Techstars and AWS have been partnered for almost 10 years,” said Maëlle Gavet, CEO of Techstars. “I think we’ve done some amazing work together to help startups. For us, that partnership has been very successful precisely because AWS has found a way to support startups as they grow, the same way we aspire to do.”
Anticipating the future explosion of data and storage needs, AWS launched its first AWS service in 2006, Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), as cloud computing was emerging as a game-changer for startups. Products like Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) soon followed, and while its initial offerings were MVPs, AWS committed to rapidly iterating to keep up with the agile needs of startups worldwide.
“When AWS launched cloud services, it made it easier for a whole new generation of entrepreneurs to become entrepreneurs,” said Gavet.
AWS also supported the rise of phenomenal successes from AWS customers, like Airbnb, Netflix, and Uber, providing cost-effective architecture that allowed these startups to reliably scale and reshape entire industries.
On the heels of these success stories, AWS launched AWS Activate to help ensure that every promising entrepreneur had the resources and tools they needed to build, launch, and scale their bright ideas. AWS customers Airtasker, Alloy, and Hugging Face all took advantage of AWS Activate benefits early in their cloud journeys.
As startups turned to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies to fuel their new companies, AWS was uniquely positioned to provide industry-leading products and services. Tools like Amazon SageMaker offered many global firsts, including a fully managed infrastructure, integrated development environments (IDEs), feature stores, workflows, AutoML, and no-code capabilities.
Blockchain technologies and fintech platforms also reinvigorated the startup scene and reshaped traditional banking services. These emerging players needed scalable, secure, and reliable infrastructure, including tools such as Amazon Managed Blockchain (AMB), to serve a brand new financial customer.
Supporting modern startups: A focus on global challenges
AWS is now more focused than ever on supporting the entrepreneurs that are solving some of the biggest challenges of our time. By powering startups that drive sustainability, green innovation, and global health solutions, AWS can back the initiatives that are creating a stronger, smarter future for everyone.
AWS Activate is the natural home for these startups looking to use a cloud provider that is agile, adaptive, and resilient. In the last year, through AWS Activate, AWS launched more than 30 startup accelerators across industries, including generative AI, fintech, health tech, space, and climate tech. In addition, the Impact Accelerator supports underrepresented founders, so the best ideas can be successful regardless of a founder’s background, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or race.
“AWS Activate has a smart commitment to help startups and founders of all kinds and all backgrounds,” said Aileen Lee, founder and managing partner of Cowboy Ventures, "it's smart because it's both great for the tech ecosystem and for outstanding results—the data shows, diverse teams from diverse backgrounds deliver better results.”
Looking ahead: The future of startup innovation
After 10 years of working side by side with founders, the AWS Startups team is impressed by the ingenuity of startups and looking forward to democratizing access to the next iteration of transformative technology.
AWS is paving the way for startups to access affordable and secure generative AI solutions that are tailored to specific use cases and will support entrepreneurs on every step of their journey, helping them use new technologies to turn their dreams into brilliant realities. To help customers of all sizes build and scale generative AI applications, AWS launched Amazon Bedrock in September.
Looking ahead, the AWS Activate team is energized to learn from startups and weave the takeaways into the products and services provided.
Startups at any stage can join AWS Activate, which offers a hub for visionaries across the startup space.