How Successful Startups Use Right Connections
Article by Gaurav Arora, Head of Startup Ecosystem, Asia Pacific-Japan, Amazon Web Services
A journey of a thousand miles might start with a single step — but it’s important to keep in mind the 2 million steps that follow.
It’s the same when starting a company. Coming up with a great idea is rarely easy, but it’s also important not to underestimate the effort needed to translate that idea into something that can grow over the long term.
Choosing the right technology platform to build on is an important first step. You want to build on solid foundations, and for tech startups, that means a cloud platform that is secure and reliable. You also want to choose a provider who can give you all the specialist tools you’ll need as you grow.
How you get started is critical, and so is how you convince other people to follow you. That means being able to connect with, and persuade customers and investors to get behind your idea. There is a big difference between someone saying they like your idea, and then actually spending money on it.
Since AWS was launched almost 15 years ago, we have helped many startups to innovate without slowing down. Success for us comes when our startup customers become recognized as industry leaders and innovators themselves – companies like Airbnb, Slack, Netflix, Grab, Canva – all of which started with AWS and went on to lead within their industries.
It can be easy to forget that 15 years ago AWS was a startup too, and since then we have built up a solid library of learnings, mistakes, and successes. We’ve worked hard to retain our startup culture, such as moving fast and staying close to customers, because we know just how hard it can be to grow a company. So we have created programs that help startups in numerous ways.
For starters, we provide technical training to help founders build their skills, and offer credits and cost optimisation services to ensure founders are getting the greatest value for their money. We also run mentoring services, involving both our own staff and experienced members of our broader network, to help founders understand the complexities of launching and operating a business.
And importantly, we also connect startups with people in the outside world – potential customers, partners, and investors who will ultimately prove critical to their future.
For example, through our AWS Connections program, we introduce innovative startups to enterprise customers. We organise meetings, roundtables, and networking events, where we invite C-level executives from our Enterprise customers to hear from groups of our startup clients. This helps startups explore how they can provide new solutions to solve the problems that large organisations face.
More than 1200 connections were made through this program globally in 2019, and more than 2,000 in 2020.
One reason for the success of the program is that our enterprise customers see us as an innovative organisation. They have a high degree of trust that if we introduce them to a startup, then its solution must address the opportunity or problem they want to solve. This leads to great outcomes for our enterprise customers, as they can gain early access to some of the world’s most exciting startups.
For instance, Australian fintech startup FrankieOne created a product that bundles financial services essentials like customer identification, regulatory compliance, and fraud identification processes, making it easier for other fintechs to create bespoke onboarding processes that best meet their customers’ needs. Through the AWS Connections program, we introduced the team at Frankie to eleven different organisations in the financial services sector, which to date has resulted in one signed contract with Buy Now Pay Later platform, Limepay, and another in advanced stages of negotiations.
While we know that startups benefit from using our technology, they also tell us how much they appreciate the way our go-to-market support helps them to grow – especially once they want to expand outside their country of origin – and the AWS Connections program also plays a critical role in supporting those ambitions.
Many startups might not have the required experience and processes needed to establish themselves efficiently in new countries, and it can take time to understand the environment in which they wish to operate or know who they should be connecting with.
But as a global organisation with cloud services in 25 regions and staff in many more locations, AWS employs a network of people with a deep, local understanding of the geographies within which they work. These relationships and expertise help streamline a startup’s entry into a new region.
For example, the cloud-based marketing automation startup MoEngage found the AWS Connections program was vital for helping with its expansion across the ASEAN region from its home country of India. It helped the company to engage with more than 230 Chief Marking Officers of enterprise clients from six countries, resulting in seven new deals.
We also utilise our broad connections among customers and investors to strengthen our mentoring programs. For example, in 2020 we ran a 10-week online program for early-stage Indian startups in conjunction with leading venture capitalist firm, Prime Venture Partners. The program was designed specifically to support Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) startups with ambitions to enter new international regions, with sessions led by Prime Venture Partners, founders of established SaaS startups, and leaders from the AWS SaaS Factory program and Startup team, which support founders to build and grow SaaS businesses on the cloud.
And we also understand that for many startup founders, this might be their first experience of running a business, so we offer global mentorship programs to help enhance their management and leadership capabilities. By connecting startups to our domain expertise in key areas like fintech, SaaS, retail, healthcare; founder and ecosystem relationships; and programs to provide technical and business resources throughout a startup’s journey, we help them build better products, avoid mistakes, conserve capital, get to market faster, and win more business.
The real heroes, though, are always our startup customers. Because while we might be helping them on their journey, nothing is better than seeing them make the connections that bring to life the business ideas that help change the world.