The Secret to a Successful Startup Online Business

Person using cloud technology on their laptop.

With any online business, there is one thing that has to be done right: create a business with enough online storage space and computing power.

Many online startups have failed because they made the wrong decisions about computing. But now, one word is the potential cure: cloud. The cloud is a magic pill for getting a startup up and running with no waste but plenty of computing power. 

What’s more, large companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are providing inexpensive solutions for startups and small businesses.

Scalability Is the Magic Word

“Scalability has always been a problem with a startup,” said Arthur Miller, chief technology officer at equipifi, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based fintech company that runs in the cloud. Before cloud computing options became plentiful, said Miller, he would have had to buy or lease a herd of servers and if he guessed wrong — in either direction — it could have proven fatal. 

That’s because most online businesses nowadays are built from the start to be cloud-based — the startup pays for space and computing power on an as-needed, as-you-go basis.

This brings us to three letters: AWS. Amazon Web Services is a platform that “auto-scales for you,” according to Miller, meaning that if a lot of activity occurs, more space is automatically provisioned by Amazon on the fly. What’s more, you don’t pay for services you don’t need or use.

This is the upshot: “AWS lets a startup compete with the largest companies,” said Miller, whose company is a satisfied AWS customer. While there are competitors to Amazon Web Services, AWS has around 32% of the market, per Statista, well ahead of Microsoft Azure (20%) and Google Cloud (9%). 

The AWS Startup Difference

AWS has been making a push to sell itself to startups and small businesses. Some providers sniff that startups are too small to bother with, but not Amazon. The company has made a real effort to win startup customers. 

According to Sabina Joseph, an AWS executive with a focus on startups, “Tens of thousands of startups start and build with AWS every year. Many of them do so through AWS Activate, a free program that has provided hundreds of thousands of early-stage startups with the support, training, and guidance they need to get started on AWS and accelerate their growth and development.” In fact, among AWS’s successful startups are Airbnb, Lyft, Nextdoor, and Instacart. 

Lots of support tools are on AWS and that is a huge benefit to any startup. However, it’s not just the free stuff that attracts companies to AWS. Miller adds, “AWS is the most scalable and resilient player.” That’s why equipifi went with AWS.”

The AWS Global Startup Program

AWS also sweetens the pot for some startups with the AWS Global Startups Program, aimed at mid to late-stage businesses. Companies apply for selection. 

As Sabina Joseph explains, AWS Global Startups is aimed at companies that are: “a) Well funded – Backed by institutional investors with at least a Series A funding; b) That have a clear, demonstrated product/market fit for a technology offering leveraging the AWS cloud: in other words, customers are already buying, using the startup’s product, hence demonstrating strong market demand; c) Built for scale – hence have sales, marketing and partnership people and resources already in place and ready to be devoted to do joint go-to-market (GTM). Ideally, we also look for startups to be technically engaged – to continue to pursue joint innovation, with founders and startup executives committed to do GTM planning with AWS.”

About 600 companies are presently involved in the program, representing a doubling of the number from the 270 that were enrolled when it launched in 2019, said Joseph.

Get invited to join the AWS Global Startup Program and the rewards run deep. Joseph notes some of the perks available to participants: 

  • “The AWS Global Startup Program provides startups with access to a variety of AWS resources, previously available only to the largest independent software vendors (ISVs), in three areas: Product development, to validate, optimize and innovate their products and technology architecture. Go-to-market, to gain visibility and exposure with enterprise end customers.”
  • “The AWS Global Startup Program provides businesses with access to AWS co-marketing resources, including webinars, press releases, blog posts, co-sponsored lead-generation campaigns, startup bootcamps, GTM workshops, customized AWS-led campaigns, events, and more.”

Companies in the AWS Global Startup Program sing its praises, including Cockroach Labs, whose CockroachDB is an innovative database “designed for speed, scale and survival” that is always built to be “worry-free.” Their motto is “scale fast. Survive disaster. Thrive anywhere.”

Jim Walker, the principal product evangelist at Cockroach Labs, elaborated on what the company gets out of being in the AWS Global Startup Program: “AWS has been incredibly important for us. It helped us establish ourselves in the cloud space. It has been an accelerator for us”

In Cockroach’s case, Walker said many of its customers already are using AWS, and for those who aren’t, they certainly have heard of it. Being in the Amazon cloud is no obstacle to a sale, he said, and in some cases, it may even grease the path to closing.

Jon Bakke, chief revenue officer of MariaDB Cloud (another member of the AWS Global Startup Program), explained that the company had a successful business built around database software, but knew it had to look at a cloud version because that is where a lot of organizations are moving their data. “We looked at other options,” he said, that is, other than AWS. But they selected AWS because “it’s the market leader, a very mature service.”

MariaDB, by the way, is a longtime AWS customer. “We have been in AWS from the beginning, dating back almost 10 years,” said Bakke. “This is so needed in the database industry. It meets the need to scale. This is a beautiful product.”

How to Join the AWS Startup Program

Interested in applying to the AWS Global Startup Program? You have nothing to lose. If you’re accepted, congratulations. If the company is not yet mature enough to win entry, Joseph says, “we direct them to a number of other available resources and programs, such as AWS Activate for Startups … or invite them to our AWS Startup Lofts, which provide a place where startups and developers can meet, work on their apps, attend educational sessions, and get in-person answers to AWS technical questions at no cost.”

In other words, if you are in, you win, and if you’re out, AWS will point you to the tools — many free — needed to grow. 

With AWS, you never have to wonder if you have too much, or too little, storage and power. You always have just the right amount and, for an online startup, it just does not get sweeter.

Robert McGarvey

Robert McGarvey, a veteran journalist who has long covered startups and small businesses, created and hosts the CU2.0 Podcast for credit union and fintech executives which is at 120 episodes and counting.

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