Guide to AWS Credits for Startups

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Starting a new business is an exciting, but challenging journey — especially when it comes to managing finances and allocating resources effectively. One of the most significant expenses for many startups is cloud computing, which is where Amazon Web Services (AWS) comes in. AWS offers a program called AWS Activate, which provides eligible startups with credits to help them get started with their cloud computing needs. In this comprehensive guide, we'll dive deep into AWS credits for startups, covering everything from understanding what they are to maximizing their value and learning from success stories.

Understanding AWS Credits

At their core, AWS credits function as a virtual currency that can be applied toward the cost of using AWS services. They are given to eligible startups to help them get off the ground and grow their business without worrying about the initial costs of cloud computing.

The importance of AWS credits for startups cannot be overstated. By providing access to powerful cloud computing resources at no upfront cost, AWS credits enable startups to focus their limited financial resources on other critical aspects of their business like product development, marketing, and customer acquisition. This can be a game-changer for startups looking to build and scale their infrastructure without burning through their cash runway too quickly.

Advantages of Utilizing AWS Credits for Startups

There are numerous advantages to utilizing AWS credits for startups, including:

  • Cost Savings: AWS credits provide a significant cost savings opportunity for startups, allowing them to access enterprise-grade cloud computing resources without the hefty price tag.
  • Flexibility and Scalability: With AWS credits, startups can easily scale their cloud computing usage up or down based on their needs without having to worry about long-term contracts or commitments.
  • Access to a Wide Range of Services: AWS offers an extensive suite of cloud computing services — from basic computing power and storage to advanced analytics and machine learning (ML) tools. With AWS credits, startups can experiment with and leverage these services to drive innovation and growth.
  • Valuable Learning Opportunities: As part of the AWS Activate program, startups receive AWS credits as well as access to a wealth of educational resources, training, and support to help them make the most of their cloud computing experience.

Eligibility and Application Process

To take advantage of AWS credits, startups must first determine their eligibility and navigate the application process. While the specific requirements may vary, depending on the program tier or partner offering the credits, there are some general criteria of which startups should be aware.

Activate Founders (up to $1,000 in AWS Activate Credits)

To qualify for this tier, startups must:

  • Be new to AWS Activate credits 
  • Be self-funded or pre-Series B 
  • Have a fully functioning company website 
  • Have been founded within the past 10 years

Activate Portfolio (up to $100,000 in AWS Activate Credits)

To qualify for this tier, a startup must:

  • Be associated with an Activate Provider (with an organization ID) 
  • Not have previously redeemed $100,000 in AWS Activate credits 
  • Have not previously received AWS Activate credits that are equal to or greater in value from an Activate Provider 
  • Be self-funded or pre-Series B 
  • Have a fully functioning company website 
  • Have been founded within the past 10 years

How to Get AWS Credits

Once a startup has determined its eligibility, the next step is to navigate the application process. The exact steps may vary, depending on the program tier or partner, but they generally involve:

  1. Registering for the AWS Activate program and selecting the appropriate tier (e.g., Founders or Portfolio);
  2. Providing detailed information about the startup, such as the company’s website, incorporation date, funding stage, and intended use of AWS credits;
  3. Submitting the application and awaiting a decision, which can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks; and
  4. If approved, receiving the AWS credits and beginning to use them on eligible services.

Startups should be prepared to provide accurate information throughout the application process to increase their chances of approval. It's also important to review the terms and conditions carefully to understand any limitations or restrictions on credit usage.

For startups looking to unlock even more credits (up to $100,000), working with an AWS Activate Portfolio partner, such as an incubator or accelerator, can be a great option. These partners can provide valuable guidance and support in addition to the credits themselves.

Using AWS Credits

Once a startup has successfully obtained AWS credits, the next step is to develop a strategic plan for maximizing their value. This involves carefully considering which AWS services are most essential for the startup's growth and success as well as implementing best practices for efficient allocation and utilization of the credits.

The key is to align usage of AWS Activate credits with your startup's product roadmap, growth strategy, and cost management plan to extract the most value during the early stages of your cloud computing journey.

Startups can leverage their AWS Activate credits in several strategic ways to maximize the value and grow their business, including:

  • Hosting Infrastructure: Use credits to cover the cost of hosting your startup's website, application, databases, and other back-end systems on AWS, taking advantage of Amazon’s scalable and reliable cloud platform.
  • Experimentation and Testing: AWS credits allow startups to freely experiment with different services, architectures, and configurations to optimize their product without worrying about incurring high costs in the testing phase.
  • Data Storage and Analytics: Utilize AWS services like Amazon S3 for storage as well as AWS Redshift or AWS Athena for data warehousing and analytics to gain insights from user data that can inform product development and business strategy.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and ML: Leverage AI and ML services like Amazon SageMaker, Amazon Rekognition, Amazon Lex and others to build intelligent features and automate processes, using credits to offset the usage costs.
  • DevOps: Use AWS developer tools like CodePipeline, CodeBuild, and CodeDeploy to set up continuous integration and delivery pipelines to streamline development.

Monitoring and Managing AWS Credits

Effective monitoring and management of AWS credits is essential for startups to ensure they are staying within budget and using their credits efficiently. This involves regularly tracking credit usage, identifying optimization opportunities, and avoiding common pitfalls.

Tracking and Optimizing AWS Credit Usage

To effectively track and optimize AWS credit usage, startups should:

  1. Utilize AWS Cost Management Tools: Leverage AWS Cost Explorer, AWS Budgets, and other cost management tools to gain visibility into credit usage and spending patterns.
  2. Set Up Billing Alerts: Configure billing alerts to receive notifications when credit usage reaches certain thresholds, helping to avoid unexpected overages.
  3. Regularly Review Usage Reports: Schedule regular reviews of AWS usage reports to identify trends, anomalies, and opportunities for optimization.
  4. Implement Tagging and Cost Allocation: Use AWS resource tagging and cost allocation features to better understand how credits are being used across different projects, teams, or applications.

By implementing these tracking and optimization practices, startups can gain greater control over their AWS credit usage and make data-driven decisions about how to allocate and manage their credits effectively.

Examples of Startups Using AWS

One of the best ways for startups to learn about the potential impact of AWS credits is to study the success stories and experiences of other companies that have leveraged this resource effectively. Many successful startups have used AWS credits to help fuel their growth and achieve their business goals. Some notable examples include:


Airbnb, the pioneering home-sharing platform, utilized AWS credits to rapidly scale its infrastructure and accommodate explosive growth in its early stages. As the company gained traction and its user base expanded, Airbnb needed a reliable, scalable, and cost-effective cloud computing solution to support its platform.


Slack, the popular messaging and collaboration tool, has relied on AWS credits to power its platform since 2009. As a startup, Slack recognized the importance of building on a robust, scalable, and flexible cloud computing infrastructure to support its real-time communication features and growing user base.


Robinhood, the commission-free investing app, utilized AWS credits to build and launch its disruptive platform in the traditional financial services industry. As a startup aiming to democratize access to financial markets, Robinhood needed a cost-effective, scalable, and secure cloud computing solution to support its mobile-first trading platform.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is AWS good for startups?

Yes, AWS is an excellent choice for startups because it provides a scalable, flexible, and cost-effective cloud computing platform. It offers a wide range of services that cater to various startup needs — from hosting and storage to analytics and machine learning. The AWS Activate program further supports startups with free credits, training, and technical resources.

How much does AWS cost for a small startup?

The cost of AWS for a small startup depends on the specific services used, the volume of data processed, and the overall usage. However, AWS offers a free tier for many of its services that allows startups to get started with the platform at no cost. Beyond the free tier, costs can vary from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars per month based on a startup's needs and growth.

Why do startups prefer AWS?

Many startups prefer AWS for several reasons: it has an extensive suite of services, it gives them the ability to scale resources up or down quickly based on demand, it has global reach with numerous data centers worldwide, it has a strong focus on security and compliance, and it boasts a large community of developers and users.