Amazon Web Services Inc. said today it’s committing $30 million over the next three years to back early-stage startups led by Blacks, Latinos, women founders and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual community.
The commitment is part of the company’s new series of AWS Impact Accelerators. AWS will provide funding and guidance for a series of programs designed to help the startups it backs become successful companies.
Under the program, each startup that qualifies will receive up to $225,000 in cash and credits, plus a healthy dose of training, mentoring and technical guidance. There will also be networking opportunities, introductions to Amazon leaders and potential investors, plus ongoing advisory support — everything a fresh team needs to succeed, AWS says.
Amazon said it’s inviting applications for the first AWS Impact Accelerator for Black Founders today for an eight-week program that’s scheduled to begin in June. The program is focused on education. Startups accepted into the program will be able to customize their training curriculum from dozens of available sessions delivered by AWS startup experts and guest speakers.
Under the program, a single day could include lessons from an AWS solutions architect on optimizing cloud infrastructure guidance on investor pitching from an experienced startup chief executive, and leadership dos and don’ts from a third-party organization. In addition, startups will learn about Amazon processes such as “two-way door decision making” and “working backwards” to drive day-to-day decisions and build nimble, innovative teams.
Each successful applicant will receive an unrestricted cash grant of $125,000 with up to $100,000 in AWS service credits available through the AWS Activate program. AWS Activate also provides access to more than 80 exclusive offers on products and services to help startups grow, from companies such as Dropbox Inc., New Relic Inc. and Stripe Inc.
Startups will also be given access to a dedicated team of AWS technologists and mentors both during and after the program, in addition to AWS IQ, where they can meet certified, third-party AWS developers for help building their cloud foundations. The program further entails engagements with Amazon teams to discuss possible collaborations. A startup working on a music app might be connected to the Amazon Music team, while another that’s working on a voice-chat solution would be given the chance to meet people from the Amazon Alexa team.
Once a startup completes the AWS Impact Accelerator, it will continue to receive guidance and resources through a virtual community that provides permanent access to the curriculum they studied, plus alumni events and ongoing advisory support from AWS technical experts and mentors.
“We would love to have been part of something like this in the early days of our company, because building a startup is not easy,” said Dave Salvant, a confirmed guest speaker at the upcoming AWS Impact Accelerator for Black Founders, and president and co-founder of Squire Technologies Inc., a startup that offers a technology platform for barbershops.
The AWS Impact Accelerator for Women Founders is scheduled to take place in the second half of the year, while the Impact Accelerators for LGBTQIA+ Founders and Latino Founders will follow in 2023.
AWS Chief Executive Adam Selipsky said the launch of his company in 2006 changed the game for startups, giving them access to the same technology as the world’s largest enterprises. The AWS Impact Accelerators will continue to level the playing field, he said.
“Founders can pursue their ideas and grow successful businesses regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or race,” Selipsky said. “AWS is committed to helping underrepresented founders succeed and build powerful cloud solutions that capture the attention of investors and customers.”