AWS Impact Accelerator launches for underrepresented founders

AWS has announced it has committed more than $30m to early stage startups led by black, latino, LGBTQIA+, and women founders as part of its AWS Impact Accelerator.

Over the three-year commitment, AWS will provide funding and guidance for a series of programmes that will help these organisations build successful companies. Each qualifying startup receives up to $225,000 in cash and credits, extensive training, mentoring and technical guidance, as well as introductions to Amazon leaders and teams, networking opportunities with potential investors, and ongoing advisory support. Eligible startups can now apply to the first of these programs, the AWS Impact Accelerator for Black Founders.

The AWS Impact Accelerator gives high-potential, pre-seed startups the tools and knowledge to reach key milestones such as raising funds or being accepted to a seed-stage accelerator programme, while creating powerful solutions in the cloud. On acceptance into the eight-week programme, participants will create a wide-ranging, personalised training curriculum from dozens of available sessions delivered by AWS startup experts and guest speakers.

A single day could include lessons from an AWS solutions architect on optimising cloud infrastructure, guidance on investor pitching from an experienced startup CEO, and leadership dos and don’ts from a third-party organisation that provides support to startups. Startups will also learn how to use Amazon processes such as “two-way door decision making” and “working backwards” to drive day-to-day decisions and build nimble, innovative teams.

“When we launched in 2006, AWS changed the game for startups by giving them access to the same technology as the world’s largest enterprises,” said Adam Selipsky, CEO of Amazon Web Services. “Today, we continue to level the playing field so that founders can pursue their ideas and grow successful businesses regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or race. AWS is committed to helping underrepresented founders succeed and build powerful cloud solutions that capture the attention of investors and customers. The possibilities for these startups are endless, and I can’t wait to see what they create.”

Each qualifying startup will receive the following benefits:

  • Unrestricted cash grant of $125,000.
  • Up to $100,000 in AWS service credits through AWS Activate, a programmes that has helped hundreds of thousands of early stage startups grow their businesses in the cloud. Startups that qualify for AWS Activate can use these credits for scalable, reliable, and secure AWS Cloud services such as compute, storage, database, analytics, IoT, and machine learning.
  • Access to more than 80 exclusive offers, through AWS Activate, on products and services that help startups grow, from companies like Dropbox, New Relic, Notion, and Stripe.
  • Access to a dedicated team of mentors and AWS technologists to guide startups during and after the programme.
  • Access to AWS IQ for startups to engage AWS-certified, third-party developers when building their cloud-based solutions.
  • Engagements with Amazon teams and leaders to discuss potential collaborations and get relevant advice. For example, a startup working on a music app can be connected for a confidential discussion with the Amazon Music team, or a startup working on a voice-enabled chat solution can be connected with the Alexa team.
  • Networking sessions with investors and pitch coaching from startup experts to help participants raise seed funding.

Startups will have the opportunity to learn from and connect with more than 20 collaborating organisations that are on board to support the AWS Impact Accelerator as mentors, guest speakers, and advisors. They include organisations that work with Black, Latino, LGBTQIA+, and women founders such as Black Women Talk Tech (BWTT), digitalundivided, and StartOut, as well as venture capital firms such as Backstage Capital and Lightship Capital. The programme will also prepare startups for entry into seed-stage accelerators that work closely with AWS, such as Visible Hands.

“Innovation plays such an important role in unlocking opportunities for women and people of colour, and we need to make sure more of them are able to go from early-stage founder to success story,” said Yasmin Cruz Ferrine, General Partner and Co-founder of Visible Hands. “These AWS programs fill a genuine need along that journey and will provide a crucial lift for disruptors who are driving economic growth through entrepreneurship and invention.”

Applications open today for the first AWS Impact Accelerator for Black Founders, with the programme kicking off in June for US-based startups. The first AWS Impact Accelerator for Women Founders will take place in the second half of the year for US-based startups. The AWS Impact Accelerator for LGBTQIA+ Founders and AWS Impact Accelerator for Latino Founders will follow in 2023.

After a startup completes an AWS Impact Accelerator, they will continue to receive guidance and resources through a virtual community, alumni events, permanent access to the curriculum (including future content), and ongoing advisory support from mentors and AWS technical experts.

“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, a startup that offers a technology platform for barbershops. “We’re honoured to have the opportunity to share what we’ve learned with the next wave of Black founders and make a meaningful difference in their journey.”