AWS Official Blog

AWS Summer Startups: Discovr

by Jeff Barr | on | in Amazon EC2, Amazon Elastic Load Balancer, Amazon RDS, Amazon S3, Asia Pacific, Australia, AWS Startup Challenge, Case Studies, Mobile, Success Stories, Summer Startups |

Over the summer months, we’d like to share a few stories from startups around the world: what are they working on and how they are using the cloud to get things done. Today, we’re profiling Filter Squad from Perth, Australia!

Discovr team


In one of Werner Vogels‘ many travels through Australia this summer, he tweeted about a lean startup he had met, Filter Squad. Lean startups, not to be confused with bootstrapped startups, are built by adapting agile software development methodologies to business. Some of the concepts include building a minimum viable product, testing business assumptions with real market data, measuring results, and then quickly iterating or pivoting depending on what that data shows you. The concept of a “lean startup” was coined by entrepreneur & author Eric Ries

I reached out and spoke to Stuart Hall, CTO of Filter Squad, and creator of, among others, the Discovr Apps and Discovr Music for the iPhone & iPad.

Meet Filter Squad
Filter Squad is a startup focused on building apps that find what you like, according to CTO Stuart Hall. They began with a #1 selling iPad/iPhone app called Discovr Music in January 2011 and expanded the discovery product suite to include Discovr App in June 2011, which has been a #1 category application in 17 countries. As the name implies, Discovr Music makes it easy for users to find music they like based on their preferences, while Discovr App recommends apps the user might like based on the ones you’re already using. We have been extremely happy with AWS and we also plan to use it for our future products. We are big fans of products such as Amazon RDS and the Elastic Load Balancer to give a complete app scaling solution with Amazon EC2, says Stuart.  
Take a look at the Discovr Music app review from Fox News:

AWS & Lean Startups
Because we are a small, lean team, we were looking for a hosting solution that was going to be easy for us to setup, be reliable, and be easy to scale up and down throughout our product iterations. We looked at a large number of providers, but AWS stood out immediately for a number of reasons:
  • Low maintenance
  • Easy to scale
  • Simple to setup
  • Provided good redundancy
We couldn’t find anyone else who could match the AWS products and price. The number of other large, successful companies also using the service was very reassuring.
Building a Native iPhone/iPad App on AWS
Native mobile apps often need server-side components to create a rich user experience. For our Discovr Apps and Discover Music apps, we have used the following AWS products: 
  • Amazon EC2 – because we had no idea of the market reaction to the application when we launched, flexibility in adding and removing virtual servers based on demand was key. 
  • Amazon RDS – we needed a database that would also be easy to scale and be easy to maintain. Amazon RDS provided easy scaling, easy replication for slave instances, and a system where minor software updates are handled entirely by AWS.
  • Amazon S3 – S3 provides a great and cheap way to host static resources, one with which we had worked before and found ideal for our use case.
  • Amazon Elastic Load Balancer –  the load balancer is provided straight out of the box: it doesn’t require any installing and it needs very little configuration. The load balancer provides built in health checks and takes out instances that are not behaving. Elastic load balancing has been faultless since we launched.
  • Caching: the only thing missing was a caching solution, which AWS has since launched and we will be soon moving to. This was also a big consideration, the pace at which AWS are iterating and improving their service matches our philosophy to application development.
We are also big fans of New Relic for monitoring our AWS instance performance. 

 

Scaling up Ruby on Rails with AWS
We use Ruby on Rails server side, Objective C, and Java for client side. More details of our stack, including our architecture and test data, can be seen detailed on our blog

Words of Wisdom for Other Startups:
Understand that you can do it from anywhere, you dont have to be based in Silicon Valley, or even a big city. With the help of the internet and web services such as the AWS cloud, anyone can deliver great products from anywhere in the world.
For example were based in Perth, Australia. Its a five hour flight to Sydney and our hometown is most definitely not the tech capital of the world! To sum up:
  • Build a great product, then don’t forget to market it!
  • Treat your customers like precious gold.
  • Make it easy for your customers to talk to you and listen to what they say.
  • Cross-promote your app with other apps that youve also built.

We’ve collected some lessons learned on our blog: how we got 250k downloads in 4 days.

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8 Days Left to Enter Your Startup in the AWS Start-up Challenge!
This year’s AWS Start-up Challenge is a worldwide competition with prizes at all levels, including up to $100,000 in cash, AWS credits, and more for the grand prize winner. Learn more and enter today!

You can also follow @AWSStartups on Twitter for startup-related updates.

 -rodica