A look back at the first year of the AWS Impact Accelerator
Last year, Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched the AWS Impact Accelerator for startups led by underrepresented founders—giving 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 program, while creating powerful solutions in the cloud.
Over the past year, we’ve received thousands of applications from startups building for industries like artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), fintech, healthcare and life sciences, many of whom came to us through our partners such as Goodie Nation, Advancing Women in Tech, Visible Hands, and Startupeable.
So far, AWS has provided $1.25 million in AWS credits through AWS Activate, enabling startups to build and test their products alongside AWS experts and AI/ML technical teams helping them to adopt features like Amazon SageMaker, Amazon CloudWatch, Amazon Lightsail, and more. Startups also got the chance to accelerate their business alongside AWS Partners, including speaker coaches, to pitch their businesses to 50+ investors at Investor Day, the final event culminating the end of each cohort.
Members developed a strong community where they continue to support each other through funding rounds, growing their teams, and launching new features. This is just the beginning, but we’re happy to celebrate some of their collective wins today.
Since the first cohort—Black Founders—ended in July 2022, members have launched their products, raised millions in funding, hired new team members, increased their revenue by up to 10x, and participated in accelerators run by Techstars, a16z, Expedia, Comcast NBC Universal, Seed to Harvest, and more. Their pitch practice paid off—Alyse Dunn, Founder and CEO of CareCoPilot, won the Fearless Fund pitch competition and Toby Egbuna, Founder and CEO of Chezie, won the Startup Battle Atlanta pitch competition.
Members of the second cohort, Women Founders, have already made a big impact in the seven months since their cohort ended in December 2022. Following a successful Investor Day at the AWS Startup Loft in San Francisco, members have since been accepted into Techstars accelerator programs—Standd, an AI-enabled knowledge discovery platform for legal teams, even earned Geekwire’s “Best Pitch” of the night for Techstars Seattle.
Startups in the cohort are still early in their fundraising journeys, but Native-founded and -led fintech startup, Totem, raised a $2.2 million pre-seed round, according to Tribal Business News. With this round, Amber Buker, co-founder and CEO of Totem, joins an exclusive group of only a handful of indigenous women founders to successfully close multi-million-dollar capital raises. We can’t wait to see what Totem and the rest of the companies accomplish in the years to come.
The AWS Impact Accelerator Latino Founders cohort was just announced in May 2023, and 20 Latino-led startups made their way to Amazon HQ in Seattle for week one of programming. On June 26, they joined founders from the previous cohorts and members of the AWS Startups team on stage for the Nasdaq Closing Bell Ceremony.
What’s next for the AWS Impact Accelerator
Despite years of industry effort to change the dynamics of inclusion and diversity in tech, the majority of funding still skews significantly toward startups founded by straight, white men. Venture capital (VC) firm Backstage Capital found that still only 1% of venture-backed founders are Black, 1.8% Latino, and 9% women.
“I am restless,” says creator of AWS Impact Accelerator and Head of Startup Marketing Programs at AWS, Denise Quashie. “There’s still so much work to be done. I know how many deserving underrepresented founders need access to these resources to level the playing field.” Her message to these founders is, “We see the work you’re doing, and we will remain restless until we can help you unlock resources and scale your startup, too.”
Future cohort dates have not yet been announced, but stay tuned to this blog and our social channels (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) for news and announcements about the AWS Impact Accelerator and your next chance to apply.