AWS Startups Blog

How Startups Can Grow Faster in 2019

Jonno Southam

Guest post by Jonno Southam, Venture Capital Business Development at Amazon Web Services

What is holding startups back from going as fast as they possibly can?

The AWS startups team sometimes hears from founders that they don’t want to use cloud-native applications because that would mean they could only use one provider. It’s understandable that startups would not want to follow the path of traditional businesses, which were tied to their software providers for a number of years.

I’ll argue that this mindset forces you to standardize on the lowest common denominator because cloud platforms are in massively different points of evolution at this point. AWS uses open source standards such as Linux, Xen, and Apache but also provides a number of helpful migration tools to not only allow customers the ability to easily move resources from on-premises to AWS, but also to move resources back on-premises if customers so choose.

As Amy Harms, formerly the Senior Engineering Manager at Deliveroo, said during her keynote at the AWS London Startup Day in 2018, when Deliveroo started their first service in January of 2018 and went live at the end of April, “all 50 services were serving production traffic in AWS on the new infrastructure.” “We couldn’t have done it if we hadn’t partnered both on the strategic [side] and the platform side with AWS,” she said.

AWS has so much more functionality than anybody else; a much larger, more mature community of cloud-focused software developers. The world’s most successful startup customers, such as AirBnB, Slack, Stripe, and Robinhood, would not have scaled globally so fast had they not used cloud-native applications to help them scale.

How can startups go faster then?

At the very beginning of their journey, startups should follow the self-service approach and use online resources, such as following the AWS Startup Blog. This site includes many articles from AWS solutions architects and guest posts from senior technical leaders of well-known startups. Startups that want to stay up to date can also subscribe to the AWS News blog, which announces all of our new features and services. These often include example use cases and links to the detailed product documentation. We recently launched the AWS Startup Kit, a set of resources designed to accelerate startups’ product development on AWS. A core component of the Startup Kit is a set of well-architected sample workloads that can be launched within minutes. These workloads, which reflect best practices for reliability, networking, and security, are supported by AWS CloudFormation templates and code published on GitHub. They easily can be extended to create a wide variety of applications. Other offerings for our customers to help them ramp up on new services include classroom training and certifications, bootcamps, and events like the Global Summit Series and re:Invent.

We then give companies of all sizes the freedom to experiment with the free tier that provides new customers free usage of selected applications per month. We do encourage startups of all sizes to engage with the AWS startups team but this is particularly important when they receive new funding. When startups get the capital they need to grow the company, this is usually a pivotal point in their journey so startups should contact their venture capital (VC) investor, accelerator program manager or community manager (for incubators and co-working spaces) where they will likely have the right AWS contact. If not, they can use the AWS Contact Us page and connect with us that way. Startups that are accelerator or VC backed are also eligible to apply for additional benefits including increased credits allocation and technical support credits through the AWS Activate program.

AWS sees a real opportunity for startups to use cloud-native applications to scale their businesses globally as Deliveroo and TransferWise have done. Using cloud-native applications such as Amazon Elastic Container Services or Amazon Kinesis for processing big data in real time, startups can focus on building scalable, secure and cost-effective infrastructure from the start, enabling them to focus on what matters most to their business, rather than on unseen infrastructure legwork that has historically been a barrier to growth. Startups are then able to focus on building innovative products and services that deliver value to their customers but can also double down other priorities of the business, such as hiring great people.

What startups are moving faster and what benefits have they seen?

The fastest startups I’ve worked with love our pace of innovation. It’s one of the key reasons they choose AWS over other cloud providers, so we will continue to build and innovate on behalf of their customers if that is what they tell us to do. 95% of our products and services are developed from direct feedback from customers of all sizes, because they tell us that they don’t want to manage infrastructure and would rather focus their time and capital on hiring great people to build better products for their customers.

Deliveroo is a great example. ‘Frank’ is their new despatch engine running on AWS using Machine Learning models. For example ‘Frank’ tracks restaurant preparation time and delivery times then despatches riders based on the outputs. This has helped Deliveroo increase operational efficiency by 20%. ‘Frank’ uses Amazon Kinesis for data streaming and Lambda for pre-processing and de-duplication of incoming data. The costs of model training on Amazon EC2 instances are kept low by using AWS Spot instances.

“Leverage the platforms that let you focus on your mission and keep your customers happy,” notes Steve Pole, the Engineering Lead at TransferWise and keynote speaker at AWS’s 2018 London Startup Day.

TransferWise, for one, is a startup that is currently re-platforming from a monolith on-premesis architecture to microservices using AWS Elastic Container Services (ECS). Autoscaling containers was not an option for them seven years ago when they launched, but now adopting cloud native applications such as ECS has allowed them to evolve and focus on building their business and focus on the needs of their customers.

Lastly, UK startup Lyst also use Amazon ECS to help standardize how they deploy software and help them focus on delivering value for their customers instead. Using ECS and a suite of 3rd party tools on AWS also allows them to reduce mean time to fix software issues from hours to just 15 minutes.

To hear more, listen to Amy and Steve’s keynotes below: