AWS Startups Blog

Inside the Inaugural AWS Impact Accelerator Program for Black Founders

Brace for impact! The AWS Impact Accelerator program got off to a flying start—and it’s only the beginning of what this initiative has to offer.

It was a summer of Impact for AWS Startups. For eight intensive weeks, an incredible group of 25 Black-led startups became the first cohort of the AWS Impact Accelerator program, designed to provide underrepresented founders with the training, resources, and investment needed to accelerate their business.

Based everywhere from Compton to Baltimore and representing industries ranging from crypto to healthcare, our first cohort of Black founders are now better equipped to succeed in a startup space that has historically shut them out.

Now, AWS is ready to provide those same resources to our second cohort, which will focus on women founders. Think your woman-led startup could benefit from the program, or know of one that could? Here are some of the ways the AWS Impact Accelerator can help you accelerate in just 8 weeks:

  • Personalized coaching with a technical and business advisor: The AWS Impact Accelerator essentially adds a CTO to the startup’s team—one with in-depth knowledge of AWS and specialized experience based on the startup’s industry and goals. In week one, the advisors, made up of former founders, investors, and VCs, sit down with founders to identify key goals to accomplish in the next eight weeks. Startups meet with this mentor weekly, and get the hands-on technical and strategic help they need to accelerate their business.
  • $225,000 in capital: AWS is giving each startup $125,000 in zero-equity cash to scale their business, plus an additional $100,000 in AWS Activate credits to use as they build on AWS.
  • Amplified media reach: Our PR team helped our Black founders get their messages into local and relevant markets. Hundreds of news stories were produced about our first cohort, directly leading to investor and VC outreach.
  • A unique opportunity to augment their network through a lasting community: Impact Accelerator startups are chosen for their individual strengths. But when drawing on the expertise and talent of their cohort peers, each startup can get even more out of the program. Through dedicated Slack channels and virtual social events like wine tastings and trivia nights, these founders are building communities that will outlast the eight weeks of the program. In the first week of the Black Founder cohort alone, thousands of Slack messages were exchanged. Participants created specialized channels and went out of their way to help their peers—one non-technical founder immediately found a solution from a tech expert, and another organized in-person meetups. Whether it’s through cross-industry partnerships, a network they can always tap for answers, or lifelong friendships, participants are creating a community that will enhance their startup in the months and years ahead.
  • Unparalleled access to the Amazon ecosystem: During the first cohort, we made countless personal introductions between Black founders and top executives in Amazon business divisions like retail, music, and healthcare, as well as with trusted external contacts with investors.

That access is a critical benefit that will last far beyond the intensive eight-week program, and is one that other accelerators simply can’t offer. Investors who never would have answered cold calls or emails from these startups have started paying attention after AWS has made the intro, says Denise Quashie, Head of Worldwide Startup Marketing Programs at AWS.

“It’s an enormous privilege to be able to put Amazon’s connections and capabilities to work on behalf of these amazing startups,” Quashie says. “If we can open just one door for each one of these startups it really puts them on much equal footing with a those who are considered the majority and have those doors open much longer.”

And we’re not stopping here. AWS is eager to extend that level of access to our second cohort of women founders. If you’re interested in being part of the Impact Accelerator program or know a great candidate, find out more here.