So, you’ve decided to set up your e-business? Great! But what if you’re still struggling to raise enough capital to set the ball rolling? Guess what!? Nowadays, cash is not essential to launch an online business. I mean, it doesn’t hurt to have some, but you don’t need a great deal of money to make some real money. At least on the Internet.
How’s that possible? Many of the hottest start-ups like Airbnb or Slack have harnessed the power of AWS to start their businesses on the cheap.
AWS Offering for Start-ups
Amazon Web Services is a perfect solution for starting an online business:
- There’s no charge for the Virtual Machines.
- As you build your business from scratch, you can make it cloud-ready from the outset.
- AWS offers a wide choice of services: AWS Lambda, SQS, SNS, Internet of Things (IoT), DynamoDB, RDS, or Kinesis. Choose the ones that are suitable for your needs, and make your application entirely serverless.
- You pay as you go. This means that in the initial stage you won’t even pay a dime, or you’ll pay very little until your business expands. And, more importantly, in the unlikely event of a failure, you’ll never get saddled with overdue bills.
Amazon supports start-ups in a variety of ways. The company runs start-up-dedicated programs like AWS Lofts, AWS EdStart, and AWS Activate. You can also use AWS Free Tier for the first year after you create your AWS account.
I’ve prepared a short overview of each of these programs. Have a look and decide which one is the most suitable to support your start-up.
1. AWS Lofts
AWS Lofts provides you with access to self-paced, hands-on labs, AWS Technical Bootcamps, technical sessions and, what’s best, the so-called Ask an Architect sessions.
- The online technical labs are available for walk-ins throughout the day. Amazon offers a wide variety of labs, starting from the beginner level to advanced management of a web application with CloudFormation. All these labs, which usually cost $30 each, are free in AWS Loft.
- Technical Bootcamps are something more advanced. These are full-day boot camps that include hands-on lab tasks in a live environment. Usually, these sell for $600, but AWS offers them for free in the Lofts. There’s a 20 people cap on each boot camp.
- During the technical sessions, you can watch technical presentations covering some of the highest rated and best-attended sessions from the recent AWS events. These are delivered by AWS Solutions Architects, Product Managers, and Evangelists.
- And last but not least, crème-de-la-crème of the AWS Lofts – Ask an Architect. These allow you to join anytime between 10 AM and 6 PM and for 60 minutes of a 1-on-1 session with a member of the AWS technical team. You don’t need an appointment; however, they are available on-demand if required. Come with a question about AWS, and leave with the answer. You can ask about anything related to AWS.
There’s only one fly in the ointment: you have to live in San Francisco or New York, as for the time being, the AWS Lofts is only available in these two locations.
2. AWS EdStart
If your organization is US-based, has a mission to solve problems in education, and demonstrates an innovative solution that addresses a current or future challenge, you may be able to apply for participation in the AWS EdStart program.
The AWS EdStart program is dedicated to creating the next generation of online learning, analytics and campus management solutions on the AWS Cloud. With AWS EdStart, you can earn AWS Promotional Credits, community engagement, office hours, customized training sessions and specialized support. All you need is an idea that aims to reform and enhance the education system.
3. AWS Activate
AWS Activate is probably the best you can get from Amazon for your start-up. The program provides packages that can help start-ups grow. To apply for the program, you have to be listed as one of the defined accelerators, incubators, Seed/VC Funds or other start-up-enabling organizations.
AWS Activate offers Promotional Credits for the AWS services, Business Support Plan credits, business and technical sessions, and credits for self-paced labs. Your start-up can also be featured in the AWS Startup Spotlight.
There are two packages available at the moment: Portfolio and Portfolio Plus:
- The difference is that in the Portfolio Package you can receive up to $15,000 in AWS Promotional Credit for two years and in the Portfolio Plus Package you can choose to receive up to $15,000 in AWS Promotional Credit for two years or $100,000 in AWS Promotional Credit for one year.
- In the Portfolio Plus Package, you also receive up to $10,000 AWS Support Credit for two years, instead of up to $5,000 AWS Support Credit for one year. All other benefits are the same.
Possibilities and Limitations
AWS Support Credit can pay off the AWS Support Business Plan. The Business Plan provides you with the access to the Trusted Advisor service, which can help you follow the best practices of cost reduction, performance optimization, fault tolerance, and improved security.
However, you cannot use your AWS Promotional Credit to cover any fees or charges in Amazon Mechanical Turk, Reserved Instance upfront payments, certain types of AWS Support, Amazon Route 53 domain name registration, AWS Marketplace nor any upfront fees for any service.
An extra benefit of AWS Activate is the AWS Training. All packages offer you the AWS Business Essentials Online Training and AWS Technical Online Training ($600 value each) and 80 credits for Self-paced labs ($80 value). In selected locations, you can also attend training sessions in person.
How to Apply
To apply for AWS Activate membership, you need to have an AWS account, and your start-up has to be associated with an accelerator, incubator, Seed/VC Fund, or other start-up-enabling organization. When you are approved for the Portfolio or Portfolio Plus package, AWS Promotional Credit will be applied to your account.
You can check accelerators and seed funds supported by AWS by clicking this link: https://aws.amazon.com/activate/portfolio-detail/
If your organization is not on the list, you can encourage them to sign up to the program. If it’s already there, ask your program director for the AWS Activate sign up details unique to your organization.
4. AWS Free Tier
If you’re not eligible or don’t want to apply for any of the above programs for any reason, you can always go for AWS Free Tier.
When you create your first AWS account, you get one year of the Free Tier for selected AWS services. Some of those services will remain free of charge even after the first year. Probably, you won’t be able to run a full-scale business with the service, but for sure it will be sufficient to test your idea, define the requirements and save money for the first year.
The most attractive services in the Free Tier that may help you get your start-up off the ground without spending a dime are:
- 5 GB of Amazon S3 Standard Storage
- 750 hours per month of Amazon RDS of db.t2.micro database engine
- 750 hours per month of selected Amazon EC2 instances
- 750 hours per month of Elastic Load Balancing
- 10,000 text requests per month to Amazon Lex chatbots
- 5 million characters per month turned into text with Amazon Polly
- 250,000 messages per month published or delivered to AWS IoT
- 90 minutes usage per month of Amazon Connect, which will help you to build your own contact center
- 1 million API calls received per month by Amazon API Gateway
- 50 GB of Amazon CloudFront storage to distribute content closer to your customers
5. Other Services – Free For All
The last type of AWS services that are the most compelling from a start-up perspective are the ones available for free to anyone, without any time limit:
- 1 active pipeline per month in AWS CodePipeline for fast and reliable application update
- 5 active users per month in AWS CodeCommit, which is a source control service
- 1 million free AWS Lambda requests per month for serverless code execution
- 25 GB of flexible NoSQL DynamoDB database
- 100,000 traces per month to analyze and debug your application in AWS X-Ray
- 10,000 activity tasks in AWS SWF to coordinate and manage tasks for Cloud applications
- 1 million requests to the queue in AWS SQS
As you can see, there are a few possibilities of running your business in the Cloud frugally. With the help of AWS, you can stop worrying about cash and focus instead on your application.
Without any fees, you can access services and support that will help you build a billion-dollar business in the Cloud. The charges will come, but only when you earn enough to afford them.