Amazon Web Services (AWS), Jeff Bezos led ecommerce giant Amazon’s cloud computing arm, is looking to tap into venture capital and private equity firms, incubators and co-working spaces, both globally and in India, to drive its education technology startup accelerator programme AWS EdStart.
“As we engage with more edtech startup customers via the programme, we are looking to work with private equity and venture capital firms with a focus on education in order to better help these startups,” Vincent Quah, business lead for education, research and not-for-profit organizations and worldwide public sector for AWS Asia Pacific and Japan, told TechCircle in an interview in Delhi.
Quah has more than 25 years of experience working in senior roles across the education (K12 and tertiary) and learning sectors, life sciences and healthcare industries.
AWS EdStart is designed to provide edtech startups with resources they need to get started quickly and easily on AWS. The program assists entrepreneurs with building the next generation of online learning, analytics, and campus management solutions on the AWS cloud. “We are looking at working with aggregators and with organizations that bring all these startups together. One example is this company in Australia called EduGrowth,” he said. The programme is focused on innovative teaching and learning technologies that create positive student outcomes.
Quah also said that the company was open to collaborating with communities and co-working spaces in India and overseas to integrate them in the programme in a way that would drive value to its member startups. “We're trying to identify these type of organizations that pull all these early stage startups together. They're like incubators but not necessarily at the funding stage. These could be organisations looking at education technology with a very keen set of eyes and probably have more experiences in the education sector,” he added.
AWS would ideally reach out to such incubator-like bodies and offer them a role at the edtech programme, which was launched in India last year.
“The programme makes it easy for early-stage edtech companies to find the resources and relationships they need to be successful. It is a community of like-minded people and companies who seek to solve complex education problems globally,” Quah explained, adding that AWS offers promotional cloud credits, community engagements, customized trainings, marketing opportunities, mentorship, and technical support to the startup members.
There are two types of memberships -- innovator tier and member tier. While the eligibility criteria for innovator tier is that the company shouldn’t be more than two years old and $1 million in revenue, companies in the member tier can be up to five years old and $10 million in revenue.
Interestingly, there was no upper limit in terms of years until which a startup could be a member but the selection process is manual. “We end up getting a lot of applications for the programme but we have set processes to monitor these applications. We have a global team that gets into meetings with these startups to see if they can be onboarded,” Quah said. He declined to share numbers on the size of the team and how many startups were part of the programme so far. However, he did disclose that the programme had onboarded a number of Indian startups including Eckovation, Play Ablo and Enguru.
Quah pointed out that there was not much difference in terms of technology maturity between Indian edtech startups their global counterparts. In fact, he added, sometimes the programme had come across Indian startups who were higher in terms of technology maturity.
Expanding on ways that the programme helps member startups, Quah said that the company provides a hotline to AWS architects who are ready to engineer solutions for these startups. The programme was looking at marketing campaigns and holding pitch days for these startups, either to get the startups due publicity or give them a chance to hook up with an investor or potential customer at major events.
What does AWS gain from the programme? “We get to understand what kind of technologies are being developed and what other people are looking at,” he said.
“We are a technology company. Now working so closely with these education technology companies, we are actually also educating ourselves and learning about what's out there that we need to also pay attention to. Hopefully, we will be able to capitalize this market and raise opportunities for all these education technology companies to be successful,” he said.