Jan 9, 2024 - Technology

AWS startup chief on attracting the next generation of AI startups

Illustration of hands at a computer against a collaged background.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Amazon Web Services hosted its first accelerator program last summer for generative AI, with 21 startups participating.

Why it matters: AI is the new battleground between Big Tech companies as they compete to get startups to build innovative services using their tech.

  • Axios caught up with Howard Wright, AWS global head of startups, on the company's efforts to get AI startups to use its tech:

AWS' pitch to startups:

"We try to make sure we have all the assets available to them. … We help with go-to-market, we can help with your product itself," Wright says.

He adds that the company has given away $6 billion in technology services credits to more than 280,000 startups through its Activate program in the past decade.

"I think folks are widely surprised in terms of our go-to-market expertise. … They can go from having hundreds of customers to having thousands of customers," he explains.

AWS' AI chips:

"It's going to take mega-companies like ourselves to offer choice to our partners. … We have some unannounced partners that are building on our custom silicon."

On competing with others, like OpenAI:

"We don't necessarily focus or comment on others," he says, adding that the company spends a lot of time interacting with startup investors, accelerators like Y Combinator and the like, to ensure it's getting the feedback about what startups really want.

On investing in startups:

"It comes up a lot. … That's not our forte — our forte is to provide the best engineering tools and credits to our startup ecosystem," he says, adding that AWS prefers to defer to venture investors when it comes to this.

(Of course, parent company Amazon has made investments, including in AI companies like Anthropic.)

Go deeper: Amazon Web Services CEO Adam Selipsky spreads his AI bets

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