AWS Startup Challenge 2011

Last week I got to participate in one of my favorite days each year, serving on the judging panel for the AWS Startup Challenge. The event is a fairly intense day where our first meeting starts at 6:45am and the event closes at 9pm that evening. But it is an easy day to love in that the entire day is spent with innovative startups who have built their companies on cloud computing.

I’m a huge believer in the way cloud computing is changing the computing landscape and that’s all I’ve worked on for many years now. But I have still not tired of hearing “Without AWS, we wouldn’t have even been able to think about launching this business.”

Cloud computing is allowing significant businesses to be conceived and delivered at scale with only tiny amounts of seed funding or completely bootstrapped. Many of the finalist we looked at last week’s event had taken less than $200k of seed funding and yet had already had thousands of users. That simply wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago and I just love to see it.

The finalist for this year’s AWS Startup Challenge were:

Booshaka United States (Sunnyvale, California)

Booshaka simplifies advocacy marketing for brands and businesses by making sense of large amounts of social data and providing an easy to use software-as-a-service solution. In an era where people are bombarded by media, advertisers face significant challenges in reaching and engaging their customers. Booshaka combines the social graph and big data technology to help advertisers turn customers into their best marketers. Australia (Sydney) is an online business management solution specifically addressing the HR department. The powerful online and mobile platform engages all staff across an enterprise, builds positive culture and drives business growth.

Fantasy Shopper UK (Exeter)

Fantasy Shopper is a social shopping game. The shopping platform centralizes, socializes and “gamifies” online shopping to provide a real-world experience.

Flixlab United States (Palo Alto, California)

With Flixlab, people can instantly and automatically transform raw videos and photos from their smartphone or their friends’ smartphones, into fun, compelling stories with just a few taps and immediately share them online. After creation, viewers can then interact with these movies by remixing them and creating personally relevant movies from the shared pictures and videos.

Getaround United States (San Francisco, California)

Getaround is a peer-to-peer car sharing marketplace that enables car owners to rent their cars to qualified drivers by the hour, day, or week. Getaround facilitates payment, provide 24/7 roadside assistance, and provide complete insurance backed by Berkshire Hathaway with each rental.

Intervention Insights United States (Grand Rapids, Michigan)

Intervention Insights provides a medical information service that combines cutting edge bioinformatics tools with disease information to deliver molecular insights to oncologists describing an individual’s unique tumor at a genomic level. The company then provides a report with an evidenced-based list of therapies that target the unique molecular basis of the cancer.

Localytics United States (Cambridge, Massachusetts)

Localytics is a real-time mobile application analytics service that provides app developers with tools to measure usage, engagement and custom events in their applications. All data is stored at a per-event level instead of as aggregated counts. This allows app publishers, for example, to create more accurately targeted advertising and promotional campaigns from detailed segmentation of their dedicated customers.

Judging this year’s competition was even more difficult than last year because of the high quality of the field. Rather than a clear winner just jumping out, nearly all the finalist were viable winners and each clearly led in some dimensions.

As I write this and reflect on the field of finalist, some notable aspects of the list: 1) it is truly international in that there are several very strong entrants from outside the US and more than ½ of the finalists come from outside of Silicon Valley – the combination of two trends is powerful: first the economics of cloud computing supports successful startups without venture funding and, second, the spread of venture and angel funding throughout the world. Both trends make for a very strong field. Continuing on the notable attributes list, 2) very early stage startups are getting traction incredibly quickly – cloud computing allows companies to go to beta without having to grow a huge company. And, 3) Diversity. There were consumer offerings, developer offerings, and services aimed at highly skilled professionals.

The winner of the AWS Startup Challenge this year was Fantasy Shopper from Exeter, United Kingdom. Fantasy Shopper is a small, mostly bootstrapped startup led by CEO Chris Prescott and CTO Dan Noz with two other engineers. Fantasy Shopper is a social shopping game. They just went into beta on October 18th and already have thousands of incredibly engaged users. My favorite example of which is this video blog posted to YouTube November 6th: Watch the first 60 to 90 seconds and you’ll see what I mean.

Congratulations to Chris, Dan, Brendan, and Findlay at Fantasy Shopper and keep up the great work.


James Hamilton



b: /

2 comments on “AWS Startup Challenge 2011
  1. Hey,your right Rodica it was 6:45am. I knew it was damn early :-)

    Update made.


  2. rodica says:

    Very happy to have you involved with this program, James :)

    One tiny nitpick – and one that reflects the hard work the judges put in for this event – the judging day actually starts with finalist meetings at 7 am, not 7:45 (by then, you have finished your first finalist interview!)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.