Amazon Web Services (AWS) has announced the launch of its AWS Impact Accelerator Program. The program is designed to give up to $30 million to early-stage startups led by Black, Latino, LGBTQIA+ and women founders.
According to Amazon, the 3-year initiative will help recipients build successful businesses while accelerating growth in their respective markets.
Amazon added that the AWS Impact Accelerator Program will award pre-seed funding of $225,000 (a $125,000 cash grant and up to $100,000 in AWS service credits) to startups that qualify. The company also added that it will be offering training, mentorship, and technical guidance to qualified startups.
Startups participating in the program will also be introduced to Amazon leaders and teams. They will get networking opportunities with potential investors and ongoing advisory support, plus access to a virtual community of AWS experts.
“On acceptance into the eight-week program, participants will create a wide-ranging, personalized training curriculum from dozens of available sessions delivered by AWS startup experts and guest speakers. Startups will also learn how to use Amazon processes such as ‘two-way door decision making’ and ‘working backwards’ to drive day-to-day decisions and build nimble, innovative teams […] The program will also prepare startups for entry into seed-stage accelerators that work closely with AWS, such as Visible Hands,” Amazon noted in a statement.
The program has come under heavy criticism by critics who believe that the amount dedicated to the program is a measly (0.04%) percentage of AWS’ projected $71 billion annual revenue run rate for 2022. The critics also question whether Amazon is going far enough to correct the institutionalized disadvantages that minority founders face.
“[Of] course they’re going to use the Amazon platform, and then when the free credits run out, they have to either port all of their stuff over to a different platform or give a lot of the money… back to Amazon. This is basically a McDonald’s ‘buy one get one free’ coupon at scale. This the equality and diversity equivalent of spitting on a house fire. Strictly speaking, it’s better than nothing, but you’d be hard-pressed to find something that’s more symbol over substantive,” Os Keyes, adjunct computer science professor at Seattle University, said.
Adam Selipsky, AWS CEO responded to critics by explaining that AWS is “committed” to helping underrepresented founders “succeed and build powerful cloud solutions” that “capture the attention of investors and customers.”
Applications for AWS Impact Accelerator program for Black Founders is already open, and the program is scheduled to kick off in June. The version of the program for Women Founders will take place in the second half of the year, while The version for LGBTQIA+ and Latino Founders will follow in 2023. The program is open to startups based in the United States of America.
Eligible startups can now apply for each versions of the program.