Amazon Web Services is pouring $30 million into early-stage startups built by underrepresented entrepreneurs.
The cloud services arm of Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), which maintains an East Coast hub in Herndon, said it will make the investment over the next three years by launching multiple accelerator programs for companies led by Black, Latino, LGBTQ and women founders.
The first AWS Impact Accelerator, announced Wednesday and now accepting applications, will serve Black founders. That program, open to companies headquartered within the U.S., starts in June — to be followed by an accelerator for female founders in the second half of 2022, and those for LGBTQ and Latino founders in 2023.
The company said it will give up to $225,000 in cash and credits to each venture. That includes a $125,000 cash grant and up to $100,000 in AWS credits for storage, analytics, machine learning, compute, database and Internet of Things services.
It will also offer resources such as AWS IQ, to give the founders access to third-party developers that can help build their cloud-based products, as well as training, technical guidance, networking sessions, mentorship and coaching.
The eight-week program will provide curriculum and sessions from startup experts and guest speakers — on topics ranging from investor pitching to cloud infrastructure optimization. It aims to help position “high-potential” and “pre-seed” cloud-based startups to gain experience, raise financing and scale from there. It also aims to help these companies get ready for seed-stage accelerators like Visible Handsa, which works closely with AWS.
The goal: to “level the playing field so that founders can pursue their ideas and grow successful businesses regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or race,” AWS CEO Adam Selipsky said in a statement. “AWS is committed to helping underrepresented founders succeed and build powerful cloud solutions that capture the attention of investors and customers.”
AWS said it launches this program with an intention to help diminish the gap in access to capital for underrepresented founders; companies founded by women secured a mere 2% of the investment dollars raised in 2021, and the amount of venture investments flowing to Black and brown women fell even lower.
It mirrors other local efforts to make investing more inclusive and foster equity for women, people of color and other underrepresented individuals in the VC arena. Black Girl Ventures, 2Gether-International, Halcyon, Minwo, Street Entrepreneurs and Zeal Capital Partners are among the organizations working to plug the holes.
Amazon is one of Greater Washington’s largest employers, with 11,400 metro-based employees in its ranks across AWS and other business segments.
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