Helping startups succeed as we navigate a new normal

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By Gaurav Arora, Head of Startup Ecosystem, Asia Pacific-Japan, Amazon Web Services,

There’s no understating Covid-19’s impact on businesses across Asia. According to a recent survey by MaGIC, less than 3 percent of the startups in SEA think they would survive for more than 12 months if the Covid-19 pandemic persists. As economies across Asia start to emerge from lockdown, business leaders are reassessing their plans and projections to accommodate the new normal, and creating opportunities for startups.

Many startups already possess one of the qualities that could prove most beneficial in the post-pandemic world – business agility. But being agile and moving fast is just the beginning. Startups also have to look for opportunities to pull unnecessary costs out of their business, forge new links to partners and customers, and ensure their employees are continually developing new skills. With this focus, startups can lay the groundwork to survive and thrive in the new normal.

The Urgent Need for Digital Transformation

During these challenging times, we are seeing companies of every size, including startups, express their desire to transform more quickly into the cloud as a way of breaking free of the legacy on-premises infrastructure that holds them back from trying new ideas.

According to Daphne Chung, a research director at IDC, the pandemic has underscored the importance of digital transformation across all industries. Cloud continues to be the underpinning platform for all digital transformation initiatives and has therefore seen an acceleration in demand in the wake of the pandemic. In Malaysia, the public cloud services market is expected to grow by 14.9 percent from 2019 to 2020. All that cloud promises when it comes to elastic consumption, agile development, and global reach are in demand, and the value is being realized across Southeast Asia.

As consumers continue to embrace digital services, their behaviour change creates opportunities for agile startups that quickly innovate with cloud technology to deliver great experiences online.

At AWS, we’ve been helping startups rise to meet this opportunity. One example is the platform of cloud-based solutions for retail and F&B businesses, StoreHub. Since the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO), most Malaysian F&B businesses have been badly impacted, especially ones that rely heavily on in-person purchases. Within 48 hours of the Malaysian MCO being announced, StoreHub built and launched Beep Delivery, a food delivery feature for F&B establishments. By leveraging Amazon Elasticsearch Service, it enables users to find the products they want to buy from store menus, while Amazon CloudFront serves as a fast content delivery network service for sending menus to customers. Beep Delivery also utilizes Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS) as the messaging service for delivery orders.

Saving Money

Running a startup can be a stressful experience at the best of times, and one of the most critical factors underpinning their success is how well they manage their cash. And that means making sure they are only spending money on things they absolutely need.

AWS offers several ways for startups to save money on their cloud expenses. We work with startup customers to make sure they are using the most cost-effective pricing models and are not using more AWS services than they actually need. The AWS Trusted Advisor online tool helps startup customers reduce costs, increase performance, and improve security by checking their use of AWS services, and making suggestions to help optimise performance.

In Singapore, we worked with fintech, MoneySmart to help reduce their cloud spend by more than 28% per month through cost optimisation exercises. As an example, Spot Instance usage enabled the personal finance portal to achieve a near 50 percent savings compared to On-Demand usage.

Attracting Customers

We know that one of the hardest tasks of bringing a new idea to market is simply making people aware of it, and by identifying platforms to facilitate these introductions. At AWS, we work hard to forge connections between startups and potential customers and partners. We regularly connect executives from large organisations with startups to hear about new solutions that might be of interest. These connections often involve ‘reverse pitches,’ where large organizations discuss their challenges and startups propose solutions.

And finally, while we know that startups rarely have spare time on their hands, it is important to never stop learning. Keeping up to date with the latest products and developing the skills to use them is more critical now than ever.

We offer a variety of free online education and livestreamed or on-demand training events for startups across Asia at every growth stage, including AWSome Days and the AWS Builders Online Series for early-stage founders new to the cloud. AWS Innovate conferences are for startups looking to accelerate their cloud skills.

The natural agility of startups gives them the capacity to adapt quickly to market changes, and presents a chance to win new customers. By using this time to take stock of their business and the opportunities available to them, startups can move forward with confidence into 2021 and beyond.

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