Guest post by Antonio Reis Araujo, Account Manager, UK Startups, AWS
No matter a startup’s industry or stage, most share common goals and challenges. As someone lucky enough to speak with founders and technology leaders on a daily basis, I’ve noticed that most of these shared goals often revolve around the topics of fundraising, profitability, hiring, regional expansion, and cloud architecture. In this post, I’d like to specifically share three technology-driven trends I’m seeing in consumer startups.
1. Scaling customer-facing teams efficiently is a priority for the COO, and the CTO can help!
All founders are trying to prove a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) while tuning their business models to make unit economics work. When scaling quickly, it can be challenging to prove that there will be exponential return on investment for each extra person or dollar you put into the business. Simply put, it’s difficult to do more with less—especially when your company is growing at lightning speed.
Startups tend to avoid throwing people and money at problems. This is largely because money is usually scarce, but it’s also due to their “Builder DNA.” Founders are builders, and builders build technology and mechanisms to make people more productive. For example, take a look at how UK-based startup Monzo thinks about internal products and how they develop software to make people more productive: Monzo Internal Product.
At AWS, we’re also seeing a lot of operational leaders working with CTOs to make customer service and sales teams more productive—largely by leveraging our contact center platform Amazon Connect and other Amazon Artificial Intelligence Services. Startups are building scalable enterprise-grade contact-centers on Amazon Connect which integrate with AI tools to transcribe conversations, extract sentiment and intent, and create Alexa-like natural language contact flows. The end-product—as created by Ops and Tech working together—provides a great self-service experience for users and ensures that skilled professionals focus on the most complex issues.
2. I want a custom experience. Always.
Some call it the Experience Economy. Consumers today want to be able to customize their experience (think Amazon AR View) or want companies to personalize the experience on their behalf (think Netflix recommendations). Differentiation through a custom experience is becoming as important as the end-product you are delivering to consumers.
Quickly integrating user feedback is the key to developing creative and useful customization features. You may have heard how Airbnb integrated feedback from hosts early on, a move that may have saved the company in its early days. As a consumer startup, part of your focus must be on creating mechanisms for your community to make requests and then tracking their resolution. Here at AWS, for example, 90% of our roadmap and features are a direct result of customer feedback. Being creative and designing features that allow users to customize their experience with your product is key to retaining them. Examples of this are Baidu’s custom skins or Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, a film in which viewers make decisions for the characters. Developing customization features requires creativity, but you must also have data-driven insight around how customers are using your product before you launch any new feature. Real-time data and historical analytics will inform your decisions, allow you to iterate quickly, and ultimately help you define success measures for everything you ship.
After customization comes personalization. Behavior, profiles, and personal connections are automatically defining the content that many internet businesses provide each user. Because of this, startup founders today think about their data strategy from day one. Because of the growth of quality data-sets, mature and easy-to-use open source technology, and the number of data science experts in the job market, startups can ship machine learning (ML) and advanced analytics features earlier and faster than in the past. To help our customers, we’ve launched Amazon SageMaker, which allows you to build and ship ML quickly while using popular open-source ML frameworks. We’ve also democratized knowledge by opening our ML courses to everyone for free through the Machine Learning University.
Lastly, we’re making ML easy to use and available to everyone through APIs. An example of this is Amazon Personalize, which allows you to tailor product and content recommendations, as well as search results and notifications in real-time. Amazon Personalize is based on the same technology developed at Amazon.com and is available via a simple API call.
3. Security and privacy features are being used as competitive advantages.
An increasing number of companies, such as Telegram and Signal, are reaching millions of active users with the same message: we care about security and user privacy. At the same time, consumers want personalized experiences, so trust remains a fundamental selling point for startups. Users want their data and identity to be protected at all times and not misused or compromised.
UK-based SuperAwesome, for example, develops technology that makes the Internet safe for millions kids by using principles of privacy-by-design and responsibility-by-design to build zero-data technology. Palringo, also based in the UK, is used by 40 million users worldwide and ensures that user privacy is safeguarded by allowing users to operate in complete anonymity. For these companies, user privacy protection has been a priority from the start, which has allowed them to create a positive track record while earning and maintaining users’ trust.
At AWS, security is the highest priority. We give you powerful tools to build secure products that protect your users. These tools allow you to hit scale with confidence. A good example of a startup that has taken advantage of these tools is Nubank, a Brazil-based fintech startup. Nubank explains that they knew their application would be secure since inception because they used AWS security features such as Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), Identity and Access Management (IAM), and Security Groups. Learn more about our approaches to cloud security and data privacy.
The above is based on what I am seeing with UK consumer startups and it is just my own opinion. I encourage all founders to participate in the discussion and share their own views. If these challenges aren’t new for you, let us know on Twitter – @AWSstartups – how you’re tackling them!
from AWS Startups Blog