Entrepreneurs,start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are key drivers of South Africa’s economy and job creation – contributing over 20% towards GDP. It is evident that COVID-19 has negatively impacted South Africa’s economic lifeline. Now more than ever, start-ups need access to scalable, dependable and highly secure computing power to maintain Business Continuity and keep moving during these unprecedented times.
Disruptions brought about by the new reality has necessitated innovative technology adoption, not as a business luxury but as a must-have for the survival of African start-ups and SMEs.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) has a track record of supporting entrepreneurs and start-ups by providing the breadth and depth of AWS offerings to innovate, scale up or down as much as they need to and paying only for what is consumed. Because AWS offerings do not require any upfront investment, every start-up and SME can get started quickly on their cloud journey. Any business with an Internet connection can gain access to the same technology infrastructure that was previously only available to the world’s largest enterprises. If ideas don’t work out, they can quickly shut them down without any wasted investments.
Prabashni Naidoo, Director, Amazon Web Services South Africa, remarked that: “AWS recognises the value in supporting African start-ups and small businesses, as the future of the digital economy by providing a range of services to help any business accelerate innovate, build new products and services, launch applications as well as scale at any stage of their business. At the core of their business, nowadays start-ups need to have a cloud strategy in place. In today’s competitive business landscape, migrating business systems to the cloud offers advantages such as agility, cost savings and elasticity.”
Leveraging the right solutions and services enables the small players to compete with the big players as cloud computing has evened the playing field. Larger enterprises which typically have the budget for sophisticated technologies to streamline their business processes had more technological advantage.
Cloud computing enables the smallest of businesses to access the reliable power of would be out of reach and expand their business across Africa and around the world.
Naidoo added that: “To help grow the next generation of entrepreneurs on across the African continent AWS introduced the AWS Activate Programme. AWS Active provides technology resources to help start-ups in cities such as Accra, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Lagos and Nairobi. In addition, AWS Activate offers start-ups access to cloud computing infrastructure and helps them leverage AWS services to innovate and succeed while optimising performance and keeping costs down.
“Working with the venture capital community, angel investors, accelerators and incubators, AWS helps start-ups get started on the cloud platform. This includes business support, AWS credits, coaching and mentorship, in-person technical support and resources to help start-ups launch their businesses and go global.”
One such accelerator is SW7 which aims to support the early growth of about 4000 to 5000 businesses in the next five years. It is the longest running tech accelerator platform in South Africa. SW7 helps tech start-ups by providing business growth support – without requiring equity in exchange. With the largest tech mentor pool in Africa, of more than 100 CEOs, the accelerator has benefitted over 300 tech businesses to date. Together with AWS, the company launched the first of its kind Virtual Business Accelerator for B2B tech businesses in Africa.
An example of a start-up which has leveraged AWS to ensure the success of its unique business model is Pineapple. The firm is an insurance provider operating by means of a mobile app platform that provides users with a unique insurance offering. Using the Pineapple app, users upload pictures of items for cover instantly getting a quotation and in little time, their items are insured.
Pineapple uses AWS services such as Amazon EC2 to for secure, resizable compute capacity. AWS has allowed Pineapple to manage high load requests. Additionally, solutions like AWS Lambda lets them run code without provisioning or managing servers. Pineapple pays only for the compute time that they consume – there is no charge when their code is not running.
Pineapple’s key differentiator in the insurance market is that users can get back all funds from unclaimed premiums at the end of each year. Through the platform, users also form pools of funds, from which claims will be paid out.
Another showcase of start-ups leveraging the AWS Cloud is iHouzit, an online property and lifestyle services that provides consumers with an integrated shopping experience from a wide variety of premium products and trusted services.
iHouzit built its e-commerce platform on Amazon Route 53. A highly available and scalable cloud Domain Name System (DNS) web service is designed to give businesses an extremely reliable and cost-effective way to route third-party applications. By working with AWS solutions architects, the start-up has streamlined its technology solution to significantly improve its website’s response times for customers.
AWS Activate Start-up has also provided business support, training and platform usage credits. This has been a massive boost for staying in business and to continuously spin up more service offerings. iHouzit is a recent member of the Activate programme that has access to Credits, 24 by 7 business support and training. This membership has opened a world full of AWS knowledge, access to cloud engineers and solution architects, credits to their monthly bill and some free hours to training.
Naidoo said that leveraging cloud technology is one way of cementing a successful digital future for start-ups and AWS is doing its bit to help, with the goal of providing them with support at every stage of their business in order to increase their chances of success.Click below to share this article