Amazon’s first foray into the world of accelerator programs, designed to help early-stage startups build and launch, was focused on conversational AI back in 2016. Now, seven years later, Amazon has another AI accelerator — this time led by Amazon Web Services with a focus on the newest zeitgeist: generative artificial intelligence.
Announced today, AWS has created a 10-week program for generative AI startups around the globe. Generative AI startup founders within the cohort can expect to have access to AI models and tools as well as machine learning stack optimization and custom go-to-market advice. There’s also a Demo Day in San Francisco at the end of the program.
Accepted startups will receive up to $300,000 in AWS credits to help build their companies. Applications are open for the next two weeks and 10 startups will be chosen, the company says.
AWS will not invest in the startups and does not yet have an AI/ML investment arm, it tells TechCrunch. Amazon has been somewhat more measured in jumping head first into building AI compared to other big tech companies, especially looking at generative AI plays from Google’s Bard and Microsoft’s ChatGPT. Apple also has its eye on language-learning models, but it’s unclear if it wants to build one itself or source externally. That said, Amazon has struck partnerships with top AI companies including Hugging Face and Stability AI, with the latter calling AWS the “preferred cloud provider to build and scale its AI models for image, language, audio, video, and 3D content generation.”
Clearly, corporations are in an arms race to bring artificial intelligence into their fold, whether its through direct integrations, in-house product development, or, in this case, exposure through other investments and startups. Just last month, Salesforce launched a new $250 million investment fund targeted at generative AI startups.
While the new accelerator is open to all startups, AWS’ Global Head of Startups Howard Wright offered some specificity in a blog post announcing the accelerator as to who may full benefit — startups that have a minimum viable product, traction with customers and are working on product value propositions — as well as already building on AWS — will receive most benefit, per Wright.
As for why now, isn’t it obvious? Generative AI, says Rob Ferguson, AWS’ global head of AI/ML Startups, has unlocked new developments and creativity. “Artificial intelligence and machine learning are some of the most transformative technologies of our generation, and have been a main focus area for Amazon for more than 20 years….[we’re] excited about what next big thing we can help power through the cloud,” Ferguson told TechCrunch.
“Our approach to generative AI is to invest and innovate across three layers of the generative AI stack to take this technology out of the realm of research and make it available to customers of any size and developers of all skill levels,” he said.