Amazon Web Services Public Sector Summit Panel Discussion Featuring Andre Pienaar

Startups soaring into the clouds at the AWS Public Sector Summit

Written by: Kimberly Richter and Lukas Troost, C5 Accelerate

Cloud infrastructure is making tremendous progress throughout the public sector, as illustrated at the Amazon Web Services Public Sector Summit held in Washington DC on June 20th and 21st. These gains are shared with entrepreneurs who are likewise looking to impact lives and industries at scale.

Pinkaloo, for instance, demonstrated how the speed and agility associated with entrepreneurship can be multiplied on the cloud. While with other participants from the PeaceTech Accelerator featured at the convention,  Gideon Taub, the founder and CEO of Pinkaloo, explained that “the AWS Public Sector Summit is a tremendous opportunity for my company to strategize the next set of AWS tools that we will leverage as we continue to modernize charitable giving through our Modern Giving accounts. Leveraging AWS’s capabilities has allowed us to focus on our Bank and Employer customers and donors, rather than infrastructure, as we scale, while we get the added benefit of all of our stakeholders knowing that we are automatically get AWS’s security tools built in.”

These benefits and other challenges were explored through a number of panel discussions throughout the two day program.

Amazon Web Services Public Sector Summit Panel Discussion Featuring Andre Pienaar

Access to capital, for example,  is often the largest barrier for entering new markets. Seventy-five percent of traditional venture capital is invested in just three states: California, New York, and Massachusetts, C’pher Gresham, of the social impact incubator Seed Spot, argued that the lack of diversity in venture capital is by no means a pipeline problem.

How then, can the start-up ecosystem better serve the abundance of talent currently being overlooked?

The answer in part, is that technology can be a great leveler. In the context of Project 500, a business development program whose mission is to accelerate underrepresented entrepreneurs from high potential to high growth, Melissa Bradley explained, “we focus on training startups to use tech to scale up, whatever sector of industry they operate in. Hosting a website or automating tasks, the cloud can accelerate growth”. Sarah Staton added that integrating blockchain technology can also make a big difference in helping startups raise funds through channels that were not previously available. The U. S. Department of State’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) initiative that Sarah runs, trains young people to leverage similar technologies and develop entrepreneurial solutions to development challenges around the globe. Andre Pienaar, Managing Partner and Founder of C5 Capital, brought a venture capitalist’s perspective to the discussion.  In his commentary, he highlighted how cloud allows for scalability, accessibility, faster time to market and a significant reduction in upfront capital expenditures. In other words, launching in the cloud offers an opportunity to do do more with less, encouraging “startups to focus on the secret sauce”.

While buoyed by these new technologies, startups will still protype, test, and iterate. Despite their best efforts, entrepreneurs of all backgrounds will also inevitably experience failure. Andre encourages entrepreneurs to persist. “Unlike baseball, after three strikes you’re not out, and you can keep trying until you succeed.” Cloud is by no means the answer to all problems- but it certainly accelerates the process of building meaningful solutions.


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