Closing Notes on the Amazon Startup Challenge

I just got back from the Amazon Startup Challenge event and I had a really great time. Tracy Laxdal, Alicia Nakamoto and the rest of the team did a superb job of organizing and running the event and everyone was engaging and interesting. I even saw Jeff Bezos jump into a car in front of me and dash off ;)

It was a pretty hectic day, with our late flight and subsequent (relatively) early pitch to the judges. Werner Vogels came down and gave us a very intriguing talk on Amazon’s technology focus and some of their internal processes. Then, we did a Q&A round with the product managers of Amazon S3, SQS and EC2 where we got a chance to grill them regarding upcoming products, features, pricing, etc.

After some downtime back at the hotel, the “lightning round” started up. Here, we pitched to 8 VC firms in less than 2 hours. Wheewh That was really intense but very fun. On to cocktail hour, where a bunch of outside guests arrived prior to dinner. I finally got to meet the RightScale guys in person after having seen Thorsten on the AWS forums for months now which was very cool.

Dinner was great and they showed all of our videos from the contest interspersed throughout the meal. Andy Jassy then got up and announced that Ooyala was the winner and had them smash a 1RU server with a golden hammer (signed by Jeff Bezos). This was to indicate that they didn’t need no stinkin’ servers anymore ;-)

For me, it was a really interesting and fun learning experience. I really appreciated the opportunity to meet with all of the great people at Amazon, the other candidates, VCs and sponsors who attended. Everyone was very impressive. The biggest thing for me, however, was how unbelievably good Lucinda was in all of this. I had never seen her in this capacity before and all I can say is WOW. There wasn’t anything anybody threw at her that she didn’t handle magnificently. I have a new level of appreciation and respect for the opportunity I have to work with her.

Three cheers to Amazon for a great event! I look forward to seeing them run it again in the near future because it was definitely of very high value for all.