Why the AWS Impact Accelerator Program is a Step Above the Rest
If you’re a startup entrepreneur, chances are that at some point in your early stages you either applied to an accelerator program, went through one, or at the very least thought of going through this process.
At PilotoMail, we applied to be a part of the AWS Impact Accelerator for a number of different reasons that make it a unique program within this class.
$125k free, unrestricted cash and $100k in AWS credits. Just wow. A program that gets it. To be sure, it is not entirely selfless. And of course, they’re making a bet on their ecosystem of clients, but you really can’t beat this deal. And how refreshing is it to be trusted to do whatever you think is in the best interest of your company with the cash? You simply won’t find that even amongst the programs that offer a smaller equity-free bounty.
Finally, an accelerator that combines business mentorship with real, hands-on, technical mentorship. I can’t rave enough about this point. Of course, all accelerators have business mentorship, and depending on the program and the mentors, it can be more or less impactful for your startup, but none that I know of at least, have legit hands-on technical mentorship from engineers who are willing to look at your product and your code and give you feedback on anything and everything.
This accelerator understands diversity at a level that no other accelerator and frankly very few people in the business world altogether understand it. Why do they have separate cohorts for black founders, women founders, and Latino founders? Because it makes a difference. And the connections that you develop with people who have shared backgrounds, history, culture, and struggles are deeper and stronger. Cohort cohesiveness and community matter, and this accelerator takes it to a whole different level.
Okay, cool. That’s why we applied, but what was it like? In a word: awesome. When you first start meeting people at AWS, you start noticing a pattern. Everyone is a “yes, and” person. When you’re an entrepreneur—especially when you’re from an emerging market—you get so used to the word “no” that you start considering yourself as a type of endangered species for being “too yes” of a person or for always questioning the nos. From the founders of the accelerator to the mentors, to everyone you met at Amazon headquarters, these were people that lived open-mindedness and knew how important it was to achieve greatness. In many ways, I felt at home.
Now, let’s talk about the next level. The program was everything that you’d expect a company like AWS to produce: highly curated programming, superb organization and attention to detail (yes, cool swag was a part of it), unique experiences (how many non-Amazonians have actually visited the iconic Amazon Spheres?), world-class mentors and coaches, and a whole community of uber smart and cool people at all levels cheering you on.
OK, now for what we didn’t expect:
Getting into a highly competitive accelerator program typically gives you a seal of approval that you can carry over to access, sales, and capital raising, but most of them will take equity in exchange. With a 1.5% acceptance rate, this program was just as hard to get in, but because the program launched this year, and we were part of the first Latino cohort, we didn’t expect it to produce the same type of effect. Boy were we wrong. And in hindsight, maybe we should’ve expected it because getting into a program produced by the world’s most successful “startup” is a big deal. Press, backlinks, connections, the whole nine.
Chances are that whatever product or service you are selling and whatever industry you’re a part of, Amazon is either deep into it or has partners that are. This is game-changing on all fronts. We were ambitious with our asks, and to our surprise, we got intros to the companies and people that we wanted to meet at the right levels. Reaching some of these people and getting their attention on our own would’ve likely taken us a couple of years, but Amazon’s tentacles and reputation translated into the best alley-oop we could ask for. Access, especially for underrepresented founders, is a non-commoditized luxury, and this program truly delivers on the promise of leveling the playing field.
Perhaps most importantly, this program gifted us with the power of visualization. True to form and their “working backward methodology” every aspect of this program was purposeful and intentional. In the last week of the program, they took us to ring the Nasdaq bell. When I first found out about the event, I thought it would be cool. What I didn’t expect was the feeling I got when I saw my face on a huge billboard in the middle of Times Square. For the first time in my entrepreneurial journey, I truly visualized success at the highest level. That’s a hard thing to accomplish when there are so few entrepreneur role models who have rung that bell and look like you or have similar backgrounds. If we were hungry before, now the Pavlovian desire to ring that bell again has leveled up our ambition.
All in all, if you’re an underrepresented founder, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better accelerator program out there. If you’re serious about applying or want to hear more about our experience, get in touch. The world needs more underrepresented entrepreneurs, producing world-class products and companies that can change the game once and for all.
PilotoMail is a mail management platform powering mailroom automation and virtual mailboxes for the remote workforce. By giving mailrooms a digital-first makeover, mail operators can deliver outstanding services all while managing large volumes of mail efficiently, complying with all postal regulations easily, and increasing revenue effortlessly.