Claus Verner speaker at BLAST 2017: how Amazon Web Services helps startups
In this interview we would like to introduce Claus Verner, one of the speakers of BLAST 2017. Claus is part of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) global startup Business Development Team, taking care of the Startup Community in Italy, CEE, Russia and Middle East and his talk on the Main Stage of BLAST will be focused on “How to keep your Startup DNA as you scale”.
Claus guides startups in their journey to the cloud, helping them achieve their goals through cost and performance optimization, and enabling them to utilize AWS solutions efficiently. Moreover he has extensive enterprise sales experience from working for SAP and AWS with Danish and Icelandic Enterprise customers, for this reasons we believe that his talk and the following interview will fit to your interest. So book your pass, meet him at BLAST!
You are part of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Startup Business Development Team, and you are working with the Startup Community in EMEA. Could you tell us more about it?
I am a part of a team that lives and breathes startups every day. We focus on how to help them grow with Amazon Web Services and how to best leverage the benefits of AWS cloud. We do this in a number of ways. Removing upfront cost on infrastructure let startups focus their financial resources on other areas such as customer feedback, R&D and marketing. Startups can scale their IT infrastructure up and down together with the peaks and valleys of their startup life cycle. They can deploy their application globally in minutes and get close to their customers. Some of the hottest startups (including Pinterest and Slack to name a few) have already used AWS to go global and scale to millions of users.
What kind of differences have you found, working in startup communities so different each other?
Working with different startup communities has shown me more similarities than differences. Startups tend to follow a lot of the same values across cities, countries and cultures. Everywhere I go I find the core passion for technology, the frugality of a bootstrapped startup and the drive to get the product ready for the customers. Working for Amazon Web Services, this is something I can easily identify with.
A lot of the core principles of the startup communities are reflected in the leadership principles at Amazon. For instance, we organize ourselves in 2 pizza teams, meaning that teams shouldn’t be larger than what 2 pizzas can feed. This enable the teams to stay agile and make quick decisions; very similar to how most startups are organized.
Based on your experience, how is it to work with the startup ecosystem in Italy?
There is a vibrant ecosystem of startups in Italy. We are seeing innovative startups like Statispay doing well in getting their service on to the market and in the hands of individuals and merchants alike. If we look at the startups of tomorrow I met some great entrepreneurs and developers taking their first steps in incubators across the country in places such as Nanna Bianca in Florence, Startup Bootcamp Foodtech in Rome, Tiscali Open Campus in Sardinia and H-Farm outside Venice.
Previously you were an Account Manager at AWS and you assisted with the cloud deployment of highgrowth startups such as Trustpilot and Vivino. What did you learn during that period?
When I started working for Amazon my first job was to take care of some of our Danish Startups as I am originally from Denmark. Working with startups like Trustpilot and Vivino taught me a couple of things.
First, always put the customer first and understand their business, then look at how your technology can help them get an advantage, save cost and time. Always work backwards from the customer. At Amazon Web Services we build our technical roadmap together with customers, this results in more than 90% of all new features and services that come directly from their needs.
What are the opportunities that Amazon Web Services offers to the aspiring entrepreneurs?
Amazon Web Services enable startups to think big from day one. Startups do not need to limit themselves in terms of access to markets as we have a global infrastructure they can leverage the moment they open an account, as well as benefitting from data centers and network architecture built to meet the requirements of the most security-sensitive organizations.
In addition, we have our AWS Activate program that provides startups with credits to offset the cost of infrastructure to run their application at scale. This can be a tremendous help when startups are in a critical scaling phase. Alongside the credits, trainings are also provided to introduce entrepreneurs and developers to AWS products, services, and common solutions. Furthermore AWS Activate also proposes Self-Paced labs where startups can gain practical, hands-on experience working with technology in a practice environment.
What is the most common advice that you give to the entrepreneurs you meet?
Focus on one thing, then strive to deliver that thing to your customers, at the highest level of excellency. A lot of startups want to have a perfect product with a full set of features before they release it. Focus on the minimum set of features you can release to prove your product, listen to the customers and iterate. By iterating fast and often you find out what works and what doesn’t. When using Amazon Web Services we allow you to innovate and test your ideas. If the idea doesn’t take off you are not left with a huge upfront investment that will slow down your innovation pace. Listen to your customers, iterate and launch the next version. Thanks to AWS cloud, startups can try again and again until they get to that version of their idea that customers love.
You’ll be one of the speakers at BLAST 2017 and, on the main stage, you’ll talk about “How to keep your Startup DNA as you scale”. What can people expect from your speech?
This speech focus on company culture within Amazon and startups like Airbnb. I will show the audience some concrete examples on how to define, build and keep the culture that helped these companies be successful in the first place. It doesn’t matter if you are a startup, SMB or an enterprise, everyone can take something away from this speech. You will learn how Airbnb organize themselves and extend their culture to customers, partners and investors. You will learn about our leadership principles and how we use them to keep innovation a number one priority within Amazon – even though we are not a startup anymore it’s still day 1.
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