“Venture capital investors hate us” said Dr Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon.com at the April Sydney FED, “once you needed five million dollars to launch a new technology business, today you need $50,000 and a big box of ramen.”
Dr Vogels was talking about the Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform that underpins many of the cloud computing and social media sites which are redefining how we use computers and the web.
What’s really interesting with the doctor’s comment is it’s only part of the story; for businesses outside the tech sectors –say retailers or service companies – they get cheap or even free access to the cloud computing services running on AWS or its cloud competitors like Windows Azure.
For those businesses, it’s possible to start an idea for nothing but the founder’s time; rather than putting fliers up at the local bus stop or shopping mall an entrepreneur starting an online store or neighbourhood computer repair business now can create a website and all the local search profiles without spending a cent.
Being able to start up a business with little, if any, capital means we’re seeing a new breed of innovators and entrepreneurs entering markets.
At the corporate level, or in the $50 million dollar VC investment field, the opportunities for exploring Big Data without buying big supercomputers is another benefit of the cloud computing services.
Services like ClimateCorp which insures farmers against extreme weather couldn’t have existed a few years ago as the processing power to analyse historical rain and drought data was only available to those with insanely expensive super computers.
Today, the combined power of millions of low powered cheap computers – the definition of cloud computing – delivers the processing grunt of a supercomputer at a fraction of the cost.
Access to cheap computing power means innovations can be bought to market quickly and at a fraction of the cost that was normal a decade ago.
We’re in early days with what the effects of super cheap computing means to most industries, but it is changing industries as diverse as agriculture, banking, logistics and retail quickly.
Cloud computing is giving big business the tools to understand their markets better and small business the ability to grab customers from bigger competitors who are too slow or don’t want to face what their clients really think.
These are the forces that are changing the way business is being done; if you’re in business it’s time to start paying attention.
In reality, Dr Vogels is pulling our legs – the smart VCs aren’t hating Amazon, they are rubbing their hands at the profits that are going to be made in disrupting cosy industries.