Before the winners crossed the stage in WineWorks' large meeting hall, attendees sat through a presentation by Simone Brunozzi, senior AWS technology evangelist for the Bay area, on the many technical assists and services that Amazon provides developers building mobile apps in the EC2 cloud. They ranged from its AWS Mobile Software Development Kit to its DynamoDB database service.
It was Brunozzi's job to remind attendees that the purpose of Amazon's Global Startup Challenge was to demonstrate that the cloud was a useful setting in which to produce mobile apps. He started out with a quip about how he realized his largely male crowd was disappointed that he was an Italian male rather than "a glamorous French woman named Simone." After that, he was all business, with an hour and 45 minutes of instructive talk.
Earlier in the day, executives from the startups had made presentations to a panel of judges, who selected four winners from 12 finalists. The finalists were also given a chance to present to venture capitalists in short, "lightning round" sessions. The 12 finalists were selected from 24 semi-finalists, who in turn had been selected from 2,500 entrants from 85 countries. Four winners, one in each of four categories, received $50,000 in cash from Amazon plus $50,000 in credit for AWS services.
[ Want to learn how the developer team behind Obama for America used mobile apps running on Amazon? See Obama's Developer Brain Trust: Inside The Big Battle. ]
The four winners were also presented with a "golden hammer," which they used in the annual Startup Challenge ritual of demolishing a server. Amazon's point is that companies no longer need to own servers when they operate in the cloud.
The winners of the sixth annual Startup Challenge were: Grand Cru for gaming; ContactPoint's LogMyCalls for consumer applications; MortarData for big data and high performance computing; and TraceLink for business applications.
Grand Cru was founded in 2011 by six Helsinki, Finland, game developers. It produced The Supernauts, in which characters created by the players must rescue the human race from a flooded Earth. "Do you have what it takes to be a superhero?" it challenges its players. Grand Cru's credo is summed on its website: "Make social gaming actually mean something and let all the people participate in the fun of making things. Everybody who wants to play is invited!"
"We are very happy and proud of this honor. Having a great cloud-based server and storage solution is critical for our success and a key component of everything we do," said Markus Pasula, Grand Cru CEO and co-founder, in the firm's announcement of its award.
ContactPoint, located in St. George, Utah, was founded in 2001 and produces the familiar "This call may be recorded for quality" system many businesses use. ContactPoint uses the real encounter information captured in LogMyCalls to improve service training for companies in the automotive, hotel, healthcare and financial services industries.
ContactPoint CEO Jason Wells said: "We are elated ... the market values what LogMyCalls delivers -- cloud-based analytics of phone conversations so businesses can optimize their marketing, automate marketing and make more money from phone calls." AWS and its services "are central to our expansion strategy as we grow and require seamless scalability," he said in his firm's announcement of its award.
MortarData came out of stealth mode in April 2012 and is one of the few open source code producers located on Fifth Avenue in New York. It promises to get a new Hadoop user up and running in 60 minutes through its Python-based Mortar framework for Hadoop. It says it's patterned itself on the ease of use of the Ruby on Rails framework.
MortarData is an advanced tier AWS partner, "which means we're spending a crapload of money on Amazon," co-founder and CEO K Young told GigaOm reporter Derrick Harris in a November interview.
"We've combined the Mortar open source framework's focus on collaboration and simplicity with our Hadoop platform-as-a-service built on AWS's Elastic MapReduce service. Using Mortar, our customers take on machine learning, natural language processing, regression analysis ... using their existing skills," Young said in MortarData's announcement of its award.
TraceLink Life Sciences Cloud was founded in 2009 and provides a traceable, global supply chain of pharmaceuticals -- from raw material through lot numbers -- in production, distribution and delivery. "Counterfeit drugs threaten the safety of millions of people each year. Eighty percent of medicines are consumed by only 15% of the global population. Over 2 billion patients lack access to essential medicines," said CEO Shabbir Dahod.
The AWS cloud platform gives the Woburn, Mass., firm "the scale and reach we need" to trace billions of pharmaceutical products. "With a single point-and-click connection, we enable shared visibility and complete collaboration" across each step and partner in the supply chain, he said in his firm's announcement of its award.