Amazon Web Services’ platform is increasingly gaining popularity beyond Web 2.0 and video companies. Case in point is the Amazon Web Services Start-Up Challenge, whose seven finalists are a diverse group of companies, among them Knewton, which provides live online educational testing prep services; remote health record management software firm MedCommons; Pixily, which digitizes paper documents and stores them for later retrieval; and Zephyr, an enterprise software testing services firm. The range represented by these startups is in sharp contrast to last year, when the challenge was dominated by early adopters of AWS. And it’s a good sign for Amazon, offering proof that its vision of cloud computing has started to spread beyond the cozy and sometimes narcissistic confines of Silicon Valley.
The winner of last year’s inaugural competition was web video company Ooyala, an entrant in the busy video platform space. This year’s grand prize winner, to be announced in November, will get $50,000 in cash, $50,000 worth of AWS services and mentoring from an AWS executive — and may even snare an investment offer from the company itself.