AWS on growing small businesses using the power of data

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a comprehensive, evolving cloud-computing platform that includes infrastructure, platform, and packaged software. AWS offers tools such as compute power, database storage, and content delivery services for a variety of enterprise customers.

We spoke with Rich Geraffo, vice president of AWS North America, about the role of data in building up businesses, helping customers create new products and innovations, and where AWS is seeing the most value from its partnership with Stripe.

Products used

    Data Pipeline
North America

How did you become involved in sales, and what excites you about it?

I've never felt like I’ve had a job in the 37 years I’ve been working. I love what I do. I went to school for accounting and finance, intending to become an FBI agent. But I got hired for a sales internship in New York City and here I am, 37 years later. Eighteen years ago, I moved from New York to Silicon Valley and fell in love with the opportunity to have a front row seat in technology.

What drew you to AWS in particular?

I’m a student of business history and feel fortunate to be part of a paradigm shift, the transformational shift to cloud computing. And I wanted to be part of a company built around innovation and culture and leadership principles. I wanted to be part of that team, part of that story. I would call myself Amazonian now, which means I've embraced the principles – customer obsession, driving value, diving deep.

You’re someone who thinks a lot about leadership.

It’s the key to success. At the end of the day, it's about who you work with. Like many of us, I started out as an individual seller and had aspirations to do more. And I want to make sure when I look across the organisation that I’m going to leave the place better than I found it. I am always looking for opportunities to develop the leaders of today for the opportunities of tomorrow. I feel great pride in helping them push boundaries and accomplish their AWS career goals.

How do you do that?

It’s about helping people get the right experiences and skills. You have to open doors, and identify talent. I am very committed to building a diverse, next-generation leadership team. It’s our time to open those doors. I always like to say, I seek to hire people that I can see myself working for, and that's who I want around me. And I will work for them if that ends up happening.

AWS has introduced several new products recently, expanding its capabilities into the supply chain, 5G, training sessions, and more. Which product excites you the most?

I'm excited about our data story. AWS started in infrastructure with computing, storage, and networking, and we've transitioned to helping our customers see the value of data, whether it's where to store it or how to organise it to maximise its value. There is so much insight to gain from payment data, for example, which can be delivered back to customers in various ways.

Can you give an example of the way your customers can use data to help their own customers?

One is an offering called Amazon Connect, which transforms the customer experience when you pick up the phone and you're talking to someone. We’ve worked with certain airlines, for example, so that if your plane got cancelled while you’re in the middle of the airport, you just, boom, pick up your phone and they'll find you an agent in that airport, where there is no line, to speak to you directly.

There is an emphasis at AWS on serving more startups and small and medium-sized companies. Can you explain the reasoning?

It’s part of our lineage. Small and medium-sized businesses are where we got our start – smaller companies that couldn’t hire staff or build their own data centres so they asked Amazon to handle it for them. We’ve helped thousands of start-ups launch and scale their businesses over the years. We’ve built an entire set of engagement models that help small start-ups, often in partnership with their venture capital firms, figure out how to be successful. They eventually graduate into bigger companies. And we like to be there taking them from start-up to large, successful enterprises.

How does AWS use customer feedback to improve its products?

The first thing is that this principle of customer obsession is real. We have a wide set of people that have contact with customers, from partners to solution architects and systems engineers. So we have formalised mechanisms like advisory boards and listening sessions, and we take input from all our architects, engineers, and sellers, and give that input to our development teams. 90% of what AWS builds is what our customers ask us to build; the rest is what we anticipate the customer needs.

AWS has seen success in Latin America, with plans to invest in a physical presence in Chile. What value does AWS offer to customers internationally?

We're in 27 geographic regions and have over 87 availability zones, and the world around governance and data residency is always changing, so our customers have to be equipped to change with it. If you look at the impact of the dollar strengthening, and what that means to a Japanese company, their cost of acquiring goods is rapidly increasing. So you want to be there helping those customers drive their costs down. In the US, we continue to see challenges with the supply chain. Each market has a unique set of needs that AWS can help with solving.

Let’s shift topics – how does Stripe’s integration with Amazon Redshift help your sales team?

The Stripe Data Pipeline integration allows us to leverage large swaths of data. You can collect Stripe payment data and put it in an Amazon Redshift data warehouse. From there, you can analyse it using machine learning. It’s a really unique story – financial reporting, data analytics, and machine learning all coming together. That’s a really powerful partnership.

What do you think makes the partnership between Stripe and AWS work?

We share a lot of the same cultural DNA, like a focus on innovation and transformation. We try to make sure we’re working with partners that solve customers’ problems together. Both Stripe and AWS are focused on digital transformation and customer experience. We both deliver at scale and have a global reach, so when our two teams get together, we’re able to accomplish a lot for our customers.

It’s still day one, isn’t it?

It's early days. And what I mean by that is, if you look around, most of our customers are still new to the cloud and have not migrated a lot of their existing applications, much less built new applications. So we think it's still very, very early.

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