Amazon Web Services Startup Event in Toronto

Amazon Web Services Startup Tour touched down in Toronto yesterday, showcasing their cloud computing platform and some local startups using their services. Mike Culver from Amazon gave the introductory presentation. He talked about some new services launched by AWS over the past year – DevPay (which is a billing/account management service) and Flexible Payments Service (an easy way to charge Amazon customers which also includes support for micropayments). Amongst the leading trends associated with AWS, he noted that most applications tend to use multiple services (EC2, S3 and SQS) and involve massive datasets and large-scale parallel processing. Support for Windows Server was mentioned as being in the pipeline.

Some of the startups which presented at the event included:

Polar Mobile

Polar Mobile is a provider of end-to-end mobile solutions for media companies, enabling users to download an application on their mobile devices which can display the content pushed by a publisher (eg, a magazine like Canadian Business). Carlo Barrettara (Co-founder) said that they liked the predictive billing and the flexibility of AWS and they actually moved from co-locating their servers to using AWS.


AideRSS is a Waterloo-based startup focused on reducing the “information overload”. They have developed a service called PostRank to sort the items in a RSS feed by their popularity on the web. As a result, they have pretty heavy requirements to fetch a large number of feeds and process them. Ilya Grigorik, AideRSS’ co-founder, mentioned that he started using AWS as a proof-of-concept back when it launched and liked the service enough to stay on it. Today, AideRSS has about 100 servers on AWS and fetches almost a million stories a day.

Chris Thiessen demo-ed his uber cool Zoomii – which is basically a visual representation of an online bookstore, where each item is represented in a 256×256 tile. It all adds up to almost an acre of images which gets displayed, in which the user can zoom in to have a closer look at a particular book. He estimated that it would have cost him about $9000 to start this project using traditional means, but with AWS, he was able to get it off the ground for $600, thus enabling him to bootstrap.


Paul Bloore, CTO of Idee, demoed TinEye, his company’s new image search engine, which drew some “wows” from the audience. He took a picture of a CD cover with his iPhone (which had the TinEye application installed on it) and submitted it to TinEye. The service then processed the image and identified it and presented him with the option to buy that same cd from iTunes ! Idee is a heavy user of AWS as well.