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Dan O'Brien, VC & Startup Business Development at Amazon Web Services

From dreaming of astro-physics and computers at a young age, Dan O'Brien seems to have found a happy home in amongst Aotearoa's burgeoning tech ecosystem. 

We caught up with Dan to learn more about his career journey leading into working at AWS, as well as some deeper insight into the work he and the team does to enable the ecosystem. Thanks for sharing your story, Dan. 

“I help people build stuff with cloud lego bricks!”

How would you explain to a five year old what you do?

Do you like to build with lego? I help people build stuff with cloud lego bricks! No it's not the clouds you see up in the sky. These clouds are different. They are loads of computers and storage and stuff which people can use like lego bricks to make games, apps, and things.

Kinda like your favourite games on iPads or phones, or the cool way you can watch your favourite shows on Netflix or Disneyplus, or even on the Alexa you have in your home. You’ve got an idea?? You can build your own world of games, apps and other stuff using the cloud, share them, and everyone can try them out!

And for the adults, what does that translate to in terms of your day-to-day?

Help you: 

  • Activate your startup with free stuff resources like AWS Activate for Startups. Do you need a business email? Use those credits. Do you need quick and dirty analytics? Use those credits! Do you need Mongo, MySQL or Postgres db with automatic backup? Use those credits! Do you need a wordpress marketing website? Use those credits!
  • Build on AWS with our Solution Architect team providing a sounding board and best practises to help build your rocket ship!
  • Connect and showcase your tech startup as you grow, through AWS Partner Network & AWS Marketplace, events, joint press/media, and potential introductions.

What did you dream of doing when you were younger and how did you end up at AWS?

I dreamt of astro-physics, and computers from young age, especially with dad’s Apple 2e at home! Journey from computer science to business in Europe and NZ at large companies and startups. I’ve specialised in data analytics over the years.

“It is the most exciting time right now in the ten years since I’ve been back in the country.”

What gets you excited about the startup and tech ecosystem in Aotearoa and why should more people be considering it as a career path?

It is the most exciting time right now in the ten years since I’ve been back in the country. There’s money ($600m+ investor funds raised in last 18 months), there’s exited founders with pedigree (Vend, Timely, Pushpay, etc. etc.), there’s a tech sector which is the second largest export earner after the primary sector.

And there’s a country which looks to transform itself from volume to value - tech plays such a key role here to do this, and tech is the way we’ll take on the great challenge of our time - climate change.

Lastly, why should our brightest talent be looking towards our tech and startup ecosystem?

You get to meet crazy people with wild ideas. The jobs are varied, rewarding, lead to travel, and new experiences, you will be challenged, outside of your comfort zone, but it opens up the world and your mind to new possibilities. You don’t know what you don’t know. And you will learn what you may need to startup  yourself one day. Plus the pay is not bad too!

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