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UK start-up reaches final of global Amazon ‘start-up challenge’

Three-week-old business to represent Europe, the Middle East and Africa

A UK start-up which launched less than three weeks ago has been selected as a finalist in the global Amazon Web Services (AWS) Start-up Challenge.

Social shopping game Fantasy Shopper, which is based at Exeter University’s Innovation Centre, fought off competition from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) to reach the final, where it will compete against six other finalists from the USA and Asia Pacific.

UK start-ups made up two of the five businesses shortlisted within the EMEA region. In addition to Fantasy Shopper, London-based web analytics platform GoSquared went head-to-head with Finnish start-up Etuma, which provides text analysis services, as well as cloud security provider Porticor and smartphone app Viber – both of which are based in Israel.

Fantasy Shopper – which aims to centralise, socialise and ‘gamify’ online shopping by incorporating social gaming with real world data – was founded in November 2010 and went live in October. The start-up has experienced extraordinary growth, with an average of 14 fantasy transactions per second within two weeks of launch.

Fantasy Shopper will now be awarded a package of AWS credits worth $10,000 (£6,219) and a trip to attend the AWS Start-Up Challenge Grand Final in San Jose, California on 10 November.

Co-founders Chris Prescott and Daniel Noz will present to a panel of venture capitalists, technology industry leaders and AWS executives before finding out which start-up will claim the grand prize – which includes $50,000 (£31,095) in cash, a further $50,000 worth of AWS credits, AWS premium support services and technical mentorship from AWS for a year, and a possible investment offer from Amazon.

The fifth annual AWS Start-up Challenge was open to start-ups around the globe which use the AWS cloud computing platform – with finalists selected based on their implementation of AWS, originality and likelihood of long-term success.

Prescott said of Fantasy Shopper’s success: “We’ve been working over 100 hours per week all year and to be here today really feels like that hard work is starting to pay off.”

Speaking exclusively to Startups, he added: “This will really help get the word out to people that we’re building something amazing. We’re big believers in AWS and have been using it since day one of development, so this competition has great synergy with our beliefs.”

The Amazon Web Services Start-up Challenge Grand Final will be live streamed online on Friday 11 November at 02.30 am GMT, with Fantasy Shopper presenting at 02.40am GMT.

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UPDATE (11/11/11):

It has just been announced that Fantasy Shopper has won the overall prize at the AWS Global Start-Up Challenge, making it – according to AWS – the most exciting online start-up in the world today. Fantasy Shopper was selected from over 1,500 applicants across 78 countries. US mobile app analytics service Localytics won second place.

To celebrate their success, the Fantasy Shopper team were presented with the coveted “Golden Hammer” to partake in an annual AWS Start-Up Challenge ritual – using the hammer to demolish a real server, symbolising how companies no longer need to own servers when they operate in the cloud.

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