Making a Big Deal Out of Nothing

For the headquarters of a leading Facebook app developer, the offices of Animoto are uncomfortably bare. On one table is a high-end Gaggia espresso machine. Scattered about are the five employees' personal computers. This spartan approach to infrastructure, as well as a killer Web service, helped Animoto grow to serve more than one million users through their Web site and two million users via their Facebook app.a

Animoto.com helps users build one-of-a-kind, animated slideshows from photos and music they upload. The founders, among whom are veteran TV production geeks, designed Animoto to think like a director—choreographing the images, music, and transitions for maximum emotional impact. Aside from attracting millions of consumer users, several big-name bands have used Animoto to create videos and promotional shorts.

Recognizing that bringing the tools necessary to run Animoto would sap the young startup's budget–especially if it caught on quickly—the founders brain-stormed a unique approach: reworking the service to run on Amazon's self-contained Web Services platform, accepting that doing so would delay their launch by a nail-biting three months. That proved the right decision during a hectic week when their Facebook user base experienced 28-fold growth.b

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They've stayed nimble and focused on honing Animoto by outsourcing many services that conventional ...

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