Start-ups doing inventive things with Amazon's cloud services are being sought for the company's annual start-up challenge. And, for the first time, there's a separate European section for new companies this side of the pond.

The AWS Start-Up Challenge has been run since 2007 and is aimed at young businesses who have generated no more than $10 million in annual revenue and no more than $10 million in outside funding. Start-ups submitted for the contest must use the cloud computing solutions offered by AWS, such as Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute (Amazon EC2) or Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3).

Previously, the awards weren't judged on a regional basis but this time round, there will be regional finals in the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific. Entrants will be judged on their implementation of AWS; originality and creativity of the business; likelihood of long-term success and scalability; and how well the business addresses a need in the marketplace.

The competition has already scored some notable successes and has proved to be a life saver for one company. "After sending out a notice to all of my shareholders that MileMeter was shutting down, I got a call from Amazon Web Services informing me that out of 900 promising start-ups, we were one of the finalists for the first AWS Start-Up Challenge, said Chris Gay, CEO of car insurance company MileMeter Since that time, AWS has enabled our business to grow, thrive and continue to focus on what's truly important for our customers, helping them save money on car insurance."