South African Techpreneur Talks About Lessons From Silicon Valley

By Staff Published: May 13, 2017, 9:32 am
Lessons From Silicon ValleyPhoto: howwemadeitinafrica.com

SweepSouth is a South African start-up which allows customers to book a home cleaner online at R38 (US$2.8) per hour. The company was launched in Cape Town in June 2014 by husband-and-wife team, Aisha Pandor and Alen Ribic, and has since expanded to Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban.

In 2015, the couple spent four months in Silicon Valley after being selected to take part in the 500 Startups accelerator, a first for a South African venture. Today the company has close to 20,000 bookings a month and has just concluded a series A financing round with the aim of expanding to other African and emerging markets.

Pandor has also just been named one of Africa’s Breakthrough Female Tech Entrepreneurs of 2017 by the World Economic Forum. How we made it in Africa catches up with her to find out about some of the business lessons she has learnt over the last three years.

From How I Made It In Africa. Story by Kate Douglas.

Pandor has also just been named one of Africa’s Breakthrough Female Tech Entrepreneurs of 2017 by the World Economic Forum. How we made it in Africa catches up with her to find out about some of the business lessons she has learnt over the last three years.

Give us a quick crash course in something you learnt during the accelerator program in Silicon Valley.

So one of the things was the notion of an experiment pipeline. As a start-up you should be constantly testing and measuring results… and one of the things that we learnt, and do now as a result of our time there, is have an experiment pipeline. It is literally just a spreadsheet with tens, if not hundreds, of experiments that have a very short lifeline, and all of those experiments start with a hypothesis.

As an example, my hypothesis could be that I think our user sign-up form should be the first thing you see when you come to our [website] landing page, versus maybe the last thing you see when you scroll to the bottom of the page. So you design an experiment to test that and you A/B test. You need to know what the outcome is that you are looking for, and those things need to be detailed on the spreadsheet. There is an experiment owner, a timeline for the experiment, specific aims (whether its conversion or retention)… and then there is measuring results, analysing results and taking some sort of action as a result of that. Then you do it again – having anything from three to 10 experiments running regularly. You run the business like that, no matter what stage you are at. It is something Twitter, for example, does right now.

So that was a big thing for us and it has changed the way that we run the business. Before, we always thought you run one experiment, focus everything on that, and it is a big deal. Now we have a culture of constantly testing, measuring and analyzing.

Are you more likely to first expand to another African country rather than another South African city, like Port Elizabeth?

I think that probably is the case… We want to hone in on cleaning in markets where the service can grow… and where there is a match in terms of what people are willing and able to pay for domestic services, and what we are trying to do in terms of lifting up pay rates. So the cities we are currently in have satisfied that. [Now] we want to look at and launch in other big cities in [other] countries, and then if there is a value proposition in launching into smaller South African cities, we will simultaneously look at that. But we feel the time is right in terms of the company, maturity wise, to start looking at what SweepSouth Kenya will look like.

And Nigeria is also in your sights, yet this is a notoriously tricky market.

It is. Firstly, it is a huge market. I think you have got to be very savvy in operating and going into that market, and we obviously have to keep an eye on how they are doing economically. But, again, it is a service that people are using anyway… We didn’t reinvent the actual service. What we did is provide a really great way to get access to it for both sides and manage that whole process using technology. In doing that we also tried to change mindsets around the value people assign to domestic workers in their homes, and tried to professionalize this service. But ultimately it was a service that people were using and wanting to use anyway. So I think that is what we are expecting from the markets that we go into. Even if Nigeria is going through a recession, and they are struggling when it comes to being able to afford these types of services, people are still doing it anyway.

Read more at How I Made It In Africa.

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