Lessons From Silicon Valley

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.

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.

Read more at How I Made It In Africa.

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