South African on-demand cleaning startup SweepSouth and Ghanaian SME marketing solution Kudobuzz have graduated from the Silicon Valley-based 500 Startups accelerator programme, with the co-founder of the former advising more African startups to apply to the respected incubator.
Disrupt Africa reported in August Johannesburg-based SweepSouth – an Uber-style platform that allows users to book home cleaning services online from their phone, laptop or tablet – had become the first South African startup accepted to 500 Startups.
Ghana’s Kudobuzz, which provides a reviewing and marketing solution for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), helping businesses to generate verifiable reviews, drive traffic and increase sales, also made the cut for the 14th round of the accelerator programme.
Aisha Pandor, chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder of SweepSouth, said the experience had been a valuable one and she would recommend other African startups apply for the programme.
“We are going to be working with Silicon Cape to support other local startups apply to this programme. While the US$125,000 investment was obviously very helpful and we are putting much of that towards expanding our team, it was the exposure to the 500 Startups ecosystem that was the true value of the experience,” she said.
As an on-demand service, SweepSouth was matched with companies and mentors with years of experience in the space.
“It’s impossible to put a value on what sharing experiences with others in different markets, with different business strategies and plans, has on how we as a team think about our business,” said Pandor.
“In fact, the most important outcome of the four-months has been our connection to a global ecosystem of 500 Startups companies and individuals. We have access to the most incredible people in the 500 Startups network, such as Sean Ellis of Growth Hackers, and Hiten Shah of Kissmetrics, knowledge and support and have already been able to use it to improve how we approach our next funding round and our growth strategy for the business.”
Pandor said the 500 Startups focus on including diverse people and startups in its portfolio is another important factor that made the experience so powerful.
“Almost 40 per cent of the companies in our batch were from outside the US. Having that global mindset is powerful because it means we don’t just get stuck in valley-thinking,” she said.
Pandor believes local startups are in an excellent position to take advantage of international opportunities like Y-Combinator and 500 Startups.
“The US market is pretty mature and there is a good understanding of how emerging our tech space is by comparison. There are opportunities in Africa and other world markets and don’t exist in the US so the smart investors are starting to look outside America,” she said.
Another benefit of local startups is the aggressive focus on revenue.
“A real confidence booster was that when we benchmarked ourselves against other startups in the batch, even when converting rands to dollars, we were at a very competitive and respectable level,” Pandor said.
“We believe that it’s because our smaller market means startups need to validate well and to monetise earlier. So in general South African startups solve very real and relevant problems, and we find out what’s working and what isn’t within a shorter period of time.”
SweepSouth’s priority now is scaling, with the startup planning on expanding further.
“This is very challenging because as much as we are a technology business, we also put people into homes and businesses and this human experience is critical to our long-term success,” Pandor said.
“One of our first appointments when we got back was a PhD in applied mathematics, to lead our efforts in solving some of the fun and challenging logistical and profile matching problems we’re facing. Our priorities now are working further to make the end to end process as hassle-free for customers as possible, while continuing to ensure that cleaners have access to work opportunities at decent rates.”