Focus on sales early – Travelstart CEO


Startups need to focus on creating sales as early as possible, to validate their idea and business model, according to Stephan Ekbergh, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Travelstart.

Ekbergh launched online travel portal Travelstart in 1999, and the startup was acquired shortly thereafter. However, in 2001, Ekbergh bought back Travelstart, and grew it into the multi-national company it is today. Prior to Travelstart, Ekbergh was involved in a number of startup ventures.

Speaking at the Net Prophet conference in Cape Town, Ekbergh said the key lesson he has learned from his entrepreneurial journey, is to always focus on creating sales as early as possible, to validate the business idea and model.

“I think most important is starting to create sales very early. If you can create sales early, you have a business,” said Ekbergh.

“Try to really focus on sales. Everything I’ve done over the years has been, ‘how do we get our first customer?’ and then, ‘how do we get our second?’”

In a market with a number of established players, Ekbergh said the best way to differentiate is to provide a service tailored to the market, and to offer good customer service.

“We believe in being very local, and giving great service to differentiate ourselves. Also, having things you don’t have on other sites,” Ekbergh said.

In February this year, Travelstart announced it had raised US$40 million in funding.

Asked what he plans to use the funding for, Ekbergh said top of the list is finding the best talent, in order to build the best apps, provide the best products, and generally be able to do all of this much better than before.



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Inspired and excited by the African tech entrepreneurial scene, Gabriella spends her time travelling around the continent to report on the most innovative tech startups, the most active investors, and the latest trends emerging in the ecosystem.

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