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San Francisco experience boosts SA startup

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Home cleaning platform SweepSouth has returned from the four-month 500 Startups programme in San Francisco – and it believes more local entrepreneurs should be taking up the chance.
Aisha Pandor, CEO and co-founder of SweepSouth says: “We are going to be working with Silicon Cape to support other local startups apply to this programme. While the $125 000.00 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.”
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,” says 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 (for example, 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 points out that 55 Startups’ focus on including diverse people and startups in its portfolio is another important factor that made the experience so powerful. “Almost 40% 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.”
Pandor believes that 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,” says Pandor.
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. We believe that it’s because our smaller market means startups need to validate well and to monetize earlier. So in general SA startups solveĀ  very real and relevant problems, and we find out what’s working and what isn’t within a shorter period of time,” says Pandor.
This focus on applying their solution to a very relevant local problem was part of what won their pitch a spot as one of TechCrunch’s Nine Favourite Companies to pitch at Demo Day.
Discussing what comes next for SweepSouth, Pandor says: “It’s all about scale. We are want to expand further than the cities we are currently operating in and this is very challenging because as much as we are a technology business, we also put pe.ople into homes and businesses and this human experience is critical to our long-term success. 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.”
Applications are open for the next batch of 500 Startups companies