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SweepSouth weighs in on experience at Silicon Valley’s 500 Startups accelerator

SweepSouth is a having a good first year. Just after the South African on-demand domestic cleaning startup secured its first investment, it was accepted by the prestigious 500 Startups accelerator in Silicon Valley (a first for South Africa). If that wasn’t enough, the Uber for domestic cleaners achieved monthly double-digit growth within its first year, and shows no signs of slowing down.

Chatting to Ventureburn, co-founders Aisha Pandor and Alen Ribic (pictured above) detail what their experiences have been like in Silicon Valley so far. After about three months of being accelerated, the couple also share some of their biggest lessons learned and what the future holds for their trendy company.

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On top of being awarded US$125 000 by 500 Startups, networking has been one of the most significant take-aways from the co-founders’ experience in the US.

Ribic explains that the ability to tap into 500 Startups’ pool of wisdom has been incredible. Especially in terms of understanding distribution — getting your product out to the target market very quickly and efficiently test it across different ones.

“To give you an idea of our day-to-day, we’ll be testing this particular part of our platform that we have hypothesis on, and [the 500 Startups team] will be able to go through it and pinpoint any particular thing that are obviously wrong to them,” says Ribic.

Read more: SweepSouth becomes first SA startup to join Silicon Valley’s 500 Startups programme

Going above and beyond of what the internal team has to offer, connecting with Silicon Valley’s game-changers has been an enlightening experience. Pandor even recommends keeping a wish list of people you’d really like to meet in the industry.

“One of those, for me, was Andrew Chan who’s working with Uber on their growth team. [500 Startups] has access to this, and it’s not that difficult for them to get you to meet this person,” she says.

Read more: SweepSouth sweeps up award at SiMODiSA StartupSA

For the full interview with SweepSouth’s Aisha Pandor and Alen Ribic, listen to our podcast.
Asked about what made the startup stand out from the rest of the programme’s applicants, the pair suggests that SweepSouth’s traction, a good team and the ability to articulate the market potential well counted in their favour.

Ribic elaborates that it’s crucial to back your vision up with real numbers:

You’ve got to be able to show what you’re aiming for. So you’ve got all this great traction, that’s fine. But you should be able to speak big numbers confidently, without sounding like you’re just making them up. If you’re going to say something like it’s a billion dollar market plus, you should be able to justify it and show how you’ll get to that. That’s one of the things they certainly look at.

Alen Ribic, co-founder of SweepSouth

SweepSouth has successfully then managed to convince the accelerator’s organisers that the market for domestic services — and other home services — is “huge” in South Africa, as well as in other emerging markets. This means that while the market is ripe, flirting with additional domestic services in the future is certainly not out of the question for the young company.

“As far as the technology is concerned,” Ribic explains. “It’s important to know that we have written it in such a way that it can generalise to other services, no doubt. A lot of these things are really mathematically sound as to the approach we’ve taken on it.” For now, however, focus is SweepSouth’s number one priority.

While the founders have no backgrounds in the domestic cleaning industry per se, having grown up in South Africa has given them enough exposure to get to grips with the ins-and-outs of how things work. SweepSouth was born out of the desire to solve a personal problem, and it’s now successfully running with the hypothesis that it can solve this issue for other people as well.

“It’s very powerful when you look at it as a personal need,” he says. “We look so far away trying to find an idea, but sometimes the ideas are right there in front of you. This is exactly one of those occasions. Of course, when you do those kind of things you realise very quickly that, well, if one can actually pull this off and scale, it’s a really big market.”

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