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South African-based on-demand cleaning service SweepSouth believes more local startups should take advantage of US-based initiative 500 Startups. The company recently returned from the four-month long incubation in San Francisco.
500 Startups is a seed fund, incubator and accelerator based out of Silicon Valley in the United States. In the past five years, the programme has invested in over 100 companies from 40 countries.
Aisha Pandor, CEO and co-founder of SweepSouth says: “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.”
Pandor says the US market is mature and has a good understanding of emerging tech, which allows South African startups to take advantage of programmes such as Y-Combinator and 500 Startups.
“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,” adds Pandor.
She believes South Africa’s smaller market means startups are forced to validate and monetise themselves from an early stage, as well as solve very real problems. This helped SweepSouth benchmark themselves against other startups, even when comparing the Rand to the US Dollar. It also contributed to the startup’s pitch winning a place in TechCrunch’s 9 Favourite Companies to pitch at Demo Day.
So in general, SA 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 was matched with companies and mentors with years of experience within the tech space. This gave the startup access to the 500 Startups ecosystem of companies and individuals. It has improved the way they will be approaching their growth strategy and next round of funding.
An important aspect of 500 Startups is its focus on diverse people and companies in its portfolio. It’s a factor that adds to the participant’s experience.
“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,” adds Pandor.
According to Pandor, the company will be working with Silicon Cape to support other startups in applying for the 500 Startups programme.
“While the $125k 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.”
Applications are now open for the next batch of 500 Startups companies on the Angel.co website.
SweepSouth will be working on expanding their business and solving some of the logistical and profile matching challenges.
“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,” concludes Pandor.