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The BigFive Summit Speaker Series Episode 1: Aisha Pandor, Co-founder & CEO, SweepSouth
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The BigFive Summit Speaker Series Episode 1: Aisha Pandor, Co-founder & CEO, SweepSouth

The BigFive Summit Speaker podcast series kicks off with an engaging conversation with celebrated South African entrepreneur Aisha Pandor.

This podcast series is sponsored by The 2024 BigFive Summit

Welcome to Episode 1 of the BigFive Summit Speaker Series. This is a series of podcasts featuring conversations about Africa’s tech scene, empowering SMEs with technology, entrepreneurship, leadership, startup life, and much more featuring the incredible thought leaders who will speak at the 2024 BigFive Summit, 19-20 March in Cape Town.

Episode 1 brings you a conversation recorded last week with Aisha Pandor, the celebrated South African entrepreneur who has been immersed in African SME tech as the co-founder of SweepSouth, a two-sided marketplace (a term she prefers over “gig economy”) startup celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. SweepSouth connects households with domestic workers in South Africa.

It’s an idea that was born as many startups have been over the decades. From a personal need.

However, it really began when Pandor, having resigned from her management consulting job, was looking to start a tech-enabled business. She wrote a lengthy business plan for a travel-related startup called ShiftSouth. That was discarded in favor of SweepSouth, a concept she was far more passionate about, for several reasons.

“The idea for SweepSouth came, as we were pivoting from the [travel] idea, came out of a personal need, where our nanny and helper went away on holiday and left us high and dry.”

While the idea for SweepSouth addressed a personal need and provided the impact component she needed to feel passionate about the mission, Aisha also liked the two-sided marketplace business model.

“If you're able to build them, well, they are defensible,” Aisha explains on the podcast. “They're hard to build…But there's upside for both sides.”

Aisha, who also happens to be a Ph.D. geneticist, has recently branched into biotech because she clearly doesn’t have enough to do running one tech company. She launched Pandora Biosciences, which is “building an AI-driven precision medicine platform harnessing diverse population data, to power genomic discovery and promote better health.”

On the surface, SweepSouth and Pandora would have little in common. Impact is a common denominator. SweepSouth set out to improve the lives of domestic workers, which is a key thread of our discussion with Aisha. Pandora Biosciences seeks to promote discoveries that improve the lives of underserved populations. As Aisha says in the interview, impact has to be a feature of every business she is involved in, including as an investor. (She is also a venture partner at E4EAfrica.)

Aisha will join the upcoming BigFive Summit on Day One (19th March) for a Fireside Chat with Charles Laughlin, BigFive Digital’s editor-in-chief, the host of this podcast series, and the producer of the BigFive Summit.

We hope you enjoy this conversation (and others coming soon). And we look forward to seeing all of you in March at the BigFive Summit in Cape Town.

Interview Excerpts

The following are edited excerpts from our conversation with Aisha. Please listen to the podcast to experience the full interview.

What is SweepSouth’s origin story?

We had the idea in late 2013. I must say that we were already thinking about building something. I had come from a background in genetics, and then had worked in management consulting for a bit and had already resigned from my job and was thinking about what is it that we were going to do next. We loved the idea of a tech-enabled business. That is just a personal belief that technology as a tool lends itself to more scalable, future-relevant businesses.

How has SweepSouth helped domestic workers in South Africa grow their incomes?

People are willing to pay more for the convenience. If you're paying for a service, and you know that there is vetting that's been done, and there's a team who can handle any complaints that may crop up or any issues that may crop up. If there is an event that's out of your control, for example, a public transport strike or someone's child is sick and not able to go to work, that's going to be managed, and a replacement will be found very quickly. All of these are things that provide additional value, and people are willing to pay for them.

What is your view on Africa’s potential as a global tech economy?

I think we've got to be realistic about the real size of markets on the continent. I think there's a difference depending on the type of business that you're building, between a market that has a population of 200 million people, and 60 million people in South Africa. Whatever the numbers are, what is the addressable market for this business, realistically? And what does that mean in terms of how quickly I need to be looking at other markets, or adjacent business models, to increase the share of wallet for those customers? I think that some very real conversations that we need to have, particularly about B2C businesses on the continent.

Tell us a bit about Padora Biosciences and why you felt the need to start another company.

We are looking at the link between genetics and disease from an underrepresented population standpoint. Specifically, people who look like me both as a woman and a person of color, and contribute to a better understanding of the link between genetics, disease, lifestyle, and environment, family history. And using those insights to have better treatments for disease, better ways to diagnose disease, and where new therapeutics are being developed by drug companies, where they take into account more diverse populations, again, including women.

What is some advice you would give to your younger self about how to manage startup life?

Something that comes up for me often is something that [Yoco co-founder] Katlego Maphai said to me a few years ago, he was just talking about this idea of the marathon and not the sprint.


Sponsored Message

This podcast series is sponsored by The 2024 BigFive Summit

African Tech Leaders to Share BigFive Summit Stage

Join our growing list of powerful and insightful speakers at the 2024 BigFive Summit, Africa’s leading small business technology event (19-20 March 2024 in Cape Town). Our growing list of outstanding speakers includes Aisha Pandor, Khomotso Molabe, Ashmita Singh, Denvor Daniels, Grant Greef, Fiona Tabraham, Miranda Perumal, Simon Ellis, Zachariah George, Zach Marks, and many others.

Purchase your Early Bird tickets today for only R2000. This grants the ticketholder two days of top-level content and networking in Africa’s top destination city with an amazing group of tech builders, investors, and corporate leaders. Apply the promotional code PODCAST at checkout to save an additional 25%.


Purchase Summit tickets in ZAR here:

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