Q&A: Booking Start-Up Innovating Africa’s Online Travel Accommodations

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Written by Kimberly Jacobs

AFKInsider: What role does the site’s design layout and functionality play in being successful and user friendly? Was that taken into account when creating it?

Johann Jenson: We are pretty design obsessed and we certainly do spend a lot of time on the user experience, because going back to your earlier question; travelers book costly hotels because they are convenient. One of the reasons those same travelers book with SleepOut is because it’s simple and easy. So in designing the interface, we needed to make the booking experience simple for the guest — and perhaps more importantly provide hosts with a powerful yet user-friendly dashboard. We use a lot of test-driven and design-driven development techniques to achieve this.

AFKInsider: What have you learned about business through the launch and maintenance of SleepOut?

Johann Jenson: Hire people that are smarter than you. Partner with people that have skills that you don’t. Good strategy can save you a lot of hard work.

AFKInsider: Africa Media Venture Firm holds stakes in SleepOut. Are there any other companies looking to invest and are you open to the idea?

Johann Jenson: We are in talks with a number of parties as we aim to close a round of financing in the coming months.

AFKInsider: What’s next for SleepOut?

Johann Jenson: We’re very excited to be in the final stages of phasing out our Kenyan pilot site SleepOut.co.ke to expand fully to the all-new SleepOut.com. This new marketplace platform now has live accommodation hosts in 45 countries throughout the region offering 4,000+ places to stay. We will also be expanding our operations in Mauritius over the next few months to allow for better support to hosts throughout Africa and the Middle East.

And finally, we will be announcing some new exciting products for travel professionals in the coming months including the ability to make use of SleepOut’s accommodation inventory via an affiliate programe for local travel agents. Additionally, as we expand to new regions on and off the continent, we are open to building partnerships with entrepreneurs looking to grow the SleepOut brand in their country. Please do not hesitate to get in touch.

AFKInsider: What does it take to run such a fast growing online site(s)?

Johann Jenson: Patience, confidence as well as a strong team of hardworking yet dedicated people with an appetite for risk.