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Airbnb CEO advises African entrepreneurs on building a great company

Logo How We Made it in AfricaAfrica’s new generation of technology entrepreneurs are devising solutions to just about every challenge under the sun – from giving farmers access to markets to alerting commuters on the state of traffic. Many dream of building pan-African, even global, companies.

But how do they grow from thousands to millions of customers? According to Brian Chesky, founder and CEO of home-rental site Airbnb, entrepreneurs should start by not focusing too much on scale.

Established in 2008, Airbnb is worth an estimated US$25bn and has been used by over 40 million people in more than 34,000 cities across 192 countries.

Speaking to a group of entrepreneurs in Nairobi, Chesky advised them to focus on building a small community of users who love the services they offer, perfect a good customer experience, and then grow gradually.

“Don’t worry about growth, don’t worry about business plans, focus on getting 100 people that love your service. It is really hard to build something that one million people love, [but] it is not hard to build something 100 people love,” said Chesky.

Don’t aim on becoming an instant Zuckerberg

Chesky noted one of his biggest mistakes in the early days was focusing too much on growth, and becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg. In hindsight, he said he should have done things differently right from the start.

“I would have started with a perfect experience for a single person. I would have stopped worrying about what investors said. I would only focus on the people who loved it because they are the only ones who really mattered.”

To build a community of loyal customers, entrepreneurs should offer great customer service, interact with users and listen to feedback. He observed that many internet companies make the mistake of hiding their phone numbers.

“A lot of engineers do not love customer service. They think every time somebody calls them it’s because there is a defect with the product,” said Chesky. “The more money people spend the more accessible you should be.”

Hire people with the same core values

When hiring, Chesky advises entrepreneurs to…

Full article : Airbnb CEO advises African entrepreneurs on building a great company
August 10, 2015 – How we made it in Africa