Best answers from “Ask Accommodation Direct CEO Rupert Bryant Anything”

MyBroadband’s latest “Ask Anything” discussion saw Accommodation Direct CEO Rupert Bryant answer questions from MyBroadband members.

Bryant has a unique business story. In 2000, he left high school at the age of 14 to start a web design and hosting company.

Three years later, he joined forces with Matthew Tagg at Webafrica and grew the company to one of the largest Internet service providers in South Africa.

After 10 years at Webafrica, he left his position as COO to head up Accommodation Direct – which competes against Airbnb in South Africa.

Here are some of the most interesting questions and answers from the session.

What car do you currently drive?

I’m full-time on Uber. I had an Audi A4, but gave it to my mom when I realised it was more cost and time efficient to Uber around.

What made you think you could run a company at the age of fourteen, and were you surprised when it was a success? What did your parents say at the time?

Honestly, I needed the money. I wasn’t from a very financially-secure family. My mom was a single-mother, and my dad wasn’t around much.

Being young and inexperienced, I had very little belief in myself. Thankfully, I stuck with things and refused to give up. My friends and family all encouraged me, and helped by recommending my fledgling little web hosting and web development business to others.

Once I got a bit of traction and growth, I was very surprised. I’m pretty sure there was a lot of luck involved somewhere in the equation.

Looking back at your time at Webafrica, what do you think you and Matthew did well, and what do you think you could have done better?

We were quite fanatical about listening to customers when we started the company, which gave us an enormous advantage.

We went through a patch during 2008-2009 where we grew so quickly that we had a lot of internal challenges that we had to overcome. This distracted us. Eventually we realised that we were not living up to the fanatical principles we previously embodied.

After realising this, we made a lot of changes, and thankfully after a year or two we corrected our missteps and got back to our roots.

What would you name as your 3 best characteristics that helped you make Webafrica a success?

  • Determination, sticking with things, and never giving up.
  • Willingness to always learn and not be afraid to make mistakes.
  • Having an excellent team of people.

Which books, blogs, websites, and podcasts are your go-to places for information that you’re interested in?

I use Twitter and Reddit a fair amount – both are great since you can curate them.

My top news and tech websites are still MyBroadband for local, and for global news.

I’m a big fan of YouTube – there are some fantastic news, history, science, political, and philosophical channels there to subscribe to. I’ve also been binge watching the “SciShow” channel.

Which TV series do you like?

Currently, I’m really enjoying Vikings, Billions, and Mr Robot. Game of Thrones too, although I wasn’t super impressed with the last season when they stopped following the books.

When Afrihost undercut the ADSL data market a few years ago, did you think it was a missed opportunity for Webafrica?

Very possibly, but regardless I take my hat off to them for what they did. It took a lot of moolah, guts, and determination.

What is your advice to someone trying to start a unique online business?

Time has a funny way or creeping up on you. Don’t wait around too long – Go for it. Here are a few tips I’ve found helpful.

  • Find a small team of capable, complementary, like-minded, and energetic people to start it with.
  • Listen to advice, but ignore the naysayers.
  • Build a quick, minimal roadmap, and stick to it.
  • Figure out how to launch with the smallest amount of capital possible.
  • Once launched, quickly iterate/improve as you go.
  • Don’t give up too early.

When you started out did you plan for or even realise how successful your enterprise would become? When did you realise that you would have to readjust your goals?

We always pushed ourselves, and tried to build Webafrica to be the biggest and best company we could. That was our dream from the start. It meant a lot of short-term sacrifices.

When the big explosive growth came in 2006 to 2007 (we tripled revenue over that period) … oh man, we were woefully unprepared. So many challenges, funny stories, and learning.

Looking back, we could’ve done a lot of things differently, but we had a fantastic team and always had fun and managed to figure things out together.

Was it tough leaving Webafrica after all the years and blood, sweat, and tears you invested there?

It was. Starting a business from the ground up, with nothing, takes everything you’ve got. During that time one makes a lot of really special memories and associations, so it was quite an emotional time and bittersweet: on the one hand I knew I would miss everyone there, but on the other it had been 12 years and I knew it was time to move on.

Why did you leave Webafrica?

I started to ask myself if I still had the same dedication, passion, and focus, and I started to realise that I, in fact, did not. There were other opportunities that I became more interested in.

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Best answers from “Ask Accommodation Direct CEO Rupert Bryant Anything”