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Ex-MS, Oracle SA exec leverages Airbnb to start company

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Robert Manson, founder of Alimama Spaces.
Robert Manson, founder of Alimama Spaces.

Former Microsoft SA and Oracle SA executive Robert Manson has leveraged online platforms like Airbnb, Bookings.com and Trivago to start his own company: Alimama Spaces.

According to Manson, Alimama Spaces is a business that uses the platforms to provide short-term spaces to individuals as well as corporates, be it for business purposes or leisure.

“This company was started at a small scale at my house in Blue Valley Golf Estate as a hobby and it has grown tremendously, now boasting of 69 listings across Gauteng,” he says.

“Airbnb is the biggest platform that l am leveraging on at the moment, and l am well on my way to becoming the biggest Airbnb partner in South Africa.

“My current revenues from Airbnb are well over 60%. Bookings.com is also picking up nicely and l should be doing well over 30% and the rest split between Trivago and others.”

Alimama Spaces offers spaces ranging from one-bedroom, two-bed, three-bed apartments, as well as mansions for families, he notes.

Previously, Manson worked at Microsoft SA as provincial and local government leader, before moving to rival Oracle SA as senior regional director for cloud solutions.

“Microsoft and Oracle, as multinationals, taught me different sets of skills that are coming in handy on this entrepreneurial journey of mine,” he notes.

“Microsoft taught me more about customer-centricity and the value of having a great brand liked and admired by customers. Oracle taught me how to hustle and be resilient against all odds.”

On what inspired him to start the company, Manson says: “After working in the corporate sector for almost 15 years, one day l was in my house that had so much space that was underutilised as l am staying alone.

“To put it bluntly, l had not been to the west wing of my house for over three months. I realised that l had to do something. I then listed my house on Airbnb. When l realised how big this venture could grow, every day l got inspired by awesome reviews my guests were giving me.

“I started hiring people and l realised more and more what an impact l could make not only on myself but the broader society. There is nothing stopping me now from creating a legacy that l can call my own.”

To grow his business, Manson is looking to buy more properties. “My plans are to have 200 listings over the next two years and l will do this by having other Airbnb-aspiring shared economy enthusiasts to use my platform so my team can manage their spaces on their behalf.”

He points out that Alimama Spaces currently hosts between 500 and 750 guests per month. “This number is growing exponentially, and l am looking at hosting 1 500 to 3 000 guests a month within the next two years.”

Manson says he started his career as a gardener, worked as a security guard and moved to a call centre for Protea Hotels.

“I then started working in IT companies like Spartan Technology Rentals, Altron, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and currently at Imperial as the group executive for industry solutions,” he says.

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