TL; DR: Friends Gian Visser, Brendan Armstrong, and Peter Meintjes started Afrihost in 2000 as a web hosting company. Since then, Afrihost has grown to become one of the largest internet service providers in South Africa. In addition to hosting, it now offers fiber, mobile data, DSL, and VoIP, among other solutions. The company’s goal is to meet client needs by delivering a variety of products — from simple hosting for a blog to complex infrastructure services for enterprises. Afrihost is also dedicated to ensuring flexibility for its clients and doesn’t require long-term contracts.
Three childhood friends, Gian Visser, Brendan Armstrong, and Peter Meintjes, began their careers like many technology enthusiasts do — exploring what could be done with Linux web hosting. While they each went on to start their own companies in different fields, they found their way back to their first passion and each other.
Afrihost started in Gian’s family home as a web hosting company. Gian, Brendan, and Peter wanted their new company to put not profit, but clients and employees first. And Afrihost gave them the perfect chance to put that concept to the test.
When Afrihost was in its infancy, its directors decided to allocate the bulk of the advertising and marketing budget to improving the company’s DSL product. The hope was to offer the product at a reduced rate compared to the standard packages competitors were advertising at that time in South Africa.
The gamble paid off, causing a shakeup in broadband pricing in the country and earning the company its reputation for serving clients ahead of all else.
What followed was a run of four years from 2011 to 2014 during which the company was named ISP of the year by South African technology news website MyBroadband. That client-centric, product-first approach was the catalyst that led to Afrihost’s rapid growth over the last 21 years and continues to inform its daily operations.
Focusing on Spreading Internet Joy
The slogan at Afrihost is “Pure Internet Joy,” and that attitude spreads from its company culture to the products it offers to clients. Afrihost’s focus on keeping up with the technology trends and listening to what clients want has allowed it to grow over the past 21 years from a simple web hosting company to one with a slew of digital services.
Afrihost still offers hosting, but now it is just one piece of what the company has to offer.
“From the start, our CEO has always said he wants to delight people. We want to make everyone’s life easier,” said Brand Creative Manager Conrad de Beer. “That’s why we have a wide variety of products to meet people where they are.”
Conrad says the team seeks to listen to which technology services clients need or want and then provide it to them — all with a smile on their face.
“It’s the attitude from the CEO to everyone down,” he said, “to be always smiling and trying to make things better.”
Offering Variety of Products to Meet People Where They Are
After its success with hosting and broadband, the 2010s saw Afrihost spread into mobile data, mobile voice, fiber, LTE, VoIP and revamped DSL.
Conrad told us the attitude is to just never stand still and constantly work to improve products.
“No matter what your needs are, we have something that can work for you,” he said.
But the company also hasn’t forgotten its roots. It offers Linux and Windows web hosting that comes with a free domain for one year. Afrihost also delivers an array of cloud hosting solutions — from cloud server hosting to managed enterprise hosting and custom hosting packages.
Conrad told us the majority of clients leveraging Afrihost’s hosting solutions are small and medium-sized businesses. And Afrihost’s goal is to make it as easy as possible for these clients to get up and running, focus on their business missions, and not have to worry about IT needs.
Placing Ease and Control in Client Hands
One thing that distinguishes Afrihost in South Africa’s crowded market is its flexibility. The company doesn’t require clients to sign long-term contracts, and most clients are on month-to-month plans. The model allows Afrihost to make adjustments quickly. If markets change, it can pass savings on to clients right away instead of keeping them locked into paying a grandfathered rate.
Conrad told us clients can also choose to upgrade or downgrade their package to suit their needs.
“We’re trying to put ease and control in people’s hands,” he said. “It’s one more way the company spreads internet joy”
The approach also puts the company’s products in the driver’s seat. According to Conrad, whatever the product is, it has to be good, or else clients will turn to competitors
Afrihost’s ClientZone offers another example of the company’s client-first philosophy. It’s a system that allows clients to manage all of their products in one simple location. Conrad said the client portal is currently being reworked to give even more new features and make managing products even easier.
And in addition to the client portal, Afrihost puts a focus on client support, with options to get help via WhatsApp, the website, email, or phone.
The Future: A Unique Approach to Growth and Development
If the past two decades are any indication, Afrihost won’t be content to rest on its many digital laurels. Whatever the next frontier for technology service is, the company is set up to anticipate it by listening to what its clients want and then finding a way to provide it.
Aside from organic growth, Afrihost is also expanding through mergers and acquisitions.
Regulators have recently approved a deal for Afrihost to acquire a majority share of a company called Cool Ideas, another South African ISP. The deal is expected to help Afrihost become an even larger player in the South African IT sector.
Afrihost already has a large stake in another service provider called Axxess, and the company plans to put all three brands under one umbrella.
“These companies have and will continue to function as a standalone brands and companies,” Conrad said. “Our goal is to share knowledge between the companies to ensure that we can offer the best products and services to the market.”
Conrad said Afrihost has begun to rebrand some of its products to include the word “pure,” such as its “Pure DSL” and “Pure VoIP” offerings.
“It’s just one way the company isn’t forgetting its original mission: “Pure Internet Joy,” Conrad said. “We want our products to be pure, without clutter and easy to use.”