Mxit, South African-made social media messaging platform once hailed as “a success story the likes of Facebook in its own context”, has been closed down as a commercial operation.
Alan Knott-Craig Jnr, internet entrepreneur and editor of Really, Don’t Panic! (Afrikaans: Moenie stres nie!), acquired Mxit in 2011. But he was not, for a number of reasons, able to innovate fast enough to safeguard the company’s user share against the rising tide of smartphone messaging and social media apps.
Knott-Craig Jnr recently resigned as Mxit’s CEO. Read Stuart Thomas’ article about what he did for the company:
It makes sense then that he describes thinking of the maverick entrepreneur as a “breath of fresh air” at the time.
While Marshall acknowledges that there was a little bit of organised chaos, largely down to each of the World of Avatar CEOs wanting a slice of Mxit’s resources, he says he was inspired by the sense that Knott-Craig was there to knock down all the old walls at Mxit and was willing to try new things.
He’s not alone either. In an article published on Memeburn shortly after Knott-Craig’s departure, former Mxit employee Frans de Villiers describes him as “Mxit’s Barack Obama”, there to bring fresh ideas to a company that had “lost a lot of its amazingness”.
Despite his initial optimism, it’s clear that Knott-Craig knew that Mxit was up against it from the start of his short tenure as CEO. In early 2012, he told a press conference that Mxit had “one last chance” to get back on track or the company would collapse.
Ben-Carl Havemann, spokesperson for Mxit, spoke to Mike Wills on CapeTalk about the commercial closure and the future of the messenger as part of the Reach Trust, a charitable arm of the company.
Listen to the podcast:
Arthur Goldstuck, tech-expert and co-author of Tech-Savvy Parenting: A Guide to Raising Safe Children in a Digital World, was asked to comment on the closure of Mxit by Sibusiso Tshabalala for Quartz Africa.
Goldstuck said that the closure of the messaging app was not surprising, but there is still much that other start-ups could learn from the rise and fall of Mxit.
Read the article:
“The first thing [Mxit] did wrong is that they became complacent when they were at their peak. They made the same mistake Netscape made in the 90s— it underestimated Microsoft, and two years Netscape was wiped out. It was not only the rise of smartphones that led to Mxit’s decline, it was also the rise of other social networks. They woke up too late,” said Goldstuck.
- Tech-Savvy Parenting: A Guide to Raising Safe Children in a Digital World by Nikki Bush and Arthur Goldstuck
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