The Alan Knott-Craig MXit interview

Alan Knott-Craig is likely the most talked about local Internet entrepreneur at the moment. After his tenure as MD of wireless Internet provider, iBurst, Alan moved to Stellenbosch and started a mobile applications investment company. Enter World of Avatar, consisting of approximately 14 mobile related businesses, some of which were launched and incubated from within WOA while others were acquired.
Then Alan made his boldest move yet – he met with Herman Heunis, founder of South Africa‘s most popular social network, MXit, and convinced him to sell. The acquisition was widely covered and the price was said to be a massive 9 digit number.
Some say Alan bought a technology past its prime with the likes of BlackBerry‘s BBM and Whatsapp enjoying huge growth on smart phones. Alan saw it differently. With the next billion or two of the African population not even connected to the Internet yet, there is huge scope to provide communication tools to “˜feature‘ and “˜dumb phone‘ users. However, they aren‘t overlooking MXit for smart phones and will aim to release a new version – said to be a game changer – in April 2012.

Alan Knott-Craig is a deal maker and with a huge community as bait, has set out to close several deals that will continue to drive MXit‘s growth and revenue. Recently he setup an embed deal with Opera and has several similar deals in the pipeline.
MXit plans to focus on its core strength – instant messaging. Alan notes that they are well aware that its current “˜API‘ is not up to scratch (it‘s considered to be more like a C# SDK) and they intend rebuilding it from the ground up. This will allow third party developers to build games, apps and other value adds on top of MXit. Alan has hired COO David Weber to head up the API rebuild – David previously helped Herman evolve the MXit core.
In the interview Alan shares MXit stats including the size of the active user base versus the total base of 45 million plus users, and the fact that MXit generated just below 20 billion messages in October. We discuss the success of their virtual currency Moola, the future of MXit on smart phones and their new developer API.
Alan notes that “˜the ship has sailed‘ for entrepreneurs looking for investment or a possible acquisition from WOA. They realise the task at hand “œwe took a pretty big bite“ to turn MXit into a globally relevant business. He has however concluded a few deals since the MXit acquisition, for instance investing in Joe Botha‘s new startup, Trust Fabric, which we exclusively covered on Bandwidth Blog.
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Watch an updated video interview with Alan, since his departure from Mxit in October 2012 here.