How one of Afrika's most popular social platforms failed
At its peak, MXit was reported to have 50 million registered users across 120 countries. And then towards the end of 2014, after silence from the company, it was revealed it had declined to 5 million users. What happened?
One of the barometers that measure how swiftly time has passed is technology. Television shows, video games, and even cellphones have left their imprint on our early memories.
MXit, a South African founded instant messaging tool, is one such technology that reminds me of my childhood. But, like many other MXit users, I've always been curious as to why MXit failed.
MXit was founded in 2005 by Herman Heunis, a Namibian-born entrepreneur and technologist who moved to Stellenbosch, South Africa. Herman created Swist Technology Solutions, a software development company, in 1997. Swit provided software solutions and services to telecommunications network operators and it would later be sold to Altech in 2010 for R52 million (approximately $3,5 million today). Herman, using his experience and new funds would then proceed to launch MXit.
By January 2007, MXit had grown from an eight-person startup team to a platform with over 3 million registered users. Naspers purchased a 30% investment in MXit as a result of its success, allowing the company to develop and expand in popularity among teens and young adults in South Africa. This, as it was taking advantage of the country's growth in mobile device usage.
At the time, MXit marketed itself as a low-cost app and social platform that allowed for continuous communication, providing millennials with an alternative to SMS and phone calls. Users who paid for premium chatrooms had access to special features and private chats.
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