Saturday, May 22, 2010

MXIT: South Africa's biggest and brightest Tech Diamond

Mention MXit South Africa among kids, and many tell you they can’t live without it. Mention it to adults, and many tell you they hate it.
Heunis’ goal is to have 200 million users worldwide in five years. To achieve that goal, MXit and SMS GupShup may start slugging it out in the country I’m in now—Indonesia. With 240 million people, Indonesia has one of the largest populations in the world and is mostly untapped.

SHOOT: MXIT is amazing and in this country, largely unheralded.

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Heunis’ company, MXit, is the company that Cape Town/Silicon Valley entrepreneur Vinny Lingham said is the most likely to become a billion dollar South African tech company.

MXit is a download for feature phones that allows people—mostly teens in South Africa—to IM in groups or individually without paying data charges and download things like wallpaper, ringtones and games. It has 20 million users and has revenues in the high single-digit millions. That may not sound like much, but remember South Africa only has 50 million people. For comparison sake, India’s well-funded mobile messaging/social network SMS GupShup claimed 26 million users in January– more but not that much more considering how much bigger India is than South Africa. The day before I spoke with Heunis, MXit added some 24,000 new users. He looks disappointed when he looks that number up and adds, “We added 32,000 one day last week.”

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