Michael Jordaan has been Can the world’s most innovative banker guide the South African social networking firm to the next level?
Former FNB boss Michael Jordaan has revealed his next move, being appointed as chairman of the board at South African social networking company Mxit. The company is working hard to transform its business in the smartphone era and Jordaan is the right guy to provide steer – but can Mxit tackle the likes of Facebook and win on the mobile battlefront?
New Mxit CEO Francois Swart clearly thinks so. He announced Jordaan’s appointment as a “coup” for the company. Swart was recently made CEO following a tenure as interim CEO when Alan KnottCraig Jr left the company after a fallout with investors.
In a statement, Jordaan said that he has been watching Mxit “with interest” for several years. He’s also close to RMB rat pack members GT Ferreira and Paul Harris, who are major investors in Mxit.
“It is difficult not to have a sense of pride about a home-grown South African company making such an impact in the social media and mobile space,” said Jordaan.
“Mxit is a really cool company and has built some world-first innovations over the last eight years. I have spent some time with their development and design team and they have shown me some of the projects they are working on, especially in the smartphone space,” he said.
Mxit has a great position from which to grow. Jordaan said on Twitter that the network has 7m active users who are on it for an average of 90 minutes per day. That’s nowhere close to the 1bn people using Facebook, but is nothing to laugh at.
It is less than Mxit used to have, however. The one-time king of social networks in SA has been knocked off its throne. World Wide Worx’ SA Social Media Landscape 2014 research study revealed that Facebook now has 9.4m active users in SA, up from 6.8m a year ago.
Mxit dropped from 9.5m to its current 7.4m. Twitter saw the highest percentage growth among the major social networks in SA, growing from 2.4m to 5.5m.
“No less than 87% of Facebook users and 85% of Twitter users are accessing these tools on their phones,” said Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx.
And this is Mxit’s challenge as mobile is fundamental to the service. Mxit was built on mobile, beginning as a messaging service. It has lost out in that space to WhatsApp, BBM and other messaging giants, while its growth as a social networking company is under threat from Zuckerberg and co.
Mxit does do work in healthcare and education where international players are absent, however, and these local differentiators could be key to its success. This more altruistic side of the Mxit business is also something Jordaan said he is excited about. He also said that this is something that makes Mxit unique.
With Jordaan on board, so to speak, and the likes of Vincent Maher and Andy Volk working with new CEO Francois Swart, Mxit is poised for great things – if it can redefine itself on smartphones and leverage its grasp of African customers.
Michael Jordaan & Francois Swart (right)