Could’ve, should’ve...

Finweek English Edition - - INSIGHT - Is a pub­li­ca­tion of Me­dia24, which is a sub­sidiary of Naspers.

Her­man He­u­nis ad­mits he made “a se­ri­ous mis­take”.

The founder of mo­bile mes­sag­ing plat­form Mxit says that he should have shifted the group to Cal­i­for­nia’s Sil­i­con Val­ley when he had the chance.

Mxit, which was even­tu­ally sold to a con­sor­tium led by Alan Knott- Craig Jr and f i nanced by for­mer banker Paul Har­ris for an amount said to be as high as R4 0 0 m i n 2 0 1 1 , h a d b e c o me a phe­nom­e­nal suc­cess. At the time it had over 40m users and was in 120 coun­tries.

Look­ing back, how­ever, He­u­nis thinks that if he moved the group to the US in 2008, it would have worked out bet­ter as this would have given it ac­cess to bet­ter tech­nol­ogy and got a bet­ter sell­ing price.

He­u­nis has a point. What­sApp, a US-based ri­val mes­sag­ing ser­vice which was formed six years af­ter Mxit, was sold to Face­book for $19bn last year.

Mov­ing a SA tech com­pany to the US is not an un­prece­dented move. Bulk SMS provider Click­atell moved there in 2008 and has since had Se­quoia Cap­i­tal, an early i nvestor i n Google, Ap­ple and YouTube take a hold­ing in it.

Mxit opted not to move be­cause it feared it would be a dis­trac­tion at a busy time. Back then the group was grow­ing at a phe­nom­e­nal rate and Naspers had just taken a 30% hold­ing, which saw it com­ing un­der pres­sure to put in place more cor­po­rate struc­tures.

The move might not have panned out but the Knott-Craig takeover had worked out well f or He­u­nis’s health as the pres­sure that came with run­ning Mxit had taken its toll on him. “The stress lev­els were se­vere. It took me the best part of a year to get my health sorted out.”

Now t hat he i s f ul l y r ecov­ered, He­u­nis’s ap­petite for f l edgling tech com­pa­nies has re­turned.

“I’m keen to get in­volved in start-ups again. And there is a good chance that I will be­come in­volved.”

For now, he i s only act­ing as an ad­viser, but does not rule out a pos­si­ble in­vest­ment.

*Finweek

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