14 Aug 2012

Mxit's Alan Knott-Craig on innovation and targeting African needs


Alan Knott-Craig is a South Africa mobile entrepreneur with a passion for African business opportunities. He is former CEO of iBurst and runs World of Avatar, the company that recently acquired South African social media brand Mxit.
He will be speaking at AfricaCom in the keynote panel on social media. He shares his thoughts on the market before the event.

Com:    How has Mxit’s strategy evolved since your acquisition?
AKC: We’ve changed from a fairly closed system to a pure open platform strategy, explicitly helping third parties access the user base and build businesses. The 4 key pillars of Mxit going forward are Chat (ie: communication), Money (ie: payments), Shop (ie: API for 3rd party developers), and Reach (ie: platform for NGOs and governments)

Com: How are consumers’ needs evolving and what needs to be done to address them effectively?
AKC: People are becoming more economically active, demanding more entertainment and using better phones. We need to enable payments within Mxit, provide more & better content to keep people engaged, and to ensure the user experience isworld class across all devices.

Com: How to encourage innovation in Africa’s digital market?
AKC: Give people the tools they need to make stuff. The ideas are there. The ambition is there. The opportunity is there. The people just need tools like Internet access, non-credit card billing, and API’s for platforms that are notexclusively web and iPhone based.

Com:   What advice would you give to young ICT entrepreneurs in Africa?
First, don’t panic. The opportunity is here, but it will be here in 5 years too. Wait for the right idea before jumping in. You need passion to sustain yourself in the dark days, and you can only be passionate about something you love.
Second, when you have a dream, drop what you’re doing and chase it. Don’t try raise money first. Start the race before raising the money.
Third, ignore the American media. Africa is different. Solve African problems. Target Africans. This is our home turf, and its different from the USA.

AfricaCom is the leading annual event for the digital sector in Africa to meet, share best practices, learn about new technologies and services, and do business. One of the keynote sessions will focus on service innovation, including a panel discussion on how social networking services are affecting the telecoms, media and ICT market. Alan Knott-Craig will share the panel with representatives of Facebook, Google +, Viadeo and Motribe.