Mxit’s CEO quest: our picks for the top job

Business silhouettes

Business silhouettes

It’s been about five months since Mxit’s board of directors (aka the people with the money) and Alan Knott-Craig Jnr had a showdown that resulted in his stepping down as CEO. Five months on and the company is still under acting CEO Francois Swart. The Vatican found a new leader in less time. So we thought we would help Mxit along with some candidates to consider.

There have been some major shake ups since Knott-Craig’s departure: retrenchments, products announcements and reshuffles. The way we see it, Mxit needs something new and different, it needs a non-Mxit person who can see through the politics and has a history of success so that their self-worth is not dictated by Mxit’s success. Mxit needs someone with balls, the brains and the charisma to pull off a revolution.

These are critical times for the company: it faces strategic threats from low-key and underdog player 2go. Currently 2go has being playing a game of strategic partnerships with emerging startups from around Africa with rumours of more to come. If Mxit leadership is not solidified soon, it could give 2go the opportunity it needs to take control of the South African market as it has already done with the rest of Africa.

We put together a list of people we think are worth considering. Some Mxitites mixed in with a few non-Mxitites.

Andre de Wet
De Wet is General Manager of Pricecheck, part of the MIH Internet group. He has a rather impressive resume with experience in mobile and payment — a good play for Mxit. His success claims include taking PriceCheck from 350 000 monthly unique visitors to over 700 000 monthly unique visitors in his first year (eight percent of the South African online population). Pricecheck is pretty impressive as a company and coming from the MIH group, he understands large corporates.

Vincent Maher
Maher has been around South Africa’s tech space for a while. An obvious addition to the list but an important option. As co-founder of Motribe, Maher understands the mobile social networking space. Currently Mxit’s CMO since Motribe’s acquisition by the mobile social network, Maher led the launch of Mxit 7 and new products announced by the company. If Mxit must hire from within, Maher is well worth a good look at.

Rapelang Rabana
This is a sassy choice for Mxit. Rabana knows tech and mobile: she founded Yeigo Communications and ran it before it was sold to TelFree, where she was Global Head of Research & Development. According to people close to the matter, she is currently looking for something challenging in the mobile space. She was named by the World Economic Forum as a global shaper and all in all a slam dunk for Mxit.

Francois Swart
The current CFO and acting CEO. One on hand, we are little bored with this gaffe. Either Mxit makes it official and gives him the job or puts him out of his misery and hires someone already. Swart is a good candidate with his financial background as that’s what the board wants, someone to make them money. He worked quite closely with Knott-Craig Jnr and can perhaps still preserve some of his vision to lead the company to a conquering future.

Andile Khumalo
As the current CIO for MSG Afrika investment holdings, an investment company that pays particular attention to the business of media, Khumalo spends his days making money. His job is to find new businesses to buy, raise money and help grow the businesses within the MSG group. With strong financial background from Deloitte and Investec, Khumalo could help Mxit make some serious money. He will need a very strong CTO though.

Roger Grobler
Grobler, currently at Mxit India, is the founder and former CEO of Real Insurance in Australia and, according to people familiar with him, a global leader in pay as you drive. With connections to Mxit’s money shots caller Paul Harris from their days at Rand Merchant Bank, it could be worth the company’s while to think about offering him the job of fearless leader. He is also Mxit’s current chairman.

Tami Sussman
Sussman is the Current CMO at Integr8, an ICT management and managed services company that was founded in 2001 and employs more than 450 people. As a member of the core founding team of Integr8, Sussman’s management skills could be vital to Mxit and with work experience gained at leading firms like Ernst & Young she could also play to the board’s “show me the money” tunes.

Brett StClair
A Googler with a passion for smartphones. Mxit needs that, its smartphone offerings aren’t quite what they should be and it is crunch time: get with the times or move out. As current Head of New Products Sub Saharan Africa at Google, StClair knows the African market. He has extensive mobile experience. His claim to success? He was former head of mobile at Google and former country manger for AdMob. He has worked in mobile media and mobile marketing and advertising worldwide. Give him a strong CFO and let him lead Mxit forward.

Andy Volk
A wild card entry. Volk is a currently VP of developer relations at Mxit and since his import from Silicon Valley he has aggressively driven Mxit as a platform that developers can create great products for. He opened up Mxit’s API, creating preferred developer programs to get more developers to build for the platform. As an ex-Yahoo employee and someone who has run his own tech company (Downtempo), he could be a possible choice. His Silicon Valley experience could come in handy in turning Mxit into a global player.



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