Mxit founder Herman Heunis passed away


Herman Heunis, the creator of Mxit, passed suddenly early on August 24, 2022, following a two-year fight with pancreatic cancer. He was 63.

After completing his BCom degree at Stellenbosch University in 1980, Heunis, a Namibian, started working as a programmer.

In 1985, he was hired by the organisation as a software specialist, and in 1990, he established his own information and communications technology firm. He established Swist Group Technologies, a software development-focused business, in 1997.

Based on Heunis' concept, Clockspeed Mobile, the research division of Swist, developed and released Mxit. This project was inspired by reevaluating the company's unsuccessful SMS-based massively multiplayer game.

Soon after becoming independent, Clockspeed changed its name to MXit Lifestyle (Pty) Ltd.

Large investors were interested in Mxit since it was thought to be the biggest social network in Africa. In 2007, Naspers bought a 30% share in the business. In the 2000s, the platform saw rapid expansion. In 2012, there were over 10 million active users, and 35,000 to 50,000 new users registered per day.

At the height of Mxit, Heunis chose to sell his enormously successful business to World of Avatar in order to take a step back.

World of Avatar was founded by Alan Knott-Craig Jr. with funding from Paul Harris and GT Ferreira, two former FirstRand executives. Heunis claimed in an interview with Africa-ME that selling a business you founded is difficult.

The truth is that I was overworked and worn out, and continuing as CEO was not in the best interest of the business, he claimed. Heunis expressed sadness for not being able to continue as CEO of Mxit in a 2015 Twitter tweet.

"[It] had all the makings of a big success story. The new energy was the missing catalyst, he claimed. Heunis abandoned the field of technology forever.

After quitting his job as an Internet entrepreneur and stepping away from the spotlight, he concentrated on his pastimes, which according to his Twitter bio included photography, travel, mountain biking, winemaking, and olive oil production.

Heunis was an enthusiastic cyclist who participated in competitions like the Absa Cape Epic.

His idea fundamentally altered South African communications by decreasing the cost of brief text messages and popularising mobile instant messaging before the worldwide smartphone boom.

We shall miss him.