Over the last two years, World of Avatar has made numerous investments in local technology and online media companies, which included the high profile acquisition of MXit. After this aggressive investment spree, the company is now focusing on growing the businesses which form part of its portfolio.
World of Avatar founder and MXit CEO, Alan Knott-Craig Jnr, explains that they do not intend on making new investments for a while, whilst they digest the Mxit beast.
It is not, however, because of a shortage of cash that the focus has changed. Knott-Craig revealed that while they have invested ‘lots of money’ in local startups to date, they still have just under R100 million in the bank.
Many people have wondered where the World of Avatar money has come from, and Knott-Craig is very upfront about World of Avatar’s finances.
“Myself and Francois Swart are the manager shareholders. The Harris Family Trust and GT Ferreira own the majority of shares. Then there are few friends with small stakes,” said Knott-Craig. “For all intents and purposes, funding is proportional to shareholding, which means the Harris Family and GT Ferreira are primary funders.”
Growing the startups
The focus for World of Avatar has clearly moved from investments to growth of the companies which they have invested in. The biggest investment, which may well determine the future of World of Avatar, is MXit.
Knott-Craig is very optimistic about the future of MXit – both in terms of subscriber numbers and revenue growth.
Knott-Craig said that MXit should quite easily add 12 million registered users, and 3 million active users, in next 12 months – but that they are aiming for higher growth numbers than these.
MXit is also planning to triple revenue in 2012 – from the R100 million in 2011 to R300 million in 2012. “We expect to triple revenue and turn the loss into a profit. The new financial year starts 1 April, that’s the point from which we start counting,” says Knott-Craig.
It is not only MXit which is growing and doing their bit to make World of Avatar’s investors happy, however. Other World of Avatar startups, including Triloq Payment Services, Pondering Panda and TrustFabric, are starting to grow their presence.
Triloq Payment Services, which provides online card payment and intermediated email bill presentment services, is showing strong growth and is planning to already cut even in 2012.
“Our business model required a mix of virtual and physical infrastructure to be set up which is behind us now so we are moving into a sales, marketing and customer acquisition phase. Our plan is to break-even during 2012,” explains Triloq CEO, Veeren Naidoo.
Triloq’s email bill presentment and payment offering, AcceptEmail, already has 5 million unique recipients and 140 billers using this service – and the company is set to grow this service further this year as their main focus area.
Pondering Panda, a mobile research company owned 51% by World of Avatar and 49% by FireID, went live with their commercial offerings last week.
Pondering Panda founder, Shirley Wakefield, says that while they would ideally like to become profitable in 3 months, a 6 month target is probably more realistic.
“We are planning to become a force to be reckoned with in the research industry, and establish ourselves as the authority in mobile research,” says Wakefield.
TrustFabric, which builds vendor relationship management software, is making strides to boost protection for MXit subscribers.
TrustFabric CEO, Joe Botha, says that they have loaded around 24 million date of birth records (using MXit data), which can be used to protect minors.
The company is also building a TrustFabric app for MXit, which will include features which will allow MXit users to opt-out of direct marketing.