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Growing Muti: A 3 Year Tale of Patience and Persistence

Three years ago I wrote about this new site called Muti, created by South African Neville Newey. It’s a site that allows everyone to participate by putting in links to content of interest to Africans or those interested in Africa. Other uses can then vote it up and, generally, the cream rises to the top. We originally thought it should be for “all Africans”, but the community quickly proved that they though it was for South Africans – and that is how it has remained.

Over the intervening years I’ve become good friends with Neville and have watched him crunch the early morning hours to fine-tune and evolve his site into a real community. There have been a number of times that Neville has wanted to throw in the towel, with real (paying) work taking up so much time, and with all of the life that comes at you when you have a family. He didn’t though, and what we’re seeing is that Muti is growing and his patience is starting to pay off.

I asked Neville to shoot me his numbers for the past two years. Here are the last two years subscriber growth:

Muti subscriber growth

Here are the last two years news submission chart:

Muti Submission Growth

Going mainstream

We’re seeing Muti grow in other ways too. News 24 is one of the largest media houses in South Africa. In their new mobile application, Muti is listed along with Digg and Reddit as a place to submit a story to. It has become South Africa’s version of those services, and you can see that change coming as more submissions are not just about technology (though that is still the foundation).

The community

Neville started Muti, but he didn’t grow it, the community did. It’s the hundreds of bloggers, social media gurus and African news hounds. Among them are other South African developers like Charl Van Niekerk, who has been instrumental in extending and debugging the site. People know each other and start to gain a reputation – good and bad – which makes the community sticky too.

One interesting place that the community came into play is the Muti logo. There was a contest to see who could create the best logo, and then everyone in the community voted on it. It went from something that Neville hacked together, to a really well designed logo by Fred of World Wide Creative.

Neville tells me that this is going to happen again, with the skin for the new site. He’s done an initial design (below), but plans to allow users to submit their own style sheets and then have a gallery of all the style sheets and let the users decide which one to go with.

Muti - a new design

What we’ve seen so far is a bootstrapped startup, that sells one or two ads per month to cover server costs. It’s a hobby. But, it’s a hobby that is continuing to grow and gain a larger following in South Africa. I hope Neville serves as an example and an inspiration to all those other startups and bootstrappers across Africa – to stick with it. Longevity has its own value.

4 Comments

  1. Awesome, it’s a great idea to let people choose from a gallery of styles!
    Looking forward to doing my own!

  2. Very commendable effort by Neville in creating this community for SA – and it will be great to see it grow further and achieve much wider local acceptance online, which it is already doing!

    Well done Neville, looking forward to seeing the next instalment. Thanks for the post Hash.

  3. Nice one Erik. Personal, committed yet homegrown efforts like Muti deserve promotion. Such a cool name too.

  4. Some of the really big sites in Africa have that status due to sticking it out – Ghana Web and Seneweb are great examples.

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