Naspers is a case study in media operator reinvention. Formerly just a South African newspaper publisher, the firm has steadily launched ISP, pay-TV and web news outfits.
But nowadays Naspers is becoming best known as one part of a holy trinity, together with Tencent and Digital Sky Technologies, that is now so influential in emerging-markets online media investment. Through its equity stake in DST, it owns a slice of Facebook, while other interests include Polish social network Gadu-Gadu and mobile media’s BuzzCity.
Now the firm is targeting Latin America, south East Asia and eastern Europe, CEO Koos Bekker tells Memeburn.
“We’ve made more mistakes than anyone else. What we typically try to do is get into something and ‘fail fast and cheaply‘. We have also failed expensively. We created the second biggest ISP in Beijing in 1998 and we lost the battle there. We eventually lost US$80-million and had to fire people and close it down because of mistakes we made. We’ve failed quite a lot but if you’re going to fail, get into the market quickly, fail quickly and learn from it.”
Bekker adds: “(China) came from nowhere in the nineties and they are now, after the US, the most vibrant internet market in the world. You’d think of Brazilians as “beach guys”, but they spend more time on the internet than anyone else. Brazilians are quite social. Now why people who drink a lot coffee, have lots of friends and have the beach, spend their time on the internet – I don’t know.”