WATERLOO, ONT, August 18 – Waterloo-based Kik Interactive, maker of the chat network Kik, has closed a $50 million strategic investment by Tencent, a leading provider of internet services in China and creator of the chat app Weixin (WeChat). The Series D funding will be used to double the company’s size as it continues to build experiences and services for U.S. youth. Kik is now valued at $1 billion.
Last year, Kik founder and CEO Ted Livingston stated his intention to make Kik the “WeChat of the West,” pointing to the power of Weixin to facilitate connections and enable an ecosystem built around messaging. This investment allows Kik to further pursue that goal with the support of Tencent.
In China, consumers use Weixin not only to connect with friends, but also to facilitate numerous other experiences, including booking taxis, shopping, ordering food deliveries, paying utility bills, playing games, and following celebrities, opinion leaders, and brands via “Official Accounts.” Kik has similar aspirations to build a chat-based ecosystem around its stronghold of American youth. Seventy percent of Kik’s 240 million registered users are aged between 13 and 24 years old. Approximately 40 percent of U.S. teens use Kik.
“Young Americans are a large group with unmet needs. We can’t think of a better group to be building for,” said Ted Livingston, founder and CEO of Kik.
Livingston believes personal computing is at the start of a new era in which chat will become the primary interface for the consumer internet. “We think chat will be the simplest way to connect with the world around you,” says Livingston. “Consumers and developers alike are suffering from app overload, and we are increasingly seeing the potential for services to be delivered in better, lighter-weight ways through chat, especially with bots. Companies like Slack, Telegram, and Facebook are also starting to realize this.” Over the last year, more than 16 million users have opted to chat with bots on Kik, exchanging half a billion messages.
Kik plans to use the funding to grow its team in Waterloo and invest in compelling chat-based services. The company also has offices in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.