Kik Interactive Inc., the Canadian company behind the popular Kik messaging app, announced on Tuesday that it had secured a $50 million investment from China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd, one of the largest internet firms in the world and WeChat's parent company.
The deal has increased Kik’s valuation to just over $1 billion. This means it now enters the 128-member ‘Unicorn' club of private companies with a valuation of a least $1 billion.
Kik founder and CEO Ted Livingston has expressed admiration in the past at the way WeChat expanded into a full chat platform that offered a wide range of services. He admitted that it was his ambition for Kik to become “The WeChat of the West.” The platform uses a similar business model as its Chinese counterpart, offering experiences such as gaming and mobile browsing in its app.
Speaking about the deal on Medium, Livingston said:
Right from the start, Tencent was at the top of the list. As the maker of QQ and WeChat, it was clear they understood chat deeply, making them a great sounding board. They had significant success and resources, allowing them to have the patience required for Kik to pursue a long-term vision for a chat-based ecosystem. And with so much of their focus on winning China, they would support Kik running independently to win the U.S. It wasn’t until we spent time with Tencent in China, however, that we became sure they would be the best partner.
Kik has said it will use the funding to double the company’s size as it continues to build experiences for US youth. Kik also plans to grow its team in Waterloo, Ontario, and invest in chat-based services.
Kik’s instant messaging platform has been immensely popular with teens since its release in 2010. Even when having to compete in a market that contains the likes of Facebook messenger and Whatsapp, Kik still boasts a user base of 240 million people. The company claims 40% of American teenagers regularly use its app.