Besides Asia-based mobile messaging apps like WeChat and LINE, there are a few other players in the North American market as well who have managed to amass a substantial user base along with a sizeable revenue model. One such player is Canada-based Kik Interactive.
Kik was founded in 2009 by University of Waterloo students who wanted to build an application that would help with finding and sharing music using a smartphone. The app was initially supposed to be integrated with BlackBerry Messenger but did not make it that far. Kik’s founding members also realized the pitfall of aligning with the BlackBerry platform and alienating iOS- and Android-based offerings. Kik’s mission soon became to shift the focus of computing technology from PCs to phones. Since inception, Kik had a strong faith in the smartphone movement. Their beta messenger app was launched in April 2010 and by November that year, the app had amassed over 2 million users. Three years later in November 2013, Kik crossed the milestone of 100 million users.
Kik enables chat exchange through Kik usernames based on the individual’s user accounts and not phone numbers, thus letting them decide whom they want to communicate with. But Kik’s biggest strength lies in the development of their HTML5-based capabilities. Kik claims to be the first smartphone messenger with a built-in browser that lets users talk with their friends while being able to surf the Web and share web sites with their friends.
In 2012, they introduced Kik Cards, which are mini-apps based on HTML5. Kik Cards let users find and share YouTube videos, images, pics, and GIFs while using the Kik app. Within six months of the release of Kik Cards, it had been downloaded 25 million times. Cards came with features such as enabling users to create sketches and memes without leaving Kik and a strong gaming platform. Their game “Costume Party” was launched on the platform in October 2013 and it saw more than 22 million downloads within an hour.
Earlier this year, Kik upgraded their HTML5 vision and “ditched” Cards in favor of a built-in browser that makes the user experience more seamless. Some analysts have even called Kik’s browser a “super-charged mobile browser” because it enables cacheing and background downloading that makes web browsing on a phone a less frustrating experience.
Kik’s financials are not widely known, but analysts estimate that the company is focused on developing the product instead of a revenue stream right now. Whatever revenues they earn are generated through sales of stickers. But that is expected to change soon as Kik will be able to use their latest built-in browser to deliver customized and targeted ads.
Kik has been venture funded so far with $27.5 million received from investors including RRE Ventures, Spark Capital, Union Square Ventures, and Foundation Capital. Their last round of funding was held in April 2013 when they raised $19.5 million from their investors.
This segment is a part in the series : Mobile Messaging Apps