Messaging app Kik just raised $50 million to become the newest member of tech's billion-dollar unicorn club

Kik founder ceo Ted Livingston

Flickr/kris krüg

Ted Livingston, right, is Kik's founder and CEO

Canadian messaging app Kik just announced that it's raised $50 million from Tencent, "China's largest internet company."

The funding raise values the company at $1 billion, meaning it's now in the "unicorn" club of private tech companies with a valuation of at least $1 billion. To date, there are more than 120 "unicorn" companies.

Kik's messaging app has long been popular among teens in Canada and the US, and the app differs from most other messaging apps by providing an ecosystem of games and services within the Kik app itself, which have helped boost engagement as people can find something else to do without leaving the app.
Kik has seen incredible growth since its launch in 2010, and the app now has 240 million users messaging each other and exploring the apps-within-an-app ecosystem.

One of Kik's biggest competitors outside of the US has been WeChat, which features the same apps-within-an-app ecosystem, and has also largely dominated the Chinese messaging app space.

Interestingly enough, Kik's $50 million raise comes from the Chinese parent company of WeChat - Tencent - which now means that Kik won't be rushing to expand into China, leaving that market to WeChat while pursuing a "partnership" that allows the two apps to share resources and data.

"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," Kik founder and CEO Ted Livingston wrote on Medium. "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."

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