Newspaper article International New York Times

U.S. Operation Gets Help in Bid to Be a New WeChat ; Kik Raises $50 Million from Chinese Service's Parent Company, Tencent

Newspaper article International New York Times

U.S. Operation Gets Help in Bid to Be a New WeChat ; Kik Raises $50 Million from Chinese Service's Parent Company, Tencent

Article excerpt

A major Western messaging service bids to become the next big Internet force.

Kik has long aspired to become the Western world's equivalent of WeChat, the hugely popular Chinese messaging app that lets users book taxis, send payments -- and also talk with their friends.

Now Kik has secured an investment from WeChat's parent company.

The service announced on Tuesday that it had collected $50 million in new capital from Tencent, the Chinese Internet giant that created WeChat four years ago.

The investment values Kik at $1 billion.

"We said we wanted to be the WeChat of the West," Ted Livingston, Kik's founder and chief executive, said in an interview. "To have WeChat come in and say, 'Yep, we think you can do it,' is very satisfying."

The move is the latest by a major Western messaging service in the hopes of growing to become the next big Internet force. Companies like Kik, Viber and Tango have sought to ride the wave of popularity that propelled WhatsApp to a $21.8 billion sale to Facebook and buoyed the valuation of Snapchat to $15 billion.

Among those messaging apps, Kik has been the most vocal about becoming the kind of Internet hub that WeChat has evolved into in China. Founded in January 2011, WeChat now lets users send image- laden messages, play games and buy plane tickets.

To Mr. Livingston, that has meant, in part, catching younger users. Kik now claims that 40 percent of American teenagers use its app, and that 70 percent of its 240 million registered users are between 13 and 24 years old. …

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