Why We Took $50 Million from China’s Largest Internet Company

Today we’re announcing that Tencent, maker of WeChat (Weixin), has invested $50 million in our company, Kik.

This process started a year ago, when our board asked us if a partnership with a large company might give us an advantage in winning the chat race. At first I was hesitant. I was confident we could win the race alone. But, keeping in line with Kik’s principle of considering all the options, I eventually agreed to take a look.

I made a list of every major company we could partner with. Some were tech companies, some were content companies. Some were in the U.S., some were in Asia. Then, beside each company, I wrote two hypothetical stories with imagined outcomes about what we accomplished together in the first year, in both dream and nightmare scenarios. From these stories, I extracted a list of pros and cons and used them to prioritize the options.

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.

“We believe chat will be the simplest way to connect with the world around you”

At Kik, we believe chat will be the simplest way to connect with the world around you. Chat is already the simplest and most frequent way we connect with our friends and family. It can be both synchronous and asynchronous, and it’s always with us. What if that simplicity could be applied to other things we want to connect with?

That’s what we saw in China.

Want to get a soda from a vending machine? You can use WeChat to scan the machine to start chatting and get the menu sent to you instantly. Then you can select the item, agree to pay through the app, and get your drink.

Want to print a picture? Scan the printer to start chatting, send it a picture, and the picture comes out.

Want 10 percent off a T-shirt? Scan the checkout to start chatting, complete a survey, and get the coupon sent to you.

There’s nothing new to download, nothing new to learn, and nothing new to remember. Just scan, then chat. The chat app became a magic wand that empowered you to seamlessly interact with the world around you.

That has always been our vision. But Tencent had already made it real.

When we met the Tencent team in China, it became clear that we had a shared vision. We agreed that someone would do in the West what WeChat was doing in China. The only question was who. We both believe it could be Kik.

Today, there are only five other companies in the world that see the future like we do: Tencent, Line, Facebook, Snapchat, and Telegram. One of them owns the largest internet market in the world. We couldn’t be more excited to partner with them as we run this race.

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