Written by Andrew Seale
Ted Livingston’s been looking for a way out. Not just for Kik Interactive – the company behind the messenger app he started nearly a decade ago as a fresh-faced University of Waterloo grad – but for all developers everywhere.
Because they’ve needed something to unite them, to liberate them, app developers and companies like Kik, from the clutches of monetization through advertising revenue. Because he’s tired of being copied and crushed by Facebook, repeatedly.
“We’ve needed a way out,” says Livingston, one of Waterloo’s most renowned entrepreneurs. “Despite raising $50 million at a $1 billion valuation the question was always how are you going to make money and we couldn't because we didn't have the data or the scale that Facebook did.”
But this time around with Kin, the company’s cryptocurrency, Livingston is hoping to create an imitable legacy. “Once again, Facebook will copy us, but for the first time ever it won't be as easy to crush us,” he says. “Why? (Because) we’ve invented a monetization model and a platform that gets developers to compete and win as one.”
Last September, Kik raised nearly $100 million through an Initial Coin Offering – a type of crowdfunding using cryptocurrencies – of Kin, its in-app currency. This past July, the Kin Foundation, the company's non-profit tasked with overseeing Kin, announced the Kin Developer Program. The program will incentivize up to 25 developers with nearly US$3 million worth of fiat currency and Kin, as well as software development kits and mentorship as they move through a three-phase program towards building apps and platforms that integrate Kin.
“Our goal is to be the most used cryptocurrency in the world and the dominant cryptocurrency of consumer apps,” says Livingston.
It’s a bold decision, sure, but then again, Livingston’s made a career out of bold decisions, most of which seem to follow a general theme: elevating himself by elevating the ecosystem around him. After securing US$8 million in venture capital financing in 2011 (Livingston was 23), the entrepreneur donated $1 million to Velocity – University of Waterloo's entrepreneur-focused residence. He’s also judged at several pitch competitions and mentored countless entrepreneurs in the community.
“When I look at Silicon Valley, all the giants there are looking for ways to win by themselves but for Kik, we've always looked for ways to win together,” he says. “I'm extremely long Waterloo, I love Toronto as well.”
He says the cities have special meaning to him, a new excitement he’s feeling after spending a lot of time building Kin in Israel and the U.S. It was a necessary detour, says Livingston, a new business model that would help him and other app developers compete.
“We've done that now (and that) enables us in Toronto and Waterloo to get back to the task of building Kik,” he says. “Kin is a tool, an amazing long-term vision tool and an amazing model for developers to work together to win but it is, at the end of the day, a tool – what I'm excited about is using Kik to show the world how to use something like Kin to build a way better consumer experience.”
Photo Credit: Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycam.com)