If there were any doubts about whether Kik would be able to attract investors to its initial coin offering (ICO), it’s safe to say they have been put to rest.
In an announcement yesterday, the mobile messaging app provider revealed it has already raised $50 million from investors to launch its new “kin” token, and that it intends to raise a further $75 million in a public token distribution to be held in September.
It’s a landmark for the nascent industry, one that finds a mainstream brand with millions of users backing a nascent funding mechanism that has been equally praised and parodied.
And while critics of ICOs, and Kik’s particular plan, will remain, investors believe the kin token will boost the value of the company, and they’re putting millions of dollars up to back the idea.
In this light, prospective investors might be wondering, how, exactly, does Kik plan to monetize its platform using the new token?
CoinDesk spoke to Tanner Philp, a manager of special initiatives at Kik, to get a better sense of how the company plans to reach its goal of making kin into a successful, general-purpose cryptocurrency.
When asked for specifics, Philp gave perhaps a surprising answer:
“One of the areas of immediate opportunity is the over 100,000 bot developers, who have created over 180,000 bots. Those bots could be anything from entertainment to content creation to games.”
Send in the bots
Bots are essentially automated chat robots that allow users to engage in natural-language conversation with AI that perform specific tasks, such as getting a weather forecast or ordering a pizza.
These high-tech tools are often seen as having great potential to deliver targeted advertising to users, especially in the younger demographics, which dominate Kik’s user base.
As an example, the firm cites an internal case study using a bot built on its platform in cooperation with Paramount Pictures. The bot was designed to promote the release of a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie prior to its release, and it delivered a total of 147.5 million impressions and averaged 60 messages exchanged, according to information provided by Kik.
In the future, Kik foresees such activities being further boost through the use of a cryptocurrency that can incentivize both bot creation and user interaction.
But its plans for monetization don’t stop with bots: Kik’s next step is even more ambitious.
A planned economic incentive mechanism called the Kin Rewards Engine will have the goal of enabling any consumer application to financially reward end-user actions on the Kik platform.
Kik told CoinDesk that functionality such as the ability to pay someone in kin to watch a livestream or to reward end-users for hosting content would be possible. Or as Philp succinctly phrased it: “We view successful integrations of kin to be two-sided marketplaces where users can earn and spend.”
Likewise, Ryan Zurrer, principal at Polychain Capital, is bullish on his investment in Kik for different reasons.
In Polychain’s view, cryptocurrency-powered social media is going to be a very important use case for blockchain technology – and Zurrer believes Kik stands to capitalize on it by bringing a large cohort of young users to the tech for the first time.
He added that Kik has more than 80 engineers in their Ontario, Canada, offices, and that its large pool of technical talent has the ability to push the entire ecosystem forward.
That talent will be crucial, according to Zurrer, because the ethereum blockchain itself – on which the kin token is based – has not yet reached the level of scalability required to handle the transaction throughput that the Kik ecosystem would imply. These inherent limitations mean that the kin team is going to need to develop the core functionality that will push the platform forward, he said.
Finally, he said, Kik has a highly talented executive team that knows how to manage technically challenging products while growing an organization.
Zurrer summed up Polychain’s confidence in Kik saying:
“For the first time, we have a project that checks all the boxes: compelling value proposition for users, deep technical skills and a strong management structure.”
Similarly, Dan Morehead, founder and CEO of Pantera Capital, summed up his confidence in Kik, calling it the first “real company” to tokenize their business model.
“It will be a fascinating moment to see a venture-based company converting into a token-based company,” he said.
Morehead added that Kik ran an in-app virtual currency, which was known as Kik Points, for three years, so the company already has experience with similar technology.
Joey Krug, Pantera’s co-chief investment officer, added some interesting distinctions about what his company believes makes kin such a valuable currency.
“Our core thesis is that we don’t like transaction tokens that are rent seeking – meaning tokens that insert themselves as middle men and collect fees. Kin is a new incentive model,” he said.
Kik, Krug argued, is creating a model around a token ecosystem where the developer or content creator has the capacity to get paid in kin for the intellectual property that they create on the network.
As Krug said:
“If you’re a developer, and your application becomes popular, you’re going to capture some of that value. The same goes for user generated content. If you create a post or an image that goes viral you can receive some of that value back in the form of the kin token.”
On the other hand, it is important to note that no less august a social media network than Facebook once tried – and famously failed – to build a user system that incentivized user interactions through a long-deceased program called Facebook Credits.
Still, if investor comments are any indication, Kik won’t be a case of history repeated.