Toronto’s 50 Most Influential: #20, Ted Livingston
20 Unless you’re in high school, you’ve probably never heard of Kik. The short version: it’s yet another way to use your smartphone to send text messages, images and videos to your friends. And it’s worth a fortune. In August, the Chinese Internet megacorp Tencent invested $50 million (U.S.) in the Waterloo-based app-maker, reportedly boosting Kik’s valuation to $1 billion. Livingston, the company’s 28-year-old founder, attended the University of Waterloo and once worked for RIM. He suddenly finds himself in the upper echelons of the mobile start-up world—a position from which he can buoy Ontario’s tech sector as he works to catch up to better-established mobile-chat rivals like WhatsApp and Snapchat. The new alliance will give Kik a useful connection to WeChat, Tencent’s own messaging app, which the company says has more than 600 million active users, mostly in Asia. Kik is already capitalizing on the new momentum. In May, it opened a Los Angeles office dedicated to expanding the app into a platform for new kinds of chat-enabled web services.
Figuring out how to make money without charging users. Allowing third-party merchants to create e-commerce storefronts within Kik may be the answer.