Mobile Messaging Startup Kik Raises $8M; Launches Group Chat And Photo Sharing

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Mobile messaging startup Kik Interactive has raised $8 million in Series A funding from RRE Ventures, Spark Capital, and Union Square Ventures. Kik also announced that Union Square Ventures’ Fred Wilson and RRE Ventures’ Adam Ludwin are joining the company’s Board of Directors.

Launched in October 2010, Kik Messenger is an uber-speedy mobile messaging app. It’s similar to BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), except that it works across smartphone platforms. Once downloaded, the app will scan your address book, and tell you which of your friends have downloaded Kik. You can start chatting with these friends, and like BBM, the messages are updated in real-time. You can also see if and when a contact has read your message. You can send friends an invitation containing the install link via text, tweet or email and Kik will also suggest users to you.

In its first 15 days open to the public, Kik Messenger saw viral growth, gaining more than one million users. But the startup stirred up a bit of controversy last November when RIM pulled Kik’s app from BlackBerry World (Kik launched with iOS, Android and BlackBerry apps). According to RIM, Kik “breached contractual obligations.” It was thought that Kik’s use of the address book could have been a concern (which was also a concern for iOS terms, but that seems to be fine). To add fuel to the fire, RIM sued Kik for patent infringement.

Kik has also released a new version of Kik Messenger today for iOS and Android devices
that features real-time group chat for up to ten people. And Kik Messenger’s new picture sharing features allows users to share what they’re seeing on the fly.

As new board member and investor Fred Wilson says, “Kik is a fast, simple, and elegant solution to cross device mobile messaging which we think is one of the most exciting investment opportunities right now…We believe the Kik team has shown that they
understand how to deliver the right set of features in the right package…”

Kik now has 3.41 million users, so it seems to be growing steadily (though perhaps not as quickly as it was at launch). It’s important to note that Kik faces competition from a number similar mobile chat apps, including Beluga (which was just acquired by Facebook), HighNote, and PingChat.