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Tencent sends a $50 million direct message to Kik

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Tencent, the company behind China’s most popular messaging app WeChat, has invested $50 million in Kik, which is among the more popular messaging apps in the U.S. and Canada.

The move is an effort to enter the burgeoning North American market, which has been slower to adopt messaging apps, says Julie Ask of Forrester Research.

“This is just a giant chessboard that about 10 global players are trying to fill in,” Ask says.

WeChat has about 400 million active users in China. It has become a platform for a wide variety of transactions, from online games, to e-commerce and mobile payments. It also connects users with brands to bring in advertising dollars. 

“The thing we’re thinking about now is what you can build on top of chat,”  Kik’s founder, Ted Livingston, said earlier this year at a public forum at the University of Waterloo in Canada.  “And really what we’re looking at as a model for that is what’s happening in China with WeChat.”

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