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PRIVATE KEY

Kik was the first social media company to offer a cryptocurrency—but now the SEC has questions

Ted Livingston, CEO of Kik, wanted to beat Facebook to crypto
Reuters/Brendan McDermid
On a crypto Kik.
  • Matthew De Silva
By Matthew De Silva

Tech reporter

Kik is a free messaging platform, available on iOS and Android. It surged to popularity among teenagers—and child predators—during the early 2010s, but growth has since stalled, purportedly at around 15 million users. CEO Ted Livingston may have obliquely revised that number downward when he said that the platform has “millions” of monthly active users, in an interview last year.

While Kik is nowhere near the size of its ostensible competitor Facebook (which boasts 2.3 billion users), the company tried to distinguish itself with a crypto strategy to gain users and seize control of the digital economy, including stickers and custom emojis. However, Kik’s hasty approach—slapped together during ICO mania—could prove its undoing.

Kik raised almost $100 million in 2017 to develop its own cryptocurrency, called Kin. But because of the way it raised funds, made promises, and distributed digital tokens to investors, Kik has drawn scrutiny from the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The stock market regulator believes Kik’s ICO constituted an unregistered securities offering, Livingston told the Wall Street Journal in January. The agency has not disclosed whether it’s authorized litigation against Kik, and Livingston did not respond to requests for comment.

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