The next WeChat is hiding in Canada and eyeing the U.S.

Gigaom

Waterloo, Ontario is a quiet sort of suburban college town, far removed from the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley. Although it’s positioned in Canada’s Tech Triangle, it’s not the sort of place you’d expect America’s next social media powerhouse to come from.

That is both the promise and the challenge of Kik, a messaging app built by Waterloo students in 2009. As a chatting app launched early amid a relatively quiet app landscape, Kik saw an initial explosion of viral adoption, albeit through slightly spammy techniques, and has been growing ever since.

Now, four years since its launch, Kik is positioning itself as America’s version of WeChat, the messaging behemoth of China. It believes it has the right product (text messaging, the old-fashioned kind) and the right audience (almost half of U.S. youth) to become a proper mobile first platform.

If it succeeds, it stands…

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