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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Weekend Edition – At the Intersection of Words and Life plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

Live to Write - Write to Live

At the Intersection of Words and Life

A winter landscape that provided the perfect backdrop for my writerly reflection. A winter landscape that provided the perfect backdrop for my writerly reflection.

I’ve noticed a theme emerging in my last few weekend edition posts. For whatever reason – where I am in my own writing journey, the usual end-of-year reflections, the muted desperation that seems to pervade the news these days – I find myself wanting to better understand how this writing thing fits into my life. I want to explore the “why” as much as the “how” and the “what.”

I am not questioning whether or not I should write. No matter what happens, I will always write. It is too much a part of who I am and too deeply embedded in how I experience the world. I may as well lose my sense of sight or hearing as lose my ability to write. Putting words down is how I give…

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The Mexican Valley Of Startup Death

TechCrunch

Editor’s note:Jorge Rios is a Mexican entrepreneur based in San Francisco and co-founder of Bridgefy.

The startup universe revolves around Silicon Valley, but there is life on the other planets, too. Long has the entrepreneur community been used to the term “startup valley of death” and come to fear it. As most accelerators claim, once you make it out of the ditch, you’re on your way to fame and glory. But not in Mexico.

The Southern Neighbor Left Behind

Historically, Mexico has taken good advantage of its Northern neighbor: American university degrees are priceless, more than 10 million Mexicans live (legally or illegally) next door, and everything but all of Mexico’s international trade goes through, to or from the U.S. Nevertheless, Mexicans have much to learn regarding the current startup bubble; funds (both private and public) are scared of taking risks, most accelerators don’t really “marry” the businesses they take…

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Peering Into The Minds Of The 4.3 Billion Unconnected

TechCrunch

Editor’s note: Hassan Baig is an entrepreneur who runs ClubInternet, a “connecting the unconnected” startup.

In a recent column on TechCrunch, I wrote about the mental challenges faced by the world’s offline population of 4.3 billion when trying to use the Internet for the first time. After all, they’ve never experienced the Internet before, lacking what UX experts call a ‘mental model’ of how basic Internet services work or why to even use them. In this post, I’ll shed more light on what sort of mental models are missing, so that the world’s foremost thinkers can come up with the best strategies to fix them.

Missing Mental Models

In the bid to research possible answers to this question, my team and I have been conducting usability tests with the unconnected/newly connected. We’re aided in these endeavors by a highly resourceful South Asian tech incubator, Plan 9, and the usability team of a local mobile network operator, so readers can safely assume a very high level of standardization and quality control behind each of these tests. Below are a few insights gleaned from our findings.

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Clime Stickers Are Up For Pre-Order, Will Tell You (And Baby) If It’s Cold Outside

TechCrunch

I first covered Clime a few months ago when they were little more than 3D-printed nubbins. Now these nubbins have brains.

Essentially they are tiny indoor/outdoor thermometers. You can put them anywhere and then check your mobile device for the temperature. You may have something similar in your home – they used to called them weather thermometers – but older systems are far less responsive and far less compact.

The creators are running a crowdfunding effort right now and they’re looking to raise $50,000.

Created by Bart Zimny and Andrzej Pawlikowski, these things are essentially rubber-clad transmitters. As I wrote before, you drop them anywhere you want to sense – a windowsill or empty room or spooky basement – and the sensors do the rest. The goal is to create a cheap home automation system with these sensors at the base.

Eventually the pair plans to add more features including…

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A Digital Healthcare Argument For Net Neutrality

TechCrunch

Editor’s note:Matthew Douglass is co-founder and VP of platform at Practice Fusion.

The federal agency regulating communications is at a crossroads in establishing the rules of the road for how the Internet operates. Many commentators are rightfully concerned that the FCC could adopt rules that will give cable and phone companies the opportunity to discriminate against website providers and/or content, which would potentially put some sites in a paid fast lane and leave other sites in a slow lane.

This possibility has prompted massive public backlash: A record 3.7 million comments to the agency including the views of hundreds of top investors, leading technology companies, churches and civil society groups. Even President Obama joined the conversation, asking that the FCC implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality.

To ensure a future of American digital healthcare progress and startup innovation, an open and unbiased Internet is necessary. Patients, doctors…

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The Social Psychology Of The Naked Selfie

TechCrunch

Editor’s Note: Sean Young, PhD, MS, is the executive director of the UCLA Center for Digital Behavior and a Medical School Professor in the UCLA Department of Family Medicine.

If you’re building a tech product that has anything to do with photos then you’re probably feeling an uncomfortable sense of déjà vu lately, and it has to do with data security.

It had become so routine that throughout the fall it was hard to imagine a Monday without hearing about another set of iCloud photos that been hacked during the weekend.

And these aren’t just typical pictures of the girl down the street or the guy next door.

Apple/iCloud products were at risk for getting hacked, but they aren’t the only ones. So was Snapchat, and probably all other major sites hosting photos. Scandals have been popping up again and again around hacked photos, especially nude ones. So, why do we keep seeing these scandals? There…

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