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Zero to a Million Users in 15 Days (kik.com)
126 points by bjonathan 2629 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 74 comments

Hi All,

Ted from Kik. Just wanted to jump in and answer a few questions:

On October 21, 2010 we launched a completely new service. The only thing that was the same between new Kik and old Kik was the name and the app store accounts. Users from the old system (about 55K active in the last week before the hard switch over) were notified that the new service was available and that the old one would soon be shut down. About 23K did get the upgrade, but almost all of them dropped it immediately due to losing all of their contacts from the old system, and the now lack of built in SMS texting. You can see this in the graphs - a brief peak, followed by a multi day flat line. I really apologize if this is misleading, it was not intentional.

The numbers. They are real. We can hardly believe it ourselves. The app is built to be incredibly viral (more on that later), but we never spam any of your contacts. All that happens is on registration, we do a quick one time, secure scan to let you know who on Kik you might know. That's it. Nothing is ever stored or shared, and nobody outside Kik will ever hear even a peep that you have joined Kik (unless, of course, you tell them, which a lot of people seem to be doing!) From there, people keep using it because they really like it. It is a bit hard to understand or explain (well, not as hard as Twitter I guess, but still) so it is probably best to just use the app for a bit. You will see why people like it.

We are moving as fast as possible to scale the servers, and add features. As noted below, we've been working on our vision for almost two years now, and this is just the first step. Expect some pretty cool things to come, and until then, thank you for letting us share in this incredible ride.


I have a quick suggestion for blog posts like this: don't assume that readers have any idea what it is you do. Take the opportunity in the first paragraph to describe what your product is and why people use it. That way, people coming to your post who aren't already users will be oriented immediately. They will, I suspect, also be more likely to use your product.

I concur. I spent 5 minutes reading through the site and I have zero idea what this Kik thing really is. If it's yet another closed service I'm expected to sign up for, no thanks.

oh I couldn't agree with this more

landing on blog posts where the template/sidebar etc. give you no idea about the service or even link to signup/homepage is so annoying yet so easy to fix

I hate having to edit off the end of the URL and going to just the domain to find out what the product is about

Why did you decide not to migrate the existing users?

That's where the real story is.

A small startup decided it couldn't scale what the users were offered in an earlier version so the natural decision was to pull the plug.

It's definitely impressive, but the numbers are still not "real" as is portrayed, just because accounts weren't carried over that doesn't mean old users didn't re-sign up based on the old product.

Anyway not trying to criticise this is incredible either way, but it's definitely different to going from 0 to 1m users.

Errr, going from 55k users to a million users inside of 15 days is still an impressive feat...

Which is why my comment includes:

this is incredible either way

I'm just saying there is a difference. 55,000 people instantly aware of your new product who used your old product is a massive boost compared to 0 people knowing about your product when you release it. Anyway this is a fruitless discussion, it's impressive, just different!

The article said “re-launch”, I don’t think that’s very misleading.

Its only misleading to the degree of 4 orders of magnitude

That's okay, right?

Just a quick FYI - once one goes to the blog (either the blog link or the "more info" on the homepage) many of the bottom nav ("Other Clicks") links do not work because they are relative paths (they all map to blog URLs).

Congratulations from a fellow AC'er. At this rate you guys will probably be moving out in the very near future. Really impressive stuff.

This story is completely mis-leading. They certainly had users before 15 days ago [1]. The product was developed in an incubator in the Winter 2009 class [2]. They have relaunched and revamped it, but to start from a clean slate and say you had zero users with no disclosure or information about your past makes this story blatantly false. It's a shame because it still would have been a good story without the reset.

[1] http://www.startupnorth.ca/2010/11/03/has-kik-finally-arrive...

[2] http://velocity.uwaterloo.ca/alumni/kik-at-blackberry-devcon

From what I understand, there is no connection between the old application and the new one. So it's not as misleading as you portray.

The application is actually just revamped as I understand it (based on the above review by Startup North); maybe in a major way but still based on a previous product. As Ted from Kik has responded below, they e-mailed nearly all of their 55K previous users, though very very few of them converted.

Their history deserves mentioning and is likely what put them in a position to be able to launch, market and scale effectively. The users may not be the same, but the strategies and the tactics used to get there are likely based on previous experiences as well as having some great people get them this far.

Obviously this community isn't the target of their post, but I would be even more interested in hearing the whole story: how they went from zero to 55K customers in 7 months, lost almost all of them, and then scaled it back up to a million users in two weeks

My girlfriend and I use Kik, for us it was a BBM alternative after I got an Android phone.

And we've been using it longer than 15 days, so to me the headline/graph is misleading. They just released a complete overhaul so they reached a million users on v2 of their software, but how many did v1 have?


quoting the blog post "We re-launched Kik Messenger 15 days ago with 0 users"

How much did you pay for the domain name? Afaik a 3 letters .com is really really expensive...

Wait, what? How did yet another instant messenger client get a million users in 2 weeks?

Bot-generated accounts?

I don't think so. Look how many people are talking about it on twitter: http://twitter.com/search?q=kik

I also know Ted and he's not the type to make up numbers for attention. Keep in mind that they've been working on some variation of this for over a year, so while they took off virally very quickly, it's not an "overnight success", it's a "hard work finally pays off" one.

I would suspect that as well or by counting relationships instead of actual accounts. Let's ask them: http://www.kik.com/blog/2010/11/zero-to-a-million-in-15-days...

I dont think so, my facebook feed is currently assaulted by friends asking and sharing their KIK ID (and none of them is a geek or an early adopter usually)

We passed 600,000 users around midnight yesterday, after launching the product from a user base of 0 two weeks ago today.

From Thursday, 3 days ago. I looked around the blog, it seems they "went viral" around November 1st. I also found a claim they're getting 3 new registrations per second. Very strange, but also fantastic if it's real!

I don't have any of these devices it supports, but I get the impression the cross compatibility is what caused the popularity.

When teens text thousands of times a week and texts cost $1000+/MB, are you surprised?

They only cost that much if you don't get an unlimited plan.

Wait, a site got to a million users without being featured on Techcrunch?

Ok so I just read every article I could find about these guys online - could somebody explain why a user would install kik over standard text messaging or IM?

There must be something to it, I just don't know what.

If it wasn't for the buzz, it is a product website I would just brush past without a second glance

Because it is essentially Blackberry Messenger for all smartphones.

Many people only use Blackberry because of the speed and D/R status of BBM regardless of how they feel about the device.

I'm not familiar with BBM , but it appears Kik works for Iphone, Android and Blackberry. The only significance I can see between using something like IM client, available on all these clients, is letting you know if message was read or not. Is there anything else, significant about BBM ?

thanks. Turns out one of the founders of Kik was working at RIM on messenger.

Congratulation to Kik. Great!

But I'm concern about this service and privacy. It uses same tactic as Buzz (which tactic I didn't like).

Here is my understanding - please correct me if I'm wrong:

First, Kik ties in a person's username with their email address. Kik then sorts through the person's addressbook to find potential friends. This is kinda privacy issue because a user may not want someone that is in their addressbook to know they have a Kik account. But other people (my stock broker, tax consultant) will because if they have your email address then they also have your Kik username without authorization or adding that person to your friends list.

Is there a way to disable the above approach - maybe to ask which people will see you on Kik?

Hey Guys,

Those are actually real accounts backed by unique emails. We haven't expected such a viral growth ourselves but.. we don't complain :) Other than complete lack of sleep due to the scaling needs.

Hence my question: are there any brilliant server developers looking for a job with Kik? :)

You should really define "server developer", otherwise you'll end-up with offers ranging from "bash scripting" through "rails backend developers" to "C developers".

remote OK?

Cool they did it. I was expecting an article on HOW they did it!

Build an awesome product that everyone wants?

Congrats to the Kik team!

When I first heard of Kik, I thought it to be somewhat repetitive. There are tons of apps just like it. But, the viral nature of the app sold me. The fact that contacts are automatically added allow me to use the app immediately.

The next steps for Kik are crucial. People are going to have a problem with being so accessible to people they don't know. The ability to block users might arise conflict with "Why did you block me on Kik?" I'm interested to see how they handle these issues. On top of that, they're adding image support, which I think is a pretty hefty dent on their servers.

Again, congrats on the growth, but good luck with keeping your users! As of right now, it took me a whole minute to send a Kik message out. I'm sticking to Blackberry Messenger for now, which by the way is an amazing client minus lack of cross-mobile platform availability.

A name is really important for a startup to take off.

Kik.com kicks ass, instead of 'socialmsgr.im'

My only advice to entrepreneurs is: pick a great name.

Delivering a great product is just mandatory.

Not really that a great product is mandatory, but simple, easy to pronounce names when combined with simple and easy to use apps usually equals success. It's also important that the name can be attributed to the people using the app (Kiksters, Tweeters, Googler etc), and the actions can come from the name as well (Kiks, Tweets, Google it). Also leave room for apps using your api (if you have one) to take advantage of your name, (Twitpic, etc). Combining all that when picking a name really helps.

My startup was in the same incubator space as Kik up until 3 weeks ago (we just moved out,) and it's really amazing to see these guys finally take off. They have some amazing stuff in the pipeline that's going to blow everyone away.

Funny thing is, they are literally across the hall from Enflick, which is another IM startup that's wildly successful.

Do you know what was their marketing plan to launch Kik?

I'm in another startup that moved out of the AC a few months ago. We've never really been sure what Kik does or what they're up to, but they always seem to have a lot of people in there working round the clock. Nice to see the fruits of it—and good for them.

One small request. On iphone signup, don't have the password field in visible text.

I actually wish password fields would ALWAYS be visible by default on all mobile apps.

You're not concerned about people looking over your shoulder?

I am pretty sure all the apps I have on my phone require login only once and never again. I'd just avoid to login that one time in a crowded place and the risk is gone.

Can really see why you'd use this, except for being able to see when somebody has read your message - which personally I hate because then people will be on my back wondering why I didn't reply right away. That's a reason I wouldn't use it.

I use a multi-protocol IM client on my phone, which has a constant link in the background to my GTalk, Windows Live Messenger, AIM, Skype, etc. - That way people can IM me any time from whatever platform they're currently on, whether it be computer, phone, browser, etc. But with Kik they have to be on a phone as well? That's really a step backwards, if they're sitting at their computer, logged into 5 separate IM clients already, and then have to pick up their phone to IM me. But it has obvious solutions.

It’s a big problem for me that there are no good multi-protocol IM apps for iOS. To say nothing of the general horridness of all single-protocoll IM apps (Sykpe excluded).

I could understand that a great IM app could have some draw.

meebo does multi-protocol, they support most protocols except for skype.

Firstly, this is awfully impressive. Kudos to the Kik team!

I'd love to know more here. Out of these 1,000,000 users, how many of these are actual activated users? After 15 days, what's the retention like? Where are all of these users coming from, and how does the origin of the user affect activation and retention?

One lesson that we've been learning the hard way is that it's one thing to acquire users, and it's another thing entirely to convert a new user into a long-term, engaged customer. I'd love to hear how Kik is approaching that, given their success in acquisition.

Do you keep a record of messages sent between accounts? Do you keep a record of the actual message content? If so, how long do you keep it for, and why?

I wonder why Ping or WhatsApp wasn't able to get this viral. The only viral feature I saw is when I installed it, it went through my contact list (I'm assuming) and found all my friends that already have it installed. Others were able to find me even though I didn't enter my phone number when signing up. Weird.

Have either of them published subscriber numbers or growth rates?

Having just read the book Influence by Cialdini, this strikes me as perfect use of the social proof principle, regardless of if the numbers are real of not. "Hey, this app has a million users, it must be pretty good".

Personally, I couldn't register. Keeps saying I have no network yet other apps work fine.

I'm impressed with the product and it's a great idea. But I find it hard to believe that privacy issues on social networks are so difficult to solve. Upon sign-up with Kik, your contact address list is mined and those contacts are then e-mailed. C'mon developers, I know the idea is to make it as easy as possible for monetization with advertisers later but how about putting some more effort into respecting my wishes not to get me into hot water with the real people I know.

You help me and I'll help you but leave it up to me to tell my friends about it.

I'm sure I read the following on HN just a few days ago talking about similar privacy concerns with social platforms:

"If your privacy practices aren't transparent, then you introduce doubt. Doubt leads to lower usage."

Can you please forward us an email one of your contacts received, and post it up here? We'd be interested to see what it says :)

One thing about social apps is that once your friends all are signed up to a new product and settled in there, there is no purpose for you alone to different be in a different app. You wont' have the social part in it. Kik, with it's whatever marketing seems to be got popular with many people and it might become defacto for them for near future. And it will get tough for everyone to move to an alternate app. As many of your friends start using Kik, you will start using Kik, Facebook/Twitter anyone?

I believe on the smart mobile apps area it works a little differently. I've seen apps like Fring, Tango, and Textplus.. all appear on the top of the apps market, and what appears to be significant downloads. I think in general people will download apps just for the sake of trying and use it, but apps that get any long term usage is far and few.

Great job guys. This one nails the point that if you make an awesome service, people _will_ flock to it. Who expected an IM service to become a verb so soon? (Reference: I am just reading few Twitter messages http://twitter.com/search?q=kik and they all typing in - 'kik, IM, DM or email me'). This is fantastic. Good luck!

I'm really afraid this type of user sign up is going to begin taking a hold of new apps on mobile devices.

It's one thing for me to receive emails from friends inviting me to try a new service they're using, but it's really intrusive to receive txts from kik telling me to sign up every time someone I know installs the app.

I got a txt from a friend about kik signup yesterday. Not sure if he knew that was sent or not.

My non-techie friend just replied. Here is exactly what he said:

"Free messaging between iPhone BB and android users, faster. Once everyone is on it we can reduce SMS plan. It is great."

So the kik guys have apparently done a great job messaging their benefits to users. ;)

Agreed. I am a little concerned that as soon as I signed up, it sent messages to everyone I might know. The key word being "might". I didn't know too many of their suggestions.

This is the kind of marketing strategy that turns me off to a service. Linked-in does it too. I get invite invitations from people that I am already linked with, but where they have another of my email addresses in their address book that is different than my Linked-in email.

How is this different or better than other instant messaging apps for smartphones?

I have the same question. It's not actually clear from the website what they are offering.

Who knows, since I'm curious I could perhaps download the app and make an account and then find out that it's not what I thought it was, but I would be counted as +1 users in this million... Wonder how many people did that.

On the App Store page Kik notes:

"This is just the start. The next step is adding free (legal) music sharing, and it will be sweet. Really sweet."

Curious. I guess they aren't happy with sticking to messaging and will keep adding social features.

I'm curious why the Kik team decided to create 3 mobile clients before a Windows or web client. Is Kik aimed at children and teens with parents that access their kids' online accounts?

My friends are pimping this on facebook hardcore right now. Non-tech people, especially. Strong work, ladies and gentlemen. I call it "crackberry for the iPhone."

How does this compare to whatsapp messenger? My wife spends half her life on it and it seems pretty identical.

Hmm, not sure. I hadn't heard of whatsapp before your comment.

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