Kik raises $19.5M to continue waging its messaging war

Kik Interactive, the over-the-top communications startup that makes the popular Kik Messenger app, has raised a $19.5 million Series B funding round, led by new investor Foundation Capital, and added Foundation partner Anamitra Banerji to its board. Benarji was Twitter’s 30th employee and first product manager, so he knows a bit about building disruptive communications apps.

Kik has been on a bit of a tear recently. After a year of inaction in the increasingly cutthroat market for OTT messaging apps, in November Kik launched a new update called Cards, which introduced HTML5-based mini-apps into its service and took advantage of its growing network of users. Since then Kik’s rate of growth has doubled from 100,000 to 200,000 new installs per day and its total customer base has grown from 30 million to 50 million registered users, the company said. Those customers have downloaded about 25 million of the card mini-apps, Kik said.

Banerji said the added functionality evolves Kik from just another OTT text upstart to a social communications platform. “There are similarities between Kik and Twitter when it comes to growth, engagement and vision,” Banerji said in a statement.

Based in Waterloo, Canada, the company is in a very crowded market where multiple dozens of competing messaging apps vie to lure consumers away from SMS into their private their networks. WhatsApp is the undisputed king of those apps, but there are numerous others, ranging from Pinger to Vibe to TextMe, all offering a slightly different set of communications features to distinguish themselves.

Kik raised an $8 million round in 2011 from Union Square Ventures, RRE Ventures and Spark Capital. All three of those investors participated in its Series B.