Investment Round is our weekly update on which firms have secured new funding, which areas are seeing the most financing, and who is putting up the cash that enables these companies to keep pushing the capabilities of mobile marketing further.
Chat App Kik Announces Plans for $125m Initial Coin Offering
Messaging app Kik has revealed new plans for fundraising that will centre on a cryptocurrency Initial Coin Offering (ICO) worth $125m (£96m). The ICO was first hinted at in May, but the firm has now confirmed it will take place on 12 September. Investors can register to buy the ‘Kin’ crypto tokens at Kik’s website using their passport or social security details and an Ethereum wallet address.
Kik has already successfully raised $50m on the ICO with a presale round of purchases by select accredited investors including Blockchain Capital, Pantera Capital and Polychain Capital. Kin will be integrated into the Kik app as the primary transaction currency for users, which the firm is hoping will kickstart adoption and lead to user engagement through the Kin Rewards Engine.
“We’re one step closer to launching Kin and integrating it into Kik, which will be the first mainstream adoption of cryptocurrency,” said Ted Livingstone, founder and CEO of Kik Interactive. “Kin will fuel new experiences in communications, information, and commerce inside of Kik, and will also serve as a foundation for a new decentralised ecosystem of digital services, bringing a fair and sustainable business model to the market.”
“Kik is by far the largest consumer company to enter the cryptocurrency space, and this is a seminal moment for the industry,” said Ryan Zurrer, principal and venture partner at leading cryptocurrency hedge fund Polychain Capital. “We have been impressed with Kik’s thoughtful approach to the creation and distribution of Kin, and have confidence that the team will execute their vision of creating a decentralised ecosystem of digital services through Kin.”
PwC Australia Invests in Two-month-old Agency
Thinkerbell, a brand and ideas agency founded two months ago by former executives from Cummins & Partners has had a minority investment from PwC Australia. The firm was officially launched in June 2017 by Adam Ferrier, former chief strategy director at Cummins & Partners, along with former executive creatives Ben Couzens and Jim Ingram.
The investment is a significant endorsement for the agency, which has already announced its first client in the form of 13Cabs, the consumer facing brand of Cabcharge. Couzens called the investment “proof of how attractive our proposition is; combining the magic of creativity and the rigour of data led insights. Jim, Adam and I are stoked to be able to use this investment as a catalyst to build a great agency.”
“It is fantastic to have an interest in one of the most exciting creative startups in the mark,” said Russel Howcroft, chief creative officer of PwC Australia. “It’s a great fit because Jim, Adam and Ben are absolutely aligned with our belief in how strategic marketing and powerful ideas can drive growth. We took a minority interest in Thinkerbell because we wanted to give the founders the space to create the culture and build the team that they want. You don’t have to own creativity in order to access it – we’re excited about the potential of this investment.”
AI Startup Appier Raises $33m in Series C Funding
SoftBank Group, Line Corp and Naver are among the investors lining up to fund Appier, a Taiwanese startup that helps companies strengthen their marketing strategy using artificial intelligence. The new investors join firms including Sequoia Capital, UOB Venture Management and MediaTek Ventures, and bring the company’s total funding so far to $82m.
Appier plans to use the investment to hire new team members, particularly in engineering and research and development, as it looks to grow its global presence beyond the APAC region. Some of the capital will also go toward expanding its product portfolio and enhancing its functionality beyond its existing Programmatic Platform and AI-driven Aixon analytics tools.
“Our goal is to provide various enterprise solutions, for a range of business challenges,” said Chih-Han Yu, co-founder and CEO of Appier. “We’ve already developed a solution in the marketing space, and one in the data intelligence space, and now we plan to enlarge. For this round, our investors include some of the most visionary internet companies in the world. Also, they are Asia-focused and going global – just like us.”
ReverbNation Spin-off Adwerx Gets $4.3m Investment
Adwerx is a real-estate focused advertising and retargeting network which span off from music management firm ReverbNation in 2014. Now, the company is looking to expand beyond its real estate focus, and has raised $4.3m in funding to do so.
The funding round was led by Grotech Ventures, with participation from Bull City Venture Partners and Alerion Ventures, and the company hopes to use the cash injection to fuel its expansion into verticals like automotive, dental practices, home services, law offices and more. It has already begun to offer its services to verticals like insurance and mortgages, which align closely to its existing strengths.
The company currently works with over 50,000 real estate agents and other small businesses, and has recently launched an enterprise program for working with large agencies, bringing in several new clients. Combined with Adwerx’s initial $1.25m funding during its spinoff, the new round brings the firm’s total funding to $5.55m.