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NuFi > 2018 > August

Missed the rest of the series? Check out “Part #1” “Part #2“, “Part #3” and “Part #4

When I first started this series critique number 5 was “The Kin team hasn’t done anything since the ICO.” A lot has happened since then, including the launch of the Kinit app, and so we’ve heard less and less of this critique over time.

Instead, a new negative narrative has surfaced that we’re going to combat, one that I call “the two blockchain problem.”

It seems whenever Kin related news gets shared around cryptocurrency communities we consistently hear:

Kin can’t decide which blockchain they’re on.

Kin keeps flip-flopping on blockchains.

There are two subtle points that people are misinterpreting here, that we should clear up.

Critique #1 – “Kin Can’t Decide Which Blockchain They’re On!”

At first, when I heard users complaining about this decision, I thought it was in reference to the migration from the Ethereum blockchain to the Stellar blockchain, and then to their own Kin blockchain. However, after taking the time to have in-depth discussions with these users, I’ve realized instead they are (surprisingly) upset that Kin is a token that lives on two blockchains.

While cross-chain projects like ChainLink and Bitcoin-to-Ethereum Atomic Swaps have been celebrated, people seem to think that Kin’s chain-duality is a negative, rather than a positive.

The Case for Two Blockchains

Ethereum Scaling

When Kin first launched, they were focused on the Ethereum blockchain, as most new ICOs and blockchain projects from 2017/18 were.

At the time, Ethereum was yet to face some of the platform’s worst scaling challenges, such as the CryptoKitties craze, and the upper bounds of Ethereum’s transactions-per-second capacity had been mostly untested.

Shortly after Kin’s launch, the Ethereum network was hammered by the launch of CryptoKitties. Seeing how few transactions were needed to clog the Ethereum network, Kin realized that they could not possibly implement their project on Ethereum blockchain in the short term.

They even went as far as to calculate what would happen if Kin were to ‘airdrop’ a little bit of Kin to each Kik user, and realized that if they did this, they would take down the Ethereum network for days.

Rock and a Hard Place

At this point the Kin Foundation knew they had to explore other options, including their own blockchain.

The challenge became that moving to your own blockchain means:

  • Losing out on existing Ethereum infrastructure like web wallets, hardware wallets and decentralized exchanges.
  • Exchanges have less incentive to list your coin, as they now have to run a node of your blockchain rather than just add a smart contract token.
  • Increased overhead, as you now need to create your own software wallets and node tools.
  • Decreased security at the initial launch of the network, as you lose access to Ethereum’s global network of validators.
  • Decreased liquidity for investors, as they can no longer easily move tokens within the Ethereum network.

We’ve seen examples of these challenges faced by other popular projects. Consider RavenCoin, a mine-able community token that launched around the same time as Kin. They’ve faced a tremendous uphill battle with their token, and even though they have a large and highly involved community, they are only listed on a few small unknown markets, have a market cap of only $39M and get less than $600k/day in daily turn over. Beyond that, a significant portion of the developer’s time is spent upgrading and maintaining software wallets, which takes away resources from their main vision.

The Decision

The Kin Foundation, realizing that they didn’t want to put their users in that position, decided to do something new. They decided that they would continue to explore other blockchains while still keeping the Kin token available on the Ethereum network, so that users could take advantage of the existing ecosystem for liquidity.

While this introduced significant confusion, especially in messaging surrounding “KIN1” and “KIN2” (Read: “What the heck are KIN1 and KIN2?“)

Critique #1 – Conclusion & TL;DR

Kin isn’t split between blockchains, and they don’t have two tokens. The Kin Foundation is focused on building the Kin Blockchain, a highly-customized fork of the Stellar blockchain that supports 0-fee transactions and high-rate TPS.

Since Kin knew that moving to their own blockchain might result in reduced liquidity for token holders, they allowed Kin to remain active on the Ethereum blockchain for trading.

Kin is not building tools to support the Kin token being used on the Ethereum blockchain. Their tools are focused on the Kin blockchain, and users will be able to move their tokens over via Atomic Swaps.

Critique #2 – “Kin Keeps Flip-Flopping on Blockchains!”

In recent years, especially in political-spheres, changing your mind has been demonized with the word “flip-flopping.”

Before we get to the Kin Foundation specifically, let’s first clear this up.

  • “Flip-Flopping” is changing your answer to a question, or your position on an issue without substance (or without meaning), primarily to take advantage of a current benefit. (i.e. lying to a crowd for votes).
  • Changing your mind is what happens when you learn new information that disproves your previous position. It is not flip-flopping, it is not bad, it is actually the most healthy thing to do when presented with new information. (In startups this is often called a “pivot.”)

To that end, the Kin Foundation has never once “flip-flopped” on which blockchain they are going to use. Instead, they’ve learned new information as time went on and changed their minds.

Leaving Ethereum

As we mentioned earlier, Kin’s decision to leave Ethereum was based on challenges around scalability.

The inability for the Ethereum blockchain to scale to the level that Kin needed for integration into their own Kik app, let alone into multiple enterprise partner apps, meant that they simply couldn’t complete their vision on the Ethereum blockchain.

While Ethereum is rapidly moving towards scaling solutions, even optimistic estimates put these as being implemented sometime in 2020, which would delay Kin’s timeline far too long.

This initially lead to Kin exploring Stellar.

Aside: Ethereum Vs Kin

It’s worth noting, that many have argued that if Ethereum won’t have scaling before 2020 then there is no way Kin will be able to create their own blockchain that will have scale.

The important distinction here is that Ethereum is trying to create a scaling system on a live blockchain, while managing a number of existing features, none of which were designed for this scaling system.

Kin, on the other hand is trying to implement scaling by building a blockchain of their own, and only having the features they want/need within it. They are two very different products, with different challenges.

Leaving Stellar

After leaving the Ethereum blockchain, the Kin Foundation began to explore Stellar’s blockchain as an alternative, due to its focus on high scalability and low cost fees. Stellar achieves those goals by using a more efficient consensus model and removing the overhead of a “Turing Complete” smart contract language, like Ethereum has.

While Stellar proved to be advantageous from an underlying technology perspective, it introduced a unique set of challenges in terms of user experience.

To create a new wallet on Stellar, a user must first fund the wallet with at least 1 Lumen (Stellar – XLM), and whenever they send a transaction the user must burn 100 Stroops (0.0000001 of a Lumen).

This meant that in order to use Kin, users would first need to purchase and load their wallets with Stellar, and make sure they have a balance of Stellar in their wallet at all times in order to make transactions.

Since most users would be using Kin via third-party apps, they wouldn’t be aware of background processes like this, and certainly wouldn’t be familiar with how to use exchanges to purchase Stellar and load it into their wallet.

This would drastically increase either the financial load on developers (requiring them to spend around $0.50 for each new account activation) or increase the education friction on new users. Either of these options would ultimately lead to less adoption in the Kin ecosystem.

This finally led the Kin team to decide they needed to pursue their own blockchain.

The Kin Blockchain

Kin obviously wanted to avoid making their own blockchain to start, as building a blockchain from the ground up is a tremendous cost and comes with its own headaches.

But, given that no other blockchain technology was ready to perform at the scale they needed without sacrificing user experience, the Kin team pivoted and decided to build their own based on a fork of Stellar.

Building their own blockchain comes with a lot of advantages. It will allow them to create the exact infrastructure that they and their partners need without worrying about third-party developers and other complications.

It also means that Kin has the potential to expand beyond their initial ambitions and offer other features in the future including smart contract support (like we learned in their recent Engineering AMA).

Critique #2 – Conclusion & TL;DR

Kin didn’t flip-flop. They learned new information, and pivoted in response.

They had to do this twice. It wasn’t their initial plan to build their own blockchain, but, now they are doubling-down on that, and this brings a lot of benefits.

They aren’t going to be changing their blockchain again.

A Final Note

There has been a lot of fuss about Kin’s journey with multiple different blockchains, especially in the messaging around KIN1 and KIN2. The fact that the Kin Foundation is a blockchain company that is willing to change course when learning new information is a good thing.

Adaptation is key to success in startups. Far too many blockchain projects seem to worry that admitting you were wrong is a point of weakness, and so they cling blindly to their statements. In the end, that will be the downfall for a number of these companies.

If there is one thing Kik has proven they are good at, it is evolving to stay in the fight. For the last decade they’ve had to continually evolve to stay relevant, and that’s something that’s foreign to most blockchain startups.

I personally believe that Kin should go all in on their new blockchain, building it first as a platform for themselves, then supporting other projects that want to live within the ecosystem, because Kik is one of the few companies with the expertise to help deliver on a project at this scale.

Whatever lays ahead for the Kin blockchain, I think it’s clear that their decision to change blockchains was the right choice for them and that many of the critics who disliked that choice were kind of like baseball fans refusing to cheer for anyone other than the home team.

There is a lot that Kin hasn’t done right to date, but, the project has an incredible potential and has shown they have the ability to bring real partners into the fold and help make crypto adoption mainstream – and in the end, that’s why we had to examine “What Critics Fail to Understand about Kin.”

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Missed the rest of the series? Check out “Part #1” “Part #2” and “Part #3

In their July 17th article covering the launch of the Kinit beta app on Android, CCN author Jake Sylvestre wrote that during his interview with Kin’s VP of Communications, Rod McLeod, he had concerns over the existence of a business model for Kinit.

After explaining Rod’s point of view on bolstering a decentralized ecosystem, Jake wrote:

Despite the app’s claims of a decentralized business model, I’m still convinced [sic] that this app will be profitable when it launches out of beta.

(Although it is clear from the rest of the article that he meant to say he is “NOT” convinced)

The first thing I have to concede here is that is quote is 100% accurate. Kinit is not a profitable app in beta, and there is a very good chance that it won’t be a profitable app when it is out of beta.

But, even asking the question of “Is Kinit profitable?” shows that there is something that CCN fundamentally missed.

Before we can discuss that specifically, we have to be firmly on the same page on what Kin is and what the Kin Foundation’s goals are.

What is Kin?

Kin, as a cryptocurrency, hopes to be the digital currency exchange on the internet for non-physical goods. It will initially distribute via the Kin Rewards Engine (KRE), rewarding content creators and network participants for the value they add to the digital ecosystem.

In this regard, Kin is fundamentally just like the US dollar, except its aim is to be used for digital products in apps and on the web.

Right now, Kin is run by Kik, the company that created it. But, the long term goal is to pass control of Kin over to the non-profit “Kin Foundation.” Kik will still be an ecosystem partner like any other developer, but, the currency, blockchain and strategic roadmap will be managed by the Kin Foundation.

This distinction is fundamental to the long term health of the ecosystem. Kik has the goal of being a profitable growing startup. Their best interests may not always be the best interests for Kin (although they’ve tried to align themselves by holding a stake of Kin and vesting it over 60 years.)

What’s the goal of the Kin Foundation?

Simply put, the goal of the Kin Foundation is “to make Kin the most used cryptocurrency in the world.

If Kin is the equivalent of the US dollar, then the Kin Foundation is kind of like the US Federal Reserve Bank. (Cue rage from crypto hard-knocks who hate federal monetary policy)

In the US monetary system, the Federal Reserve isn’t tasked with making a profit. Instead, the Federal Reserve aims to help set monetary policy, manage economic challenges of the currency, and manage the circulation and supply of the US dollar.

The Kin Foundation is responsible for adoption, development and maintenance of the Kin blockchain and the Kin Ecosystem.

As a non-profit, they aren’t looking to create a profit producing venture. Instead, their actions only need to be either self-sustaining, or even performed at a revenue loss for a short period of time if it helps the over all health of the ecosystem.

Why is this the Kin Foundation’s focus? At the end of the day, a currency is only as valuable as its use cases. If no one adopts Kin, then Kin has no value.

What Problem does Kinit Solve?

Kin is a radically new concept. With a few pillars:

    1. Reward users for value added behavior.
    2. Let users redeem their value either in my app, or in the offers ecosystem.
    3. As a developer, be rewarded by the KRE for the amount of value I create by bringing new users and transactions into the ecosystem.

This is very different from the setup that most developers know today. It isn’t about driving users to IAP purchases, subscriptions or ads, and it isn’t about thinking about monetization in terms of your own app in isolation. Instead you have to think about how to create value, retain users, and retain them within not just your app, but the larger ecosystem.

Couple that with the fact these are tokens on a blockchain, and a lot of app developers are left scratching their heads as to how this all works. That’s where Kinit comes in.

The Goal of Kinit

In previous live AMA’s with Kin founder Ted Livingston, Kinit has always been touted as “an example integration for the Kin Ecosystem.

The goal of Kinit is not to make money on the price difference between their ad earnings and the cost of gift cards. In fact, Kin has stated that they are *drastically* subsidizing the cost of the gift cards in the Kinit app.

The goal of Kinit is to show an example integration of Kin within an application, test the network, and get approval by large publishing partners like Apple.

With that in place, it is much easier for the Kin Foundation team to go to other partners and say “Hey, look. This is the kind of stuff you can build with Kin, and we know it works and we know Apple will approve it.

Kinit is an example, a demo that the Kin Foundation is happy to spend money on because it makes the onboarding to the ecosystem easier.

Kik and the Kin Foundation hold reserves in Kin, and so their vested interest isn’t in making short term revenue off of the Kinit app. Their goals are focused on making sure many developers and users adopt Kin, which has a compounding effect on the value of the Kin they hold.

Will Kinit Disappear One Day?

With Kinit being noted as a “sample” application it may seem almost inevitable that one day, once the ecosystem is more robust, that the Kin team would remove Kinit from the app stores.

However, it’s clear that Kinit has a much larger role to play long term.

In a decentralized ecosystem, one of the largest challenges is what we call the “identity layer”. Any time I open up an app that uses Kin it would have the choice of doing one of two things:

  1. Creating me a new wallet that is disconnected from all my other wallets and Kin.
  2. Finding someway to verify my identity and use a main Kin wallet without me sharing my private key.

#1 is obviously a no-go as it creates a terrible user experience. But, #2 is a challenging problem, and it’s one we continue to face on the internet, where we each have hundreds of accounts with various websites and no real central identity.

The most successful “identity layer” we’ve seen previously is the “Login with Facebook” button that Facebook strategically used to dominate the internet. Since users had a Facebook profile and were often already logged into Facebook it created an easier way to manage centralized identity.

Kin has closely watched Facebook over the years, and has always commented on how their tactic is to “copy & crush” their opponents. But, it seems like when it comes to the identity layer problem, Kin is likely to take a lesson from the pages of Facebook and create a “Login with Kin”/”Login with Kinit” for apps.

This would allow users to use Kinit as a centralized wallet to securely hold their funds for use in different applications, as well as to manage their identity across multiple applications without having to trust third-parties.

This smart play reduces the “sign-up funnel friction” in ecosystem apps, and creates a visibility loop. If users need to download Kinit to connect their apps for multiple wallets, then these apps will drive lots of downloads to Kinit. Kinit in turn becomes a top downloaded app on both app stores, and within, Kinit promotes apps in the ecosystem that use Kin. Driving these downloads to the apps that use Kin would cause them to become top downloaded apps as well, which are discovered by new users, who now need to download Kinit and thus the loop continues.

So What is the Business Model?

Kinit does have a business model. It’s not one of making profit margin off of their top line revenue, but instead, creating an example to onboard ecosystem partners and a viral adoption loop to rapidly grow the user base of the Kin ecosystem.

And that is far more valuable than $0.10 surveys.

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Missed the rest of the series? Check out “Part #1” and “Part #2” 

In the previous two posts in this series, we’ve been primarily focused on the strategy the Kik team has around Kin and Kinit. But, we’ve not yet talked about something far more important — you!

One of the most important aspects of any startup or product is the community, the investors, the customers — the people who make a piece of code something more.

In his July 18th articleJohn Biggs of TechCrunch addressed the launch of Kinit and closed his article with the following line:

“While the KinIt app is probably not what most Kin holders wanted to see, it’s at least an interim solution while the team builds out sturdier systems.”

I’m not sure how many Kin holders John spoke with to reach his conclusion, but, being the data driven man that I am, I decided to do my own research.

Methodology

The following survey results are comprised of answers from a sample of 179 Kin users and community members.

The users were sourced from Reddit, the Kin Telegram, my blog followers, and other direct outreach.

Various demographics questions were added in to ensure there was no biasing towards one group (i.e. Android users, or US users, etc.)

Statistical Accuracy

While 179 users may not seem representative, statistical significance depends on the rate of answers in each individual question. 179 users is not enough to confidently say “A is better than B” if the votes are 51% vs 49%, but it is enough to confidently say “A is better than B” if the votes are 99% vs 1%.

For sake of transparency though, let’s do our high level sample size and confidence interval validations.

The general confidence interval calculation is that for 50,000 people (rough number of Kin wallets in existence), and an 80% confidence will produce a margin of error of ±5% with a sample size >164 users.

The formula is below for anyone who feels the need to double check the math.

Sample size equation where N = population. e = Margin of error (decimal notation) and z = z-score.

What this means is, if we had asked a Yes/No question to our 179 users and the answer “Yes” had 10% of the votes, we could expect that if we polled all 50,000 people then we’re predicting there is an 80% chance “Yes” would get somewhere between 5% — 15% of the vote, and “No” would get somewhere between 85% — 95% of the vote.

Since the variance is so great, we can be confident that “No” was an overwhelmingly more popular choice even though we only polled a few individuals because the results were so strongly in favor of one of the options.


Our Kin Survey Results

Without further ado, let’s get into what the Kin community really thinks about Kin, Kinit, and even the Kik team.

How Confident Are Users In Their Purchase of Kin?

Right off the bat, let’s look at the general high-level sentiment and dispel this idea that Kin holders are overall unhappy with Kin.

In our survey 86.03% of respondents said they were “Extremely Confident” or “Very Confident” in their decision to have purchased Kin, with another 11.17% weighing in at “Somewhat Confident.”

This leaves the dissenting votes at 2.79% who are not confident in their decision to make a purchase, and remember that is 2.79% ± 5% margin of error.

Confidence Among Legitimate Users

But, the question above had an issue.

Not everyone has yet had a chance to experience the integrations in Kik or Kinit and so their mileage may vary.

Later on, I asked a bit of a sneaky question about if and how users had used Kinit. This allowed us to filter responses so we could take into account users who might be using Kinit on an emulator device (therefore prone to more bugs), or Apple/Non-US users who may be unhappy that they aren’t involved in the beta.

If we ask the same question again, only to users who have downloaded and used the Kinit app on their own US Android device, the numbers are even stronger.

Now a total of 90.63% of users have responded as being “Extremely Confident” or “Very Confident” in their decision to purchase Kin.

So not only, in general, are users happy with Kinit, but, simply getting to experience and use the Kinit app improves the confidence users have in the project.

That already dispels the idea that users are disappointed in Kinit, but, we’ve got so much more data. Why stop now?

Kinit is Useable

One of the biggest pain points with DApps right now is that they are complicated, clunky, hard to use and prone to issues like network congestion. A lot of the Kin community is aware of this, as they’ve shown they’re avid users of DApps.

While there are very few blockchain or DApp products on the market, more than one third of Kin’s users have used another DApp in the past.

Where this becomes important is the follow up question:

Take a moment to drink that in. 91.67% of respondents said that Kinit, is the first commercial product they’ve used that is easy enough for them to share with friends and family.

Kinit is a great example of bringing a blockchain to the consumer market and crossing the chasm by creating a simple and obvious use case.

Quick-Fire Round

There is a lot more data here to be shared, and I could continue to do another 5-post series on it all if I keep going long-form. Instead, let’s speed it up with some quick-fire takeaways:

  • 69.17% of respondents said that “compared to other blockchain teams” they felt Kik developed the Kinit product “Extremely Quickly” or “Somewhat Quickly” and only 13.34% of users felt it was “Somewhat Slow” or “Extremely Slow.”
  • When asked “Based on the goals of Kin, how well do you feel Kinit’s beta represents a good first example of Kin use cases?” 86.67% of users thought that Kinit was an “Excellent” or “Good” first example of Kin use cases.
  • Based on the user interface” 90.83% of respondents feel that Kin is “extremely easy to use.”
  • 95.83% of users rate themselves as “satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” with the overall design and aesthetic of Kinit.
  • 78.57% of users rate themselves as “satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” at the rate of which the Kik team has developed.
  • 80.35% of users rate themselves as “satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” at the professionalism, involvement and work from the Kin Ambassador team.

Room to Grow

I wouldn’t be doing the survey justice if I only shared the good feedback that was received — the good news is that the bad news isn’t all that bad. But, there are a few consistent areas that the community indicated that Kin has room to grow. These concerns came up in multiple choice questions, and in the open answer feedback section.

These included:

  • Users felt that more quality assurance testing could have gone into the Kinit app. The biggest feedback here was with typos. 15% of users were dissatisfied here, but, many more mentioned this as a reason for shifting from “Satisfied” to “Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied” on this question.
  • Users had a lot to say about communications. They’ve expressed feeling “left in the dark”, “being confused by mixed messages from community managers”, and struggling with information being shared such as “understanding KIN1 vs KIN2” and how that is unclear for users.
  • The most common critique however was combating spam in Telegram.

Overall

While there are a few things that the community wants to see improved, it’s abundantly clear that:

  • The Kin Community feels that the Kik team is moving at a good pace.
  • The Kin Community is happy with the production quality of Kinit overall.
  • The Kin Community is satisfied that Kinit represents a great early example of the potential of Kin.
  • And, that Kinit is exactly “what most Kin holders wanted to see.

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In my last post “What Critics Fail to Understand About Kin — Part #1” we addressed the concern that “Kik isn’t marketing the Kinit app.

The next critique that we’ve seen a lot in the community is that “Kik is planning to only market the Kin ecosystem to developers and that’s a bad idea!” and the reply to this one is fairly short and sweet.

People are arguing that it is bad to market to developers because they are a smaller group, a slower growth curve and don’t represent a mainstream audience (remember last time when we talked about “Crossing the Chasm”?)

The general consensus from this group is that Kik should just spend large chunks of their money on marketing, and, by “marketing” they actually mean “paid digital media promoting Kinit to consumers.

Here is the issue:

Kin is a platform, not a product.

When the Kik team talks about advertising Kin to developers, we need to make a distinction. Kin is really two things:

  • The Kin Blockchain
  • The Kin Token(s)

Kin, the blockchain, is a platform and not a product. There is nothing that consumers can do with it. Nada.

Right now, the Kinit app is the only standalone product on the Kin blockchain, and its primary goal is to be a proof-of-concept and help beta test the blockchain.

The long term goal, however, is to build on the blockchain’s ecosystem so that Kin can be the most used digital currency in the world.

Think of the Kin Blockchain like a music stadium.

It’s this large, useful space filled with potential.

Kin, the tokens, are like tickets to enter into the stadium and take part in events.

That’s great, but, it’s important to remember we don’t sell tickets to empty stadiums.

Unless you are a band, performance show or a booking agent no one will ever advertise an arena or stadium to you. Because, until it is booked by a performer, there is nothing you as a consumer can do with it — except go in and walk around a big empty building….Yay?

Right now, people really want Kin to start selling tickets to consumers. Because, in our world there are a limited number of tickets, and so as tickets start getting bought, the existing ones go up in price.

The Kik team however is focused on booking great acts for our stadium. Let’s face it, if Aerosmith was playing in your local arena, the tickets would be sold out pretty quick.

That’s why Kin recently launched their $3M developer bounty program for apps that integrate Kin, and why they’ve been pursuing partnerships with brands like Unity who help to put the Kin ecosystem into the hands of millions of developers worldwide.

Finally, Kin has been strategically marketing to developers in their own natural habitat (Stackoverflow.)

The Kin team is focused on filling this stadium with tons of great acts.

So don’t worry, soon the tickets will sell themselves.

Ready for the rest of the series? Read “What Critics Fail to Understand About Kin – Part #3

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Want to discuss this post? Check out the discussion on the NuFi forums!


One thing that we try to avoid at NuFi is wild and unfounded speculation. Instead, our wild speculation is mildly founded with rough interweb sleuthing. While most of the community has been on a fervorous hunt for bread-crumbs that they believe are evidence that Evan Spiegel (CEO of Snapchat) is the new board member, we here at NuFi decided to do some digging and come up with some other potential (long-shots) of who we’d really like it to be.

Here’s what we know:

  1. Ted mentioned that they’ve begun working with a new board member.
  2. Ted mentioned that the board member is an “independent.” (Not an employee of Kik.)
  3. Ted (et al.) have used gender neutral language when referring to this individual.
  4. The developer contest was decided upon with the help of an un-announced Kin executive. We believe it’s likely this is the same person.
  5. If Kin is hiding their identity it’s likely they are influential.
  6. If they are also working as an executive and a board member, it’s most likely someone who isn’t working at another company currently.

Here are some ideal candidates we picked out that we like, but, it’s probably not them:

#1 – Jan Koum

Who: Jan Koum is one of the co-founders of the popular chat app “WhatsApp” which sold to Facebook for $19B. Why it might be them: Jan is notably anti-Facebook and has apparently left Facebook in a “rest and vest” style. Leaving him open to other projects. Why it would be great if it IS them: Jan knows how to grow a kick-ass chat app. Why it probably isn’t them: He’s got a fair bit of money, and is likely still on non-competes from Facebook. It’s unclear what value Kin would offer him, and if he wants to deal with the chat space again.

#2 – Eric Ries

Who: Eric Ries is the founder of IMVU, The Long-Term Stock Exchange and the author of “The Lean Startup.” Why it might be them: IMVU is a Kin partner putting it on Eric’s radar and with projects like the LTSE, Eric has shown his commitment to disrupting economic oligarchies. Why it would be great if it IS them: Eric is a master of the concepts of lean and MVP. Having been a student in Steve Blanks’ entrepreneurship class he knows how to lead tight and effective product teams. Why it probably isn’t them: He’s already got two projects under his belt including the LTSE which he seems to be focused on full time.

#3 – Marissa Mayer

Who: Marissa Mayer is the former CEO of Yahoo, and former COO of Google. Why it might be them: Marissa Mayer left Yahoo during its sale last year to star a project called “Lumi Labs” focused on consumer facing products and working with startups. Lumi is Finnish for snow. In 2015, Ted Livingston registered a trademark for Snowball Labs, based out of the Kik building. The trademark was later abandoned in 2017. Coincidence? Yes, entirely! Why it would be great if it IS them: Marissa Mayer is a master of running a tight ship. Her operational knack helped Google grow to be the empire it is today, and helped turn around Yahoo. She has an eye for excellence and takes no prisoners on the journey there. Why it probably isn’t them: In her time at Yahoo, her salary was roughly $900,000/week, and her exit package from the Yahoo sale was another $260 million. Marissa can work on any project that takes her fancy, and to her a project like Kik is probably fairly small potatoes. #4 – Gagan Biyani Who: Gagan Biyani is the founder of Sprig, Co-Founder of Udemy, Former Head of Marketing for Lyft, and founder of the Growth Hackers Conference. Why it might be them: Gagan currently isn’t leading any projects, and seems to be focused on investing. He’s linked indirectly to Ted/Kik via a mutual investor (Justin Waldron of Zynga fame). Why it would be great if it IS them: Gagan would bring with him great connections to multiple startups, as well as some strong marketing and growth prowess which would help Kin grow to the next level. Why it probably isn’t them: When Gagan shut down Sprig in July of 2017, he updated his LinkedIn profile to note that he is taking time off to travel and learn. It’s unclear if he is ready to dive back into the professional world yet. #5 – Alexis Ohanian Who: Alexis Ohanian is the founder of Reddit and author of “Without Their Permission.” Why it might be them: Alexis was pro-cryptocurrency early on, and even explored a Reddit based cryptocurrency called “RedditNotes.” Recently, Reddit noted they are retiring the Gold program and replacing it with Reddit Coins. Why it would be great if it IS them: Reddit…. Why it probably isn’t them: Reddit…. – it’s a bit of a handful to run. He likely doesn’t have the time to think about other projects. #6 – Ev Williams: Who: Co-Founder of Twitter and Founder of Medium. Why it might be them: No longer active at Medium and exploring other projects. Why it would be great if it IS them: Ev brings strong experience in managing peer-to-peer social communities. Why it probably isn’t them: Ev as a knack for starting his own thing. He may not be interested in joining other people’s existing projects. #7 – Naval Ravikant: Who: Co-Founder of AngelList, Co-Founder of CoinList, Prolific investor. Why it might be them: He seems to have taken a step back from the day-to-day at AngelList and CoinList, and is probably the only person in the world that might be as deeply involved in crypto as Fred Wilson. Why it would be great if it IS them: He knows (and has invested in) most major startups in the last decade, Naval is the best way to open any door in the valley. Why it probably isn’t them: We believe the new board member is also a full-time exec at Kik. That doesn’t seem likely to be Naval as he tends to move quick and be involved in lots of projects at the same time. #8 – Matt Mullenweg: Who: Founder of Automattic (WordPress) Why it might be them: Matt’s long been interested in cryptocurrency and added crypto address listings to Gravatar early on. They’ve also been extensively interested in new ways to monetize hosted WordPress.com blogs as the team has had trouble launching a successful WordAds network. Why it would be great if it IS them: WordPress powers more than 30% of the internet, and is at the core of great content creation. Why it probably isn’t them: WordPress powers more than 30% of the internet, and it’s just one of the many products at Automattic, it’s a handful and it’s not clear that it’s something Matt is ready to step away from. #9 – Thomas Hartwig: Who: Founder of King.com Why it might be them: King.com is the undisputed leader in cross-platform games. But, the game monetization industry is getting hard and harder due to the walled-gardens of Apple, Facebook and Google. Kin is the perfect fit in solving this. Why it would be great if it IS them: Thomas Hartwig is lord of cross-platform games, with hundreds of millions of users world-wide using King.com built games, there may not be a greater adoption play. Why it probably isn’t them: Even though game monetization is a tough business, King.com is historically quite good at it and may not be yet feeling the pressure to change their tactics. #10 – Marco Arment: Who: Co-Founder of Tumblr, Instapaper and Overcast. Influential app developer and podcaster. Why it might be them: Marco hasn’t been active in a major project recently, but, he has a deep interest in content creation, mobile applications, monetization and content discovery. A number of his posts on marco.org seem to echo sentiments of Kin’s philosophy. Why it would be great if it IS them: Marco is influential in the developer space and could really help drive adoption among app developers. But, perhaps more importantly, Marco has deep relationships with a number of major content discovery platforms and understands the nuances of the publishing space. Why it probably isn’t them: Marco is quite self-sufficient living off of marco.org and his Overcast app. It seems he has really found his passion and is living the good live. Pretty hard to give that up. [adace-ad id=”2530″] #11 – Brian Wong: Who: Brian Wong is the Founder of Kiip, a rewards platform that works with major brands. Why it might be them: Canadian entrepreneur in the rewards space. Why it would be great if it IS them: Brian Wong is not only an incredible entrepreneur who knows how to move quickly, but, he also has deep connections to top marketing executives at major brands and millions of users to bring to the table. The fit would be mutually beneficial both for Kin and Kiip. Why it probably isn’t them: Unlike a number of other companies, Kiip isn’t hurting. In fact it’s thriving. It doesn’t really have any need to do anything different. While it may make a calculated risk to grow to the next level, it’s a bit of a harder sell. #12 – Led Rivingston: Who: Led Rivingston is the secret clone of Kik CEO Ted Livingston. Why it might be them: 2% secret sauce much? Why it would be great if it IS them: A powerful army of Ted Livingstons can descend on the blockchain world, being in all places at once and securing every partnership. Why it probably isn’t them: I can’t think of any good reason!

Who do we actually think it is?

While we don’t think it will be an entrepreneur who is quite at this level we think it’s important for us to not get too stuck on any single individual. The goal of this article was to show there are hundreds, if not thousands, of great candidates who even if they aren’t the most well known mega-successful entrepreneurs, they still have unique skill sets to bring to the table that can help take Kin to the next level.

Who didn’t make it on to this list but was on our radar?

Tobias Lute (Shopify) Tom Anderson (Myspace) Jeff Atwood (Stackoverflow, Discourse) Rich Barton (Expedia, Zillow, Glassdoor – now Benchmark Ventures, on the board of Netflix) Matt Barrie (Freelancer.com) Nathan Blecharczyk (AirBnB) Sergey Brin David Byttow (Secret) Garrett Camp (StumbleUpon, Uber – Canadian) Charlie Cheever (Quora) Dennis Crowley (Foursquare and Dodgeball) Roger Dicky (Gigster and key engineer at Zynga) Jack Dorsey (Square, Twitter, Speaker at Consensus in 2018) Scott Farquhar (Atlasssian) David Filo (Yahoo) Janus Friis (Skype, KaZaA, Radio) Logan Green (Lyft) Garrett Gruener (Ask.com) Reed Hastings (Netflix) Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn) Ryan Holmes (Hootsuite) Dave Hyatt (Safari, WebKit, Firefox) Brendan Eich (Firefox, Javascript, Brave BAT) Michael Jones (Myspace, Science Inc, Science blockchain) Justin Kan (Justin.tv Twitch.tv, Y Combinator) Max Levchin (Paypal – awards a prize in cryptography) Dustin Moskovitz (Facebook, Asana) Aswhin Navin (BitTorrent) Pierre Omidyar (Ebay and First Look Media) Sean Parker (Napster, Facebook, Spotify) James Altucher (Reset Inc, Hedgefund Manager, StockPickr, Bitcoin investor, recently aiming to found a bitcoin exchange) Mark Pincus (Zynga) Sebastian Thrun (Udacity) Justin Waldron (Zynga, Investor in Kik) Tom Preston-Werner (Gravatar, Github) – Resigned from Github Noah Kagan (Sumo.com, AppSumo) Kevin Lin – Cofounder COO Twitch Andrew D’Souza (Founder of Clearbanc, moved from TO to SF, advisor to Kik, previously at Top Hat) David King (Green Patch, Blibby)  Mich Kaufman (Fixer) Raj Kapoor (Lyft exec) Lynda Ting (Venture/M&A exec, broad experience, connected in crypto) Neil Shah (Exec at Twitter/Slack) Thomas Hatwrig (King.com) Daren Tsui (Imvu) Brian Armstrong (Coinbase) Fred Wilson (USV) Moe Adam (Bitaccess) Michael Kitchen (Wealthsimple) Michele Romano (Clearbanc, Buytopia, Snap Saves) Sam Teller (SpaceX, Tesla, and like tons of other stuff) Glad Gil (growth exec and investor) Adam Ludwig (chain.com) Brian Acton (WhatsApp and Signal) Evan Spiegel (Snapchat)
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