Video Of The Week: Chat, Bots, and Kik

Ted Livingston, founder and CEO of our portfolio company Kik, did an interview last week at Disrupt in which he talked about the chat market, bots, and Kik’s role in all of that.


Comments (Archived):

  1. JimHirshfield

    Second question interviewer asked: “what’s your valuation?”…

    1. jason wright

      in recent years England (especially the south where this interviewer sounds like he comes from) has become this sad little island where people are obsessed with such thoughts.

    2. LE

      Cleavage always gets attention. [1]Ted knows how to work it. On the kik “about” page it says the following regarding their investors. I assume this is to give potential employees confidence in the company:To top it all off, we’re backed by major brand-name VC’s – the same firms that first helped Twitter, Foursquare, Zynga and others rise to world domination [1] The top hit in google image search for that term is a picture of Sarah Silverman.

  2. Mario Cantin

    It’s fascinating to see the next phase of the internet play out in real time. We often hear “I wish I was there at the time to see it”. Well, we are here for this one. It’s up to anyone to write a piece of the future.

    1. markslater

      Web >>> Mobile >>> messaging. thats whats happening. functionality is being built in to messaging as it was in web (websites), and in mobile (apps).

  3. jason wright

    advertising and earning points – really? what about a blockchain solution with micro payments?is Ted Canadian?

    1. Guy Lepage


    2. JimHirshfield

      That wouldn’t change the user experience for the better for a 14 year old.

      1. jason wright

        just direct the average 14 year old to 21 BC’s upcoming android and iOS apps.

    3. LE

      Just listen to the way he says “out” for the answer.

      1. markslater

        KIK is a great group. we are working with them and they get both the positives and challenges of the market. Their API is ahead of others by a mile.

      2. jason wright

        i always go by “about”, which is much the same as “out”. they also seem slightly more humble.

  4. Guy Lepage

    Interesting concept that message apps are the browser and bots are websites. I strongly beg to differ. Let’s not forget that most people are visual. I personally feel that these chat apps would need to become a ‘core’ component of the os in order to offer the visual UX that users need in order for these apps to succeed as browsers long-term. There are other technologies out there that could come along and eat up the bot market. I feel a lot of people are going to lose money in what I call “The Great Bot Rush”.

    1. pointsnfigures

      I found that to be the most interesting part of the interview-as he said, “It’s early days”. No one can accurately predict the outcome and when that is the environment, you are correct a lot of money will be lost. But, that’s how the investing game is played.

      1. Guy Lepage

        This is true that it’s early days and I’m not saying that the bit ecosystem won’t thrive. What I am saying is that there are other technologies that could evolve faster than the bot ecosystem’s ability to re-teach users to have stronger verbal memory than visual memory. As a user I would have to remember everything I can do without visual paths and cues. Then once that is figured out, os eco-systems such as iOS will be able to see the writing on the wall. They will pose another challenge.

        1. markslater

          the money will be lost in companies that are trying to build stand alone bots. the users are already in the messaging platforms and the game is therace to add functionality within those dominant platforms – NOT stand alone apps that face user acquisition challenges….cool functionality (bots) will be built on the APIs of the messaging guys – not as stand alone apps imo.

    2. markslater

      Guy – the pre-condition here is that messaging is measured daily VS web monthly.Users are using messaging apps for hours a day – this is where they are.that said, we have a country mile to go in terms of UX / UI within the wrapper.

  5. pointsnfigures

    Interesting their focus on teens. Makes strategic sense since early bots are bare bones, and teens are nimble enough to react to them. But there is going to be a huge market with baby boom generation and bots dedicated to servicing their needs as they age.

    1. awaldstein

      example please

      1. pointsnfigures

        I don’t have examples of exact products that are public yet. But, look at demographics and Kik’s strategy on focusing younger makes sense. There are two huge bubbles in population throughout society. One is the baby boomers which we all know about-and the millennials which we all know about. They have different needs, and react to tech very differently. Bots/AI etc for boomers will have to be effortless. Younger people can react, so technology doesn’t have to be as advanced

        1. awaldstein

          what bot doing anything will make your life better is what i’m asking.not disagreeing but I think it is often too easy to generalize on generations.similar to my issue to your statement awhile back that older people embrace virtual connections when indeed the antidote for aging and loneliness is getting more face to face not the opposite.

          1. pointsnfigures

            We have Roomba, but what if there were bots that could do more? I remember in 1995-96, was talking to physicists from Fermilab. They basically said, “If you can dream it we can build it. Or, someday soon we will have the technology to build it.” Let me reverse the question. If @SixgillBlog:disqus could design his own personal bot and program it to do anything, what would it look like?

          2. awaldstein

            easy.the truths of my life are as follows:-life is 20 years longer, make them in the middle.-days are too short, years shorter, take away al the shit that wastes my time,so give me something that gives me-better info on nutrition, health, wellness, exercise and less bullshit-better access and coordination between medical services-the eradication of ageism and the redefinition of relevance in a complete changed world that is behind its awareness of itself.i don’t know that a bot is in any of those answers.

          3. pointsnfigures

            -you are going to live longer than 2036. Family history and medical tech will change the game. Bots will assist you in tasks. An electric can opener was an early bot.-yes agree, but sometimes its the shit that turns into gold.-yup; use AI/VR to help me make choices -YES. Holistic health is a phrase but not anywhere near close to happening and all the regulation makes it much harder or impossible-Not possible. I think this is just part of the human condition. Creating more empathy though is possible.I see bots doing part of this for sure.

          4. awaldstein

            we need to define bot then as i’m off the reservation on this.what you are talking about as a bot to me is a programmable datatype.maybe that’s the disconnect.

          5. cavepainting

            Bots are really headless apps in a conversational messaging interface. Unlike apps, they do not need to be downloaded, and use a common set of shared services (like identity, delivery address, payment methods etc.) that reduce friction for the user.The use cases above are pretty hard to do and interpreting user intent and engaging like a human being is one of the toughest problems in technology. At the moment, bots work better for simple use cases that are one button or a finite number of sequential steps.

          6. awaldstein

            a terrific definition.there are similarities to some work i’m doing with programmable proximity datasets.

          7. markslater

            and are great with the codes.

          8. Lawrence Brass

            nice definition.larry slaps cavepainting with a large trout.

          9. cavepainting

            Thanks to you, I learnt about slapping with trouts today. Sounds like it is a tradition going back to the IRC days.

          10. Lawrence Brass

            When I hear about chat, chat groups or bots the first thing that comes to my mind is IRC. Bots were created to manage IRC channels, to implement games than run on the messaging interface, to experiment with primitive conversational AI, etc. Anyone working on bots or chat systems should take a look at IRC, and not just for historical reasons. There is a lot of use cases and “prior art” in IRC that a good patent lawyer can use to defend against patent trolls going after startups’ and indirectly VCs capital.BTW, IRC is not dead, in fact it is quite alive.…I liked your article at Medium.

          11. markslater

            Arnold – ignore the word – its ridiculous.What “bots” really are a combo IA/API calls within a messaging wrapper…..sure they might learn, and IA might become AI over time – but none of this should be ground breaking….the hype on BOTS is ridiculous.Providing cool functionality (programmatic) in a messaging wrapper is all this stuff is

          12. awaldstein

            language i can understand–thanks!

          13. markslater

            talking with a computer (AI/API) in messaging VS a person is another simplier way too!

          14. Richard

            Smart List

          15. kidmercury

            imagine you’re on a nutrition discussion board and people are debating whether or not they should put avocados in smoothies. imagine this board has some healthbot that has all sorts of the midst of your conversation with another forum member, you can call the healthbot and ask for nutritional stats on avocados. maybe even local prices, recommended brands, etc.bots are glorified API calls at the moment, nothing really new. but still very potentially valuable, especially if they can nail natural language processing.

          16. awaldstein

            terrific.we should mandate that no one can speak or write unless they can imagine and articulate a forward looking use case.

          17. markslater

            BOTs are API calls kid for sure.We are very active in bots on multiple platforms as we are a local transaction API>I hate the word BOTS. Its completely not new and is truly a fuzzy Intelligent assistant / API call thats all.BOTS is simply the “shingle” people are using to create hype and vapor.

          18. Anne Libby

            -the eradication of ageism and the redefinition of relevance in a complete changed world that is behind its awareness of itself.Arnold, I’d love to see more from you on this.

          19. awaldstein

            It’s a developing thought and all this crap about aging populations and technology is less important that the core fact that the greatest changeagent of our times is the redefinition of the workforce itself and its its obvious upside and huge challenges/

      2. Richard

        Kid: I’m hungry bot: here’s a free order of fries at McDonald’sKids: I’m boredBot: mr jones down the street needs his yard mowed. You can earn $10

        1. awaldstein

          zero interest to me personally.these aren’t bots. this is readjusted adtech and there are a zillion ways to program this just using proximity data as a trigger.what’s a bot got to do with this?

          1. Richard

            The way I see it a bot on a messaging platform is a really smart web browser.

          2. LE

            Well for one thing the user has initiated the response by saying something that is broad rather than specific. [1] This is similar in a way why google ads work when they work vs. general display ads (whatever that concept is I can’t think of the name). . Or for that matter why the yellow pages was so effective for developed categories. I see this as a bit different than doing a search or proximity data.[1] Also that lack of specificity (in Rich’s examples) allows the bot to get multiple tries at offering a solution or something acceptable in a fun way (adding perhaps even humor). For example in example one the Kid could say “not healthy” and the bot could make another suggestion (maybe even a joke first to keep engagement). In example two the kid could say “not enough money” and the bot could negotiate and say “what about $15 dollar!!?” (singular intentional).

          3. William Mougayar

            It sounds more about a new interface than a real bot. But maybe it starts that way and evolves.

        2. LE

          Kids: I’m boredBot: mr jones down the street needs his yard mowed. You can earn $10Good examples actually.

  6. LE

    This was interesting. I don’t know much about kik other than when Fred has mentioned it (and the fact that he uses it with his children).I am wondering what happens to kik users when they go to college? How many of them continue to use kik? It’s nice that they own the market for teenage users (40% of US teens) but that also present an interesting business “keep you up at night” problem. What happens if winds change and it falls out of favor with that demographic? Plus why isn’t there a way for them to segue and do something similar (under a different brand name) directed at college users (that used to be kik users).

    1. Drew Meyers

      What’s the long term moat they’re building? If none, then they are likely to wake up one day to witness a mass exodus of people to something more “trendy”.

  7. cavepainting

    No download, No new account, No new UI is a really good pitch.Chats are the new browsers, bots are the new web sites is a great line.But… contrary to what the bot vendors say, native apps generally work pretty well. And over time, the OS platforms will address the issues around discovery, shared identity and personal data.Bots are likely to be another channel that complements web sites, native apps and the mobile web. Especially for casual and linear interactions, for which users may not want to download an app.Whether that can expand into something larger remains to be seen. It will need the bot platforms to grow substantially to help developers create highly engaging, usable and intelligent bots that can accurately interpret user’s intent, and orchestrate the dialog while calling the right APIs and invoking the appropriate user interaction widgets.Current state is a long way from that.But… a remote futuristic possibility always looks unlikely. Until it is not.I wrote this on bots a few weeks back.

  8. Rob Underwood

    “You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox here.”- Best. Bot. Ever.

    1. Rob Underwood

      After I wrote this comment, I decided to write a kik bot for the game Zork (what I was alluding to above). I was able to create one pretty quickly in node, and found an API built that exposed it for Slack – I was able to repurpose the API and configure it for Kik. Provided my development server is up, you should be able to play with on Kik by starting a conversation with the bot “zorkgame”. Enjoy!

  9. Rick Mason

    “Chat is the new browser, bots are the new websites”That’s the point where it clicked for me

  10. markslater

    2 big points:messaging is the browser, bots are the websites.the argument against Apps. (app saturation etc)1. hear about app2. find app in store3. download app4. install app5. register6. learn new UI.Bots skip all of this.KIK codes are going to play a key role here.

    1. cavepainting

      Steps 1 and 2 apply for bots as well. Skipping the rest is true but will be valuable only if the job if you want to get done is done better by the bot vs. app.

      1. markslater

        Codes.These guys are all going to make a huge bet on codes – like wechat did. Big questions on adoption – but if they do – this is native contextual discovery – very powerful

      2. markslater

        the Bot also has to be step function improvement on existing mode of purchase for sure. too long a convo – and i’m just calling….

  11. William Mougayar

    If WeChat is an inspiration for Kik, it’s full of services inside. I’m curious why is WeChat used by adults in China and Kik by teenagers in the West. Is it really a cultural thing?

  12. awaldstein

    thankscan you define a bot–technically–so we can put it in perspective to so many programmable pieces or our dynamic interaction.are they able to be proximity triggered or how exactly do you program attributes in so predetermined actions can happen?interesting stuff actually

  13. markslater

    yes – this is weeks away. days actually

  14. S. Turner Dean

    i worked on one such ‘bot’ system, the project has been shut down. actually the tech part is relatively easy, getting doctor’s to use it was the problem. doctors don’t want to pay for it and are concerned about liability. don’t say patients will pay for it because most won’t.

  15. markslater

    Our Bot framework is:1. inteliigent assistant that understands simple text context.2. bad use blocker (recognizing swear word etc)3. API caller – depending on what you want – we route the right API end point. ….4. Data ingester – part of your journey to purchase a local service might require content (reviews pics pricing etc) we dynamically call on data providers to surface this info in messaging cards in the wrapper. 5. Cache – we can cache your info and learn your likes / dislikes.6. ONLY REQUEST RESPONSE – NO PUSH – this is core.You can order food, make a doctors appointment, through our BOT and its super easy.