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Kik says that the Blynk team will help it develop more bots and chat assistants to cater to teens
Kik, a Canadian mobile messaging app that has made it clear that is seeks to emulate WeChat, is entering a new category: fashion, through the acquisition of fashion advice bot Blynk, it was announced on Monday. No financial terms of the deal were disclosed.
Blynk, which calls itself "your free personal stylist in your pocket," is kind of like Tinder for fashion, allowing users to swipe through different looks. It then provides fashion recommendations that are personalized to each user, in order to help them determine their style.
The two-year-old Toronto-based startup, which has no venture financing, started as a mobile app and then became a chat bot on Kik, called blynkstyle. The app won Montreal’s International Startup Festival in 2014 and was also named top retail startup at the 2015 Fintech and Retail EXPO, run by Silicon Valley’s Plug and Play Tech Center.
Kik is a mobile chat app based on usernames that allows users to share content, talk to official accounts, and explore their interests. It also serves as a platform for such brands as MTV and Gramercy Pictures. It is also provides a developer platform, with open-sourced tools and libraries that allows them create web experiences that can be discovered and instantly shared by Kik's users.
Earlier this year the company took a $50 million investment from Tencent, valuing it at over $1 billion. It's raised some $120 million in venture financing since being founded in 2009.
All four Blynk employees will be joining Kik, where, "They will continue to work on chat bot experiences, based on their work at Blynk and their Kik chat bot (blynkstyle)," a spokesperson for Kik told VatorNews.
So why get into the fashion space? Well, first, the company acknowledged that it is a hot topic of conversation for many of its users, as "Fashion is one of the most popular categories among our core demographic, teens."
With 40% of U.S. teens currently on Kik, this is obviously an important age group for Kik, and it has been using its resources to build out services that cater to them. First it introduced Jam, a music based community, in August, and now it is delving into fashion.
What that will look is unclear, though. The company did not say if the acquisition would lead to more products or features centered around fashion, or how Blynk might be further integrated into the service. It only said that Blynk would help the company with enhancing bots on its service.
"The Blynk team will help us further delve into the world of bots and personal chat assistants on Kik. Their fashion expertise will also come in handy as we look to build more great chat-based experiences for Kik’s teen users," the company wrote.
Competition - Mobile recommendation engines
It's not clear why Blynk decided to sell to Kik, but it may have to do with the amount of competition in the space, which includes a number of other personal stylist startups.
That includes Stitch Fix, a personal styling platform that delivers curated and personalized apparel and accessory items of perfect fit for women. The company has raised nearly $47 million. Another is Trunk Club, a men's clothing service where a personal stylist handpicks high-end clothes. It was bought by Nordstrom last year for $350 million.
There's also Keaton Row, a fashion startup that offers a one-on-one connection between a client and a stylist, as well as Stylit, a platform for stylists to build looks and use technology match them with style profiles.
There are also smaller companies in this space, like Bombfell, an online clothing retail store providing personalized clothes for men, and Share Some Style, another personal styling platform.
With no shortage of other companies doing the exact same thing, perhaps becoming part of Kik was the best way for Blynk to thrive in such a competitive landscape.
VatorNews has reached out to Blynk for further information on this purchase, and what it means for Kik's future. We will update this story if we learn more.
(Image source: blynkstyle.com)
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Trunk Club was started to solve a simple problem – shopping for clothes in stores or online just doesn’t work for most guys. It’s overwhelming, inconvenient, and takes way too much time. With Trunk Club, guys discover awesome clothes that are perfect for them without ever having to go shopping. We combine top brands, expert service, and unparalleled convenience to deliver a highly personalized experience that helps guys look their best and saves them time.
We start by scouring the planet for the very best in men’s apparel, curating an ever-evolving assortment of pieces from our favorite designers. With the best inventory anywhere as our point of departure, an Expert on our team hand-selects a trunk of items based on each customer’s needs and tastes. They keep what they love and send the rest right back to us, at no cost to them.
Our team is based in Chicago, IL and has grown from four to over sixty since starting out in late 2009. We are backed by awesome investors, including US Venture Partners, Greycroft Partners, Anthos Capital, and Apex Ventures.
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Stitch Fix is a personal styling service that re-invents retail, giving women the ability to shop they really want to shop. Based on each customer's preferences, size and lifestyle, Stitch Fix delivers personalized clothing and accessory picks to their door. Customers try on items in the comfort of their home, pay for what they want to keep, and send back the rest in the mail.
Planted firmly at the intersection of fashion, commerce and technology, this new online shopping experience offers every woman the chance to update their wardrobe with the help of a personal stylist. Using proprietary style matching technology, real-life stylists and inventory from up-and-coming designer brands, Stitch Fix aims to make personal shopping available to everyone.
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Stitch Fix, based in San Francisco, CA, was started by Founder & CEO Katrina Lake, and is backed by Baseline Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners.