Apparently tech engineers can go home again.

Dave Simons, Kik’s new Senior Vice-President of Engineering, is the proof. Coming back to Waterloo is something of a homecoming.

A graduate of the University of Waterloo with a degree in math and computer science, Simons, formerly the Chief Technology Officer at the loyalty program Points International, has been hired by Waterloo-based Kik to scale the firm’s engineering and product teams.

“I’m very happy to be back,” Simons, 50, recently told Communitech News. “I was here in early 2000s and late 1990s. This [region] has changed so much since then. And it feels like the rate of change is accelerating.”

The same might be said for Kik, the standalone messaging app that now has more than 300 million users around the world – a high percentage of them teens.

Simons’ arrival coincides with a pivotal juncture for the company, whose CEO, Ted Livingston, has made no secret of his plan to morph Kik into a chat platform that will interface with a bot-based consumer ecosystem.

In August, 2015, Kik was the recipient of a $50-million investment from China based Tencent, one of the largest Internet firms in the world. Tencent is the parent company of the popular Chinese messaging service WeChat, which has 800 million users and provides them with a banking facility for paying bills and ordering and paying for consumer products and sending money to third parties.

At the time of Tencent’s Kik investment, Livingston stated he wanted Kik to become “the WeChat of the West.”

Enter Simons, with experience at a firm that provides loyalty eCommerce and technology solutions to some of the world’s top brands. Coincidence?

“Directionally, that sounds about right,” said Simons of Livingston’s ambitions. “I’m here to build a world-class engineering team.”

Simons said he was attracted by Kik’s culture and its ability to punch above its weight.

“Ted is a brilliant visionary,” said Simons. “He’s a big part of why I’m here, for sure. And Chris [Best], the other founder. They both set a tone. That was important for me.

“What I find interesting about Kik is it’s a fascinating vertical, and I think it’s just the start in some ways. Kik operates at a scale that not many companies do. The scale that it operates at and the [relatively small] size of the of the team was an interesting combination. Everyone here has to have a role. No one hides in the corner. Everyone has an impact.”

Simons has a long track record in the tech sphere. Prior to joining Points, he was the CTO and Chief Architect and co-founder at NeoEdge,  which reinvented in-game advertising for the casual gaming industry. Before that, he was a Director of Engineering at America Online and Netscape, joining America Online through the acquisition of Prior to, Simons held a variety of increasingly senior engineering and engineering management positions at Newcastle Capital, Citibank, CIBC Investment Bank and Wood Gundy.

“The thing I’m most excited about is the team and the vision,” said Simons. “I feel like we’re just at the start of where this company can go. My goal is to drive forward the growth of the company.”

About The Author

Craig Daniels
Senior Journalist

Craig Daniels is a veteran reporter, columnist and editor who has joined Communitech’s editorial team as senior journalist. He worked most recently at Postmedia in Hamilton, where he led the team that produced the National Post, and before that at the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Sun, Financial Post, the Montreal Daily News and the Telegraph-Journal in Saint John, N.B. He has an abiding interest in the transformational power and promise of tech and startup ecosystems, is a commercially licensed pilot, and has a debilitating wrist-watch fetish.