Viber sold for nearly $1 billion

Japanese internet powerhouse Rakuten announced that it acquired Viber for $900 million. Viber has 300 million registered users and is known for its strength in Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia. The acquisition will no doubt reignite speculation about other mid-tier messaging apps. Behind the powerhouses like WhatsApp and LINE there is a cluster of messaging apps with strong growth and more than 100 million registered users – including two hailing from the picturesque hamlet of Waterloo, Ontario. Both Kik and BBM are on their way to hitting 150 million registered users by the end of 2014. And both have intriguing regional strengths that might make them as valuable — or even more valuable — than Viber.

Arguably, BBM’s user base in the region is far more valuable.

Arguably, BBM’s customer mix is far more valuable in Africa, while Asia is a rough draw. In affluent Western markets, Viber edges out BBM with a broader footprint.

The $900 million valuation slapped on Viber probably gives us the best recent benchmark to approach the valuation of messaging apps like BBM, Kik, Tango, Nimbuzz and others. Viber has a large customer base that slants relatively heavily towards some of the poorest countries in the world — places like Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. The real valuation formula for these companies hinges on monthly average users (MAU) and weekly engagement figures, as well as customer purchasing power profile. Of course, these statistics are not publicly available.

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