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Zenly remains to be vastly well-liked, so why’s Snap shutting it down? – TechCrunch


Snapchat’s guardian Snap turned the most recent tech firm to announce an enormous spherical of layoffs, confirming ongoing rumors yesterday that it was chopping 20% of its world workforce, affecting at the very least 1,200 individuals.

The explanations for Snap’s huge scaling again train are maybe apparent, because it’s the identical financial the reason why numerous different companies have laid off staff this yr — the corporate mentioned the cuts might reserve it $500 million in prices yearly. The markets appeared to love the information, too, with Snap’s shares leaping round 15% at one level yesterday when it introduced the cutbacks, earlier than settling at round 9% up over yesterday’s closing worth.

Whereas the mass redundancies understandably garnered the lion’s share of the headlines, buried in amongst this information was Snap’s plans to chop extra prices by means of “refocusing” its enterprise, which incorporates ceasing investments in sure merchandise. A part of this includes winding down two standalone apps, considered one of which is Zenly, a social mapping app that it acquired for north of $200 million 5 years in the past. The complete Zenly workforce has been laid off, whereas their non-compete clauses have been waived.

Whereas it’s not unusual for firms to shutter apps years down the road, notably throughout cost-cutting “restructuring” efforts, the choice to shut Zenly utterly is shocking, resulting from the truth that it’s nonetheless a highly regarded app in its personal proper, even when it does sit in Snapchat’s shadow and doesn’t generate a lot direct income.

There’s a map for that

Zenly was based out of Paris in 2011, happening to boost $35 million in funding earlier than Snap (then known as Snapchat) swooped in with its mega-million-dollar bid. In a nutshell, Zenly develops an app that permits customers to see the place associates are on a map and navigate their manner to one another.

However Zenly isn’t only a utility. It may be outlined as a social app that revolves round a map. While you open the app, you see a map with all your pals. For those who see that a number of associates are hanging out collectively, you’ll be able to message them and request images so as to see what they’re doing proper now. Whereas many “social” apps encourage you to remain in your mattress and scroll, Zenly urges you to attach with your pals and spend extra time with them.

Zenly screenshot

Zenly has continued to function as a standalone entity for the reason that acquisition, and it’s straightforward to overlook that Zenly is owned by Snap in any respect, with the unique improvement workforce nonetheless based mostly out of Paris, and no apparent Snap branding anyplace on Zenly’s app or web site.

Only a few months again, Zenly rolled out an enormous replace that added a number of new options, together with the power to seek for locations. Customers might additionally pin locations to “their world”, akin to their favourite bars, eating places, gyms, libraries, outlets and extra. This represented Zenly’s greatest replace in years because the app turned a kind of fashionable Foursquare — customers might uncover locations based mostly on the place their associates usually go. When Zenly launched the app replace, co-founder and CEO Antoine Martin additionally revealed he was shifting on from the corporate, with Snap CEO Evan Spiegel entering into the function.

And a month later, Zenly revealed that it was taking over the mighty Google and Apple by introducing its personal mapping information and engine, the results of a gargantuan mission it began some three years earlier.

Zenly’s new maps

So Zenly was displaying no indicators of stagnating, and if something, it appeared prefer it had the potential to be considered one of Snap’s prized possessions if it might solely determine how you can flip it right into a money-making machine.

The info appears to again this up, too — Zenly claimed some 35 million month-to-month lively customers earlier this yr. Further figures supplied to TechCrunch from Information.ai for this story inform us that Zenly has seen practically 160 million downloads throughout Android and iOS since its inception, 3 million of which got here final month alone.

Whereas Information.ai’s numbers additionally present that Zenly is usually among the many prime 20 downloaded social apps globally, digging deeper into market-specific metrics reveals that it usually out-performs each single different social app. In Japan, for instance, Zenly is usually within the prime 5 or 10 apps, however it usually rises to pole place forward of Fb, WhatsApp, Discord, and home-grown market chief Line, as this iOS chart from August 19 reveals.

Zenly iPhone downloads for Japan on August 19, 2022

Elsewhere, Zenly is a continuously a top-five social app in Russia and Belarus, a top-ten social app in France, Indonesia, and Thailand, and it hovers across the higher echelons within the app charts in lots of different markets globally.

In fact, different burgeoning social apps akin to TikTok and BeReal are main the cost in Snap’s core goal markets together with the U.S., which can be partly why Snap is much less enamored by Zenly’s enduring reputation in locales elsewhere. However nonetheless, a well-placed supply informed TechCrunch that Zenly has constantly grown its consumer numbers on a quarter-by-quarter foundation for the reason that acquisition, and there’s little proof that this trajectory was going to stop any time quickly — and that’s troublesome to disregard.

Snap resolution

So why has Snap chosen to tug the plug on Zenly, quite than attempting to nourish its evident reputation in main markets in Europe and Asia? And why not promote the app to a different firm that might do one thing helpful with it? A clue lies in Snap’s personal phrases from yesterday’s announcement. In a SEC submitting, the corporate mentioned that it could be winding down Zenly to “give attention to Snap Map,” a location-focused social product that it launched manner again in 2017.

Though Snap Map isn’t constructed straight on Zenly’s expertise, it’s straightforward to see why having two location-based social merchandise might be deemed pointless, particularly when considered one of them must be supported financially as a standalone product outdoors the primary Snapchat shopper.

“Going ahead, we are going to focus our mapping efforts on a single service, the Snap Map inside Snapchat,” a Snap spokesperson informed TechCrunch. “We thank the [Zenly] workforce for his or her many contributions, and the Zenly neighborhood for his or her assist.”

This reveals that Snap will not be abandoning social-mapping, which implies that promoting Zenly to a third-party wouldn’t be prudent from a contest standpoint. Snap confirmed this rationale to TechCrunch, explaining that it has made vital investments in Zenly since 2017, virtually doubling the dimensions of the workforce within the course of, and that it in the end didn’t discover a path to significant income. Moreover, given its continued give attention to Snap Map, the corporate mentioned that it could not be in Snap’s strategic pursuits to let Zenly slip into the fingers of one other firm.

It’s maybe not an excessive amount of of a stretch to say that Zenly’s reputation may very well have labored in opposition to it right here — any firm that did resolve to purchase Zenly would have a major, oven-baked world neighborhood to construct on from the get-go. The dangers right here have been in the end too nice for Snap.

Internally, Snap mentioned that Snap Map has greater than 300 million month-to-month lively customers, with the potential to join every of them with 30 million companies which might be listed within the app — lots of which pay to advertise their itemizing. As an apart, although, it’s not clear what number of of those lively customers are literally there for the mapping and placement options — many use Snap Map merely to see when their associates have been final seen on-line.

Snap Map companies

In abstract, Snap thinks it already has the entire maps/location factor lined in Snapchat, it doesn’t have the cash-flow to proceed funding Zenly’s development, and it’s not ready to let one other firm take over the reins as means to guard its enterprise pursuits.

Different cutbacks

It was an identical destiny for Voisey, a U.Ok. startup Snap acquired for an undisclosed quantity in 2020, and which is now being discontinued on September 5. Just like how Snap is pulling again from Zenly to give attention to Snap Map, the corporate revealed that Voisey — which has been described as one thing akin to “TikTok for music creation” — will make manner for Snap to focus totally on Sounds, a music characteristic it launched inside Snapchat two years in the past.

Elsewhere, Snap confirmed that it’s discontinuing its investments in a bunch of options and companies together with Snap Originals and Minis. And its mini-drone mission Pixy, which Snap solely introduced in April, can be going the best way of the dodo simply as as studies recommended a number of weeks again.

This helps to focus on simply how rapidly the tide has turned for Snap. Within the area of 4 months, Pixy has gone from an thrilling (if perplexing) new {hardware} mission to useless within the water, whereas Zenly has gone from the crest of a wave to the brink of extinction.

We noticed a few of this coming although. Snap’s lively customers could also be persevering with to develop, however that is not mirrored in its monetary efficiency, which is due largely to the present financial local weather. At its Q2 earnings again in July, Snap wrote to its traders:

Whereas the continued development of our neighborhood will increase the long-term alternative for our enterprise, our monetary outcomes for Q2 don’t replicate the size of our ambition. We aren’t happy with the outcomes we’re delivering, whatever the present headwinds.

On prime of that, Snap mentioned on the time that it could curtail its working bills, and gradual its fee of hiring. The corporate additionally declined to provide any steering on its future monetary efficiency resulting from “uncertainties associated to the working surroundings.”

So it was anticipated that we might see some casualties emerge from all of this. Nevertheless it’s nonetheless a tragic story in all types of how, not least for these straight impacted by the layoffs.

Whereas Zenly could have slipped below many individuals’s radars — particularly within the U.S., the place it has comparatively few customers — it’s undoubtedly a serious European success story. Zenly impressed a brand new technology of European entrepreneurs, had a big impact on the French tech ecosystem, and solidified Snap’s repute in France. Zenly’s founders proved that it was attainable to construct a European social app with tens of hundreds of thousands of customers — and BeReal reveals that that is nonetheless attainable right now.

In the fitting surroundings, Zenly might have gone on to better issues, so it’s a serious travesty that it’s assembly such a sudden and premature demise.

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