Staffers at Zenly, a French social location messaging app, gathered in its Parisian office on Wednesday and were told they no longer had jobs and that the application they had spent years developing would be shut down.
Zenly, which Snap Inc. purchased for $213 million in 2017, was used as collateral in the Snapchat parent company’s aggressive cost-cutting efforts, which will effect at least 20% of its staff, or over 1,200 workers.
“Everyone is going through the stages of grieving,” said one Zenly employee.
“There’s rage, and there’s confusion – a lot of misunderstanding. The choice to unplug the product rather than integrate or monetize it was rather shocking. It’s not the typical method to deal with it.”
Snap CEO Evan Spiegel disclosed the employment losses in an email sent 45 minutes after news of Zenly’s shutdown surfaced on Twitter.
“It’s really disgusting,” said the employee. “It’s been a terrible experience, and Snapchat has a complete lack of communication.”
Zenly’s personnel was perplexed because they believed the product’s “growth, performance, and trajectory” were solid. Prior to Snap’s abrupt shutdown, Zenly’s app was one of the fastest growing social networks in the world, with over 40 million users and over 100 million downloads on the Play Store.
More staff and app users flocked to Twitter, where Zenly was trending following the news, to call the decision “devastating,” “absurd,” and “sad,” with many emphasising what a loss it would be for Zenly’s massive Japanese user base.
Snap purchased Zenly six years after Alexis Bonillo and Antoine Martin cofounded it in 2011, around the same time that it introduced its Snap Map function, which allows users to check in on their friends’ locations.
While Zenly boasts many of the same capabilities, it also tells users of their friends’ whereabouts, allows them to search for social settings such as pubs and restaurants, and encourages users to message one other and meet in person if they’re nearby.
Following the acquisition, Zenly continued to function as a separate team, which staff appreciated because “it became blindingly evident that they ran significantly differently than Snapchat.”
After Zenly’s CEO Martin resigned in April 2022, Snap’s Spiegel took over as CEO.
As it developed user momentum in East Asia and Eastern Europe, Zenly also focused on extending its own offering. According to TechCrunch’s study of its user statistics, it was especially popular in Japan, Thailand, Russia, and Belarus, and it began trending on Twitter in France and Japan upon the announcement of its closure.
The news sparked accusations that the California-based corporation, which had a US-centric concentration until recently, is reverting to its narrow outlook. After recruiting Claire Valoti to head its international market expansion, it began a spate of acquisitions in Europe in 2020, including UK-based music app Voisey and British AI startup Ariel AI.