TikTok’s Newest Rival is a “Pyramid Scheme” Called Zynn

The app's popularity skyrocketed when it offered to pay users for referring their friends

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6:18 PM HKT, Sat May 30, 2020 1 mins read

Zynn topped the US App store charts this week, passing both TikTok and Zoom.

The short video app looks a lot like TikTok — users scroll through 15-second clips uploaded by others, where they can like, comment, and share.

Zynn, however, rewards users for watching videos in a very real way. They earn points that can be exchanged for in-app purchases, gift cards to stores like Amazon or Walmart, or cash through PayPal. Signing up earns $1, and inviting five friends earns up to $110. These rewards are currently only available for those in the US and Canada.

One YouTuber reported making over $1000 in a day on Zynn. But others are less convinced. Venture capitalist Turner Novak even called the app a giant pyramid scheme.

Zynn’s strategy isn’t new: e-commerce platform Pinduoduo and news app Qutoutiao have both incentivized users with money.

While Zynn has only been released for around a month, it could mean serious trouble for TikTok — but is that an accident?

The app store shows that Zynn was created by Owlii Inc., and The Information reported that the company is now owned by Kuaishou. Kuaishou is a $30 billion startup backed by Tencent, and the biggest competitor to Douyin in China.

While Kuaishou has over 300 million daily users, Douyin has over 400 million. Earlier this month, Kuaishou sued Douyin for interfering with search results on the app store.

Zynn’s rising popularity in the US could further escalate scrutiny on Chinese apps. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the US has previously launched investigations into ex-Chinese-owned Grindr and TikTok over user data concerns.

TikTok has since been trying to erase its ties to China. It recently appointed Kevin Mayer, former Disney executive, as its new CEO.

We can expect Zynn to keep growing as people stay bored in Covid-19 quarantine — and as they look for new ways to make money.

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