A little too much like TikTok?


June 11, 2020

June 11, 2020
The Hustle
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Emojipedia isn’t where we usually get our news, but this update caught our attention. Across Twitter, use of the raised-fist emoji rose dramatically at the start of June, just a few days after George Floyd’s death.

At its peak, the “dark skin tone” fist emoji saw an increase of ~8x its early May levels.

Clone troopers

The Google Play store smacks down Zynn, the TikTok lookalike

You might remember Zynn as the video app that practically spews money: When I tried it, it offered me $1 to create an account, then up to $110 to invite 5 friends. 

At the end of May, when Zynn was the most popular app in the US, people started calling it a TikTok doppelganger.

Turns out, Zynn doesn’t just share TikTok’s look — it has the same videos, too. A Wired report found that the app is littered with content stolen from its rival, and on Tuesday, Zynn got axed from the Google Play store. 

Zynners weren’t even being subtle

Wired discovered multiple Zynn accounts posing as mega-famous TikTokers like Charli D’Amelio. A Polish TikToker, Max Mazurek, told Wired he had no idea there was a Zynn profile with 25k followers in his name.

Some of these scammers seemed to be using the fake accounts to cash in on Zynn’s incentives. Someone impersonated TikToker Addison Rae mainly just to publicize their referral code. “Use my code DJMA8VS to receive a special offer of $20!!!” one post said.

One small mystery: Many stolen videos are time-stamped on Zynn all the way back to February — even though Zynn wasn’t available in the US until May.

The boom times might be over for Zynn

Although Zynn quickly set up a new page for people to report stolen videos, don’t expect a fast rebound. 

Apple said it was looking into Zynn, and US Sen. Josh Hawley wrote a letter asking the FTC to investigate the app. Hawley said it “smacks of a textbook predatory-pricing scheme.”

Worst of all, Zynn told the Financial Times that it’s planning to ditch its bonus payments. As someone who was just one referral away from that $110, I cannot express my disappointment enough.

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Benevolent Bingeing

YouTube creators are turning clicks into charity

PSA: Here’s a golden opportunity for some guilt-free bingeing. 

A few YouTubers cooked up a cool way for people to contribute to Black Lives Matter, right from their couches.

Here’s how it works, courtesy of OneZero: The creator uploads a video, waits for the binge-watchers to arrive, and then donates the AdSense revenue that the clip generates. 

Viewers can raise money without lifting a finger. Except to press play, of course.

ASMR activism is a thing now 

YouTuber Zoe Amira posted the first of these videos 2 weeks ago, as part of a trend called Views for a Vision. Her clip has been viewed nearly 10m times. On Sunday, she tweeted an update showing the video had brought in an estimated ~$42k in revenue.

One YouTuber created a big playlist of these uploads, spotlighting police brutality, black artists, and even those trendy ASMR vids.

They’re workin’ that algorithm

Never underestimate the power of the YouTube proletariat. 

The videos’ comment sections are filled with tips on how to maximize views and money. (Viewers, turn off your ad blockers, and creators, dodge those spam flags.) 

Another tactic: Leaving fun facts in the comments to boost a video’s SEO. Best one so far: “Banging your head against a wall for one hour burns 150 calories.” Just in case anyone needed a new quarantine workout.

But YouTube’s on to them

A Google employee wrote a post pointing out that it’s against the rules to juice engagement with a video. It warns that any clips encouraging people to drive up ad metrics would be removed.

Amira’s video apparently crossed the line — she said on Twitter yesterday that Google found the clip violated its monetization rules. But Amira said YouTube committed to donating the money that had been raised already.

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Small Business Stories

How Theo Harvey got ahead in the health wearables game

We’re highlighting stories of black business owners from our audience — and their top resources for up-and-coming entrepreneurs of color. If you’re interested in being featured, fill out our survey here.

When Theo Harvey launched SynsorMed in 2014, he was tired of the rhythms of chronic illness. His daughter was born with a respiratory condition, and he had to shuttle back and forth to doctors’ offices for checkups. Rarely did the visits seem to accomplish anything. 

“A lot of times they just said, ‘Everything’s fine, it’s good,’” Harvey told us. 

His cofounder Amin Holmes — whose mother had been diagnosed with a chronic respiratory disease — was struggling with the same dilemma. The duo figured there had to be a better way. 

So they launched a line of wearables — pulse oximeters, glucometers, and blood pressure cuffs — that could let patients and doctors monitor their conditions from home. 

Harvey and Holmes started with $50k of their own money, then patched together an extra $150k from friends and family. 

Since the pandemic, demand for SynsorMed’s products has surged. Revenue has jumped 40%, and specialists — like pulmonologists and cardiologists — have proven especially eager to try out wearables. 

Harvey even rolled out a 2-Minute Telehealth video series to explain the ins and outs of telehealth to doctors. 

Harvey’s resources for entrepreneurs of color: 

“Black and Brown founders get a lot of advice and no capital,” Harvey said. One goal of the hire and wire movement is for tech bigwigs to give people of color the money they need to start businesses. 

Harvey highlighted a few funds that aim to do just that:

  • Alabama Futures Fund. The fund backed SynsorMed in January, and “they’re always looking for great individuals to invest in,” he said. 
  • Tech Plug, an innovation firm helping startups working at the intersection of tech and racial justice. 

How to support Harvey: Stay tuned for SOS Council, a project by Harvey and more than a dozen corporate and academic sponsors to reduce economic and racial disparities.

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Haul This

Nikola and Tesla are fighting it out over the future of trucking

Yes, you read that right. Two hotshot companies named for the same dead inventor are jockeying over futuristic designs for electric trucks.

Your move, Elon

The new kid on the block, Nikola, made a splash when it began trading on the Nasdaq last week.

It makes battery-powered electric semi trucks (with the first ones planned for delivery next year), as well as rigs powered by fuel cells. 

Investors must have loved the idea, because Nikola’s market value hit $34B at one point (higher than Fiat Chrysler and even Ford). Without actually selling any trucks.

Nikola’s CEO, Trevor Milton, seems unabashedly inspired by his Tesla counterpart Elon Musk — and his Twitter game is like Musk Gone Mild.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…

…but Elon might not feel the love. 

After Nikola’s big debut, Musk sent an email to employees saying it’s “time to go all out” on production of Tesla’s own long-delayed electric semi. Tesla’s shares topped a whopping $1k in trading on Wednesday.

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Snippets

1️⃣  The Fed said it expects the US to close out 2020 with a 9.3% unemployment rate. Even by 2022, the agency still thinks we’ll be at 5.5% unemployment.

2️⃣  A food delivery surprise: Grubhub is merging with Just Eat Takeaway, a European delivery player, after a proposed takeover by Uber fell through.

3️⃣  Amazon is banning the use of Rekognition, its facial recognition software, by the police for a year.

4️⃣  Bitter news for coffee guzzlers: Starbucks plans to close 400 stores as it shifts to a pickup model.

5️⃣  Tinder promises it will stop banning users who mention Black Lives Matter in their profiles. 

6️⃣  The “15% Pledge” — a commitment from retailers that at least 15% of their products will be from black creators — has a new signee: Sephora.

7️⃣  Summer reading has never been so trendy: Alphabet’s Wing will use drones to deliver library books to kids in Virginia. 

8️⃣  HBO Max is dropping “Gone with the Wind” until it can come up with a new version that includes a “discussion of its historical context.”

9️⃣  Music streaming is down across the board — except when it comes to country music

🔟  Are you sure you don’t wanna read that first? Twitter might ask you — it’s testing a new feature that nudges people to actually read an article before they smash that RT button.

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Today’s email was brought to you by Dan Smoove (TikTok Instructor), Nick “Zynner in Training” DeSantis, Michael Waters, Belle Long, and Bobby Durben.

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