Designing Zenly: Part II. 2018–2020 Era | by Julien Martin | Jan, 2024


The biggest Zenly irony always was that it relied on maps that it didn’t own. Apple Maps, Google Maps, Mapbox, and more. It would later on the way to be solved in 2022 (soon more on Part III!) but during all those years, being innovative and thinking out-of-the-box were one of our core strengths. Separately, we kept asking ourselves:

How to make sure the competition is always dragging behind?

Unique core map features helped us make sure Zenly would be unique — at least for a while. Uniqueness, but most of all, velocity.

In 2020, Paul Graham, cofounder of YC said:

Let me tell you, that velocity can be an absolute nightmare at times, but also the best edge you can have against some consumer tech companies, where politics and career paths are the norm rather than the drive for success or the product’s passion.

Even though Zenly came to an end almost a year ago, there is still no real contender out there. Well, until now. Did I tell you about Location by amo? It’s actually better than Zenly (without the fuss) and actually made by the same people who coded and designed it with passion for almost a decade. If you miss Zenly, you should give it a try.

Home, Work, School

Home, Work and Schools — or any other favorite places on a map aren’t something new. In fact, they weren’t even something new in this Zenly’s version but this is when we took it to another level.

What was new though, is that this whole Home, Work, School & Night Places thing, was entirely automatic. No user input, no friction, just magic. Users would automatically discover their places on the map after a certain amount of days and they absolutely loved it.

The whole secret sauce required sweat, tears, blood and voodoo, especially from the backend team led by QP.


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