For Eric Yuan, Founder and CEO, Zoom is More than a Pandemic Fad

Eric Yuan, despite being rejected for a visa to the USA seven times and having his vision for teleconferencing ignored by his previous company, has built a $35 billion household name out of video conferencing.

Despite a 2020 Explosion, Zoom is the Culmination of Years of Work

Eric Yuan, despite being rejected for a visa to the USA seven times and having his vision for teleconferencing ignored by his previous company, has built a $35 billion household name out of Zoom. With lockdowns and remote work becoming the normality in 2020, Yuan has seen his personal net worth balloon to an estimated $14.5 billion in April 2021. The Covid-19 pandemic may have seen Zoom explode into the forefront of the public mind but the company has been on an upward growth trajectory for several years, led by the energetic and passionate 50 year old founder and CEO.

Keeping the Love Alive at Long-Distance

Yuan says the idea for Zoom came when he was studying at Shandong University of Science and Technology. When his wife was still his girlfriend, she lived a 10 hour train ride away and Yuan was only able to see her twice a year. He envisioned a technological solution to bridge the distance, where they could talk and see each other at the same time. This was during Yuan’s studies in 1986. He moved to Silicon Valley in 1997 and for a time he ran Cisco’s Webex video-conferencing business, but was not able to fully realize his vision. He would finally found Zoom Video Communications in 2011, a full 25 years after the long train rides gave him the initial idea.

Zoom Quickly Grows and Becomes Publicly Traded

In 2019 Yuan would list Zoom publicly, where the price of the IPO shot up, giving the company a value of $9.2 billion and making Yuan a billionaire at the age of 49. But the eight year journey to superstardom was not all smooth.

Yuan began raising funds by approaching friends as Venture Capital investors were skeptical of the company. Microsoft, Google and Cisco were all entrenched in video communications and video conferencing, and pulling off a successful entry into the market would require flawless execution. Even among investors, the challenge was plain to see. Yuan began by first working on the underlying technology, before building the Zoom web client on top.

This would turn out to be the key to Zoom’s success. It provided a software layer that shielded the client from bugs that were introduced if a browser was updated, and the client could automatically detect the device being used so it did not require multiple versions for Macintosh or PC. In contrast to other video clients, Zoom was able to operate with 40% data loss, meaning that slow or spotty internet connections were not a problem.

Yuan spent the next years heavily involved in the business, using Zoom itself to wow potential investors. He is well known for not taking work trips, preferring to spend time with his kids. Even before the pandemic, Yuan was insisting on taking Zoom calls with clients rather than meeting in person. His hands on approach saw him on Zoom calls with investors at one moment and responding directly to customers the next. This approach led one client to accuse him of sending auto generated emails under the CEO’s name. Yuan of course responded by offering to prove his identity over a zoom call.

2021 – Cat Lawyers and Beach Sunsets as the World Remains Virtual

Zoom was already a multi-billion dollar business when lockdowns and restrictions hit in 2020, but the sudden change of lifestyle saw the company go beyond being a business solution to become a true household name. Within months Zoom was facilitating online social interaction in almost every way, from high profile court cases and online learning to house parties, book clubs and personal trainers, with occasionally comedic results. These high profile ‘mishaps’ only further fuelled the consumer demand for Zoom, a direction that, ironically, Eric Yuan and the company had never intended to target.

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