Bringing consumer-grade usability to eager business users.
Eric Yuan knows the value in working together. As the founder and CEO of the video, audio and web conferencing platform Zoom, Yuan has spent much of his career developing solutions that enable better collaboration among employees. Yuan founded Zoom in 2011, and today more than 700,000 businesses use the platform to host online video and audio meetings.
Prior to launching Zoom, Yuan was one of the founding engineers and vice president of engineering at WebEx. While there, he grew the team from 10 engineers to more than 800 worldwide and contributed to more than $800 million in revenue growth. He is a named inventor on 11 issued and 20 pending patents in real-time collaboration. Yuan also spent four years as vice present of engineering at Cisco, where he was responsible for the company's collaboration software development.
We asked Yuan how he turned his entrepreneurial vision into a booming tech startup and discovered nearly all his motivation is focused on one thing: happiness - for him employees and his clients.
Q: How did you turn your idea for a company into a reality?
A: I kept the customers' concerns and happiness front and center, set my sights on creating a solution they truly loved, then I just got started. When we began developing Zoom, I hoped to get a product to customers in one year. In the end, it took us twice that time, because that's what was needed to get it right. My advice is that you have to set aside your fears and just get started.
Q: How have the changing workplace environment and employees' habits increased the market for your services?
A: The modern workforce is increasingly remote and global. In fact, studies show that 85 percent of knowledge workers work on virtual teams and that 41 percent never meet in person. As a result, collaboration tools are more important than ever to help teams get tasks done together, regardless of where they are. Cloud video communications is a collaboration catalyst. It can help build teams across geographies and build a sense of community, and it has a remarkably wide range of uses. In fact, Zoom is being used today by developers to write code together, by physicians to diagnose patients, by educators to conduct classes, lawyers to mediate or interview witnesses, actors to conduct virtual rehearsals and even by a major car transportation application to communicate with its drivers.
Q: What was lacking in traditional video conferencing services that made you think there was room for Zoom?
A: When we introduced Zoom, the market was ripe for disruption. People were frustrated with traditional video conferencing services due to their lack of usability, limited functionality and high costs. In fact, before Zoom was introduced, rather than use the available business-grade solutions, most employees would turn to the phone or consumer-grade solutions (e.g., Skype, Hangouts, etc.). Zoom meets the market's need for a solution that's completely intuitive for end users, and is easy for IT to deploy, scale and manage. Its affordability and ease of use make it very scalable too, so it can support collaboration groups of as few as two and as many as 500 people.
Q: What challenges did you face when starting up, and how did you overcome them?
A: Our challenge was to build our brand. We and our customers know we are the best solution out there, but it always requires work to get the word out at scale. We've put our energy into building our brand with straightforward messaging and designs that embody the core of what the Zoom experience is about, such as our Meet Happy campaign. We also create opportunities for people to get hands-on experience with our products. At the end of the day, our most effective brand ambassadors are our customers. We do all we can to deliver happiness to our customers, and they become our champions.
Q: How should new entrepreneurs approach the need to obtain funding?
A: If you keep your customers happy, everything else falls into place, including the funding. Happy customers naturally lead to growth, buzz, a successful business and interest from venture capital firms.
Q: How do you know when your business is ready to scale up?
A: When our customers all told us they're happy with Zoom's product, we knew it was time to build programs to get more customers at scale.
Q: As an entrepreneur, what type of people should you be surrounding yourself with?
A: Self-motivated people with passion to do something big. The business world is changing rapidly, so you have to like to learn new things, new technologies and new skills, and it takes self-motivation to do that. I also want to be surrounded by people that care about the community, our company, our teammates, our customers and themselves. Caring is Zoom's core value, and we help ensure that Zoom is made up of caring people starting with the hiring process. At that point, we evaluate candidates on whether we believe they could embrace the value of care and deliver happiness for others. If they embrace our core value of care and want to deliver happiness, then they will be self-motivated and will work harder for their teammates and their customer. It's a circle.