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SEE YOU ZOOM: If you haven’t heard the pun “See you Zoom”, then you could be seriously missing out on some videoconferencing fun. The brains behind it is Eric Yuan, 50, Zoom founder and CEO. Zoom has become an integral part of the pandemic-hit world.
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TARGET: Most of Eric Yuan’s professional life was spent working to build easy-to-use video communications. His target: make a tool that doesn’t require engineers to set up and support. But his journey was not a straight line. Yuan was born in Xuzhou, China. His US visa application as denied 8 times. Now, through sheer persistence, Zoom has become an app everybody loves, used in all sorts of unexpected places. Yuan is currently one of only a handful of Chinese-Americans to lead a major Silicon Valley, California company.
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MARKET VALUE: Zoom is among tech companies that went public in 2019. Zoom Video Communications was a relatively unknown tech firm. But through expertise in the video conference domain as their core competency and persistent work, the Zoom team secured for themselves the 2nd best-performing tech IPO. When the software company made its debut on the Nasdaq in September 2019 under the ticker symbol “ZM,” the stock price surged 80% to $65 and closed out the day up 72% at $62. At that price, Zoom had a stock market value of $15.9 billion. There’s one thing that has set it apart from the rest: Zoom was already profitable when it launched its IPO.
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PASSION, DOMAIN EXPERTISE: Eric Yuan started Zoom from scratch. However, he was no stranger to video communications; rather, he has a deep domain expertise. Being a founding engineer and VP of Engineering at Webex, he gained expert-level knowledge over the course of over 10 years before starting Zoom on his own.
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STAR PERFORMER: Zoom has shot up in popularity in 2020 during the pandemic as the world has gone into lockdowns. Yuan has reportedly made $12 billion in the pandemic as the number of Zoom users shot up following global lockdowns, and now ranks among the 400 richest people in America.
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MULTI-BILLIONAIRE: As of September 2020, Eric Yuan’s net worth jumped 396.5% to $17.7 billion. He joined Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk among some billionaires whose net worth increased during the pandemic.
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HUGE SPIKE IN USERS: Zoom surged in popularity in 2020, when it posted a 1,900% increase in users in just 4 months, in part due to the boom in videoconferencing as a result for lockdowns and quarantines driven by the coronavirus pandemic.
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IMMIGRANT: Eric Yuan was born in China, and studied there. In 1997, he immigrated to San Jose, California, in part because of the Internet — as it hadn’t taken off in China. When he first applied for a US visa, he was denied. He re-applied, and was denied eight times. His visa application was approved on his 9th try.
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DEGREE: Yuan obtained his bachelor’s degree in Engineering from Stanford University and later obtained a Master’s Degree from China University of Mining and Technology. Students walk on the Stanford University campus in Santa Clara, California.
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CAREER: Yuan began his 14-year career at WebEx in 1997 as one of the founding engineers and vice president of engineering. He grew his team from 10 engineers to more than 800 worldwide and contributed to revenue growth from $0 to more than $800M.
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CISCO: In 2007, WebEx was acquired by Cisco. Yuan became Cisco’s Corporate VP of engineering, in charge of collaboration software. He often met with customers, and in his conversations with them, he learned they weren’t happy with the current collaboration solutions, including WebEx. Yuan said while he spoke with WebEx customers, he realised that the solution suffered from some deep flaws due to its older architecture, particularly a lack of usability, reliability and video quality. He knew that Cisco needed to rebuild WebEx from the ground up — from the back-end architecture to the user interface to the sales model. He told Cisco leadership but they didn’t listen.
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INSPIRATION: In an interview with Business Matters, Yuan revealed the inspiration behind Zoom was to build a video conferencing solution that people “love” and make customers “happy”. He left Cisco in 2001. Many of WebEx’s most talented and visionary engineers joined him. Together, they spent the next two years building Zoom 1.0, a unified video-first and web conferencing software solution.
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NO-FRILLS, FUNCTIONAL TOOL: Zoom’s team had worked for a decade to build a no-frills, highly functional conferencing platform for businesses. Thanks to the pandemic, it's now being used across all settings, from delivery rooms and corporate boardrooms to grade schools.
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CROSS-PLATFORM: The team’s initial Zoom team sought to develop a tool that ran seamlessly across mobile, desktop devices and conference room systems. That was the inspiration for their product that became the best video communications software in the world and built a global team of over 850 people.
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TOP TECHNOPRENEUR: In 2018, Yuan was ranked No. 1 in 2018 on Glassdoor’s annual list of best-rated CEOs, thus becoming the first person of colour to lead this list. In 2017, he was added to the Business Insider list of the 52 Most Powerful People in Enterprise Tech. In 2018, he was also named the No. 1 CEO of a large US company by Glassdoor and EY Entrepreneur of the Year in Northern California (software category).
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ZOOM BOMB: One of the draws of Zoom has been its use of meeting IDs — these are 9-digit codes that anyone can use to enter meetings. It’s a convenient feature, but not hack proof. Hackers and other threat actors had exploited Zoom’s weakness to “Zoombomb” ongoing video calls, where they enter the meeting and then flood it with inappropriate or offensive imagery.
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UNPROTECTED? IT magazine CNET warned it can be easy to Zoombomb a meeting. “In many cases,” a simple Google search for URLs that include ‘Zoom.us’ can turn up the unprotected links of multiple meetings that anyone can jump into,” it reported.
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SURGE IN USERS: Moreover, links to public meetings can be found scattered across organisational pages on social media. Since then, and after facing a handful of lawsuits, Zoom has admitted it could not predict the massive surge of users they experienced (and probably the scrutiny they’d face when they would become mainstream), and has addressed some of these to some capacity. Experts suggest that if you have to use Zoom, restrict it to casual or non-sensitive meetings only, as both the world and the company itself come to terms with the app’s monumental user surge.
Image Credit: REUTERS