Eric Yuan: The Zoom founder who kept the world working during lockdown

How a student from China envisioned (and then created) one of the most essential businesses tools needed today

By Wesley Diphoko

Due to Covid-19, Zoom has become the default video conferencing platform across the globe. 

Eric Yuan, founder – of the popular app Zoom, first envisioned Zoom when he was in college in China.

At the time, he regularly took ten-hour train rides to his girlfriend (now his wife). Yuan detested those rides and used to imagine other ways he could communicate with his girlfriend without traveling. Those daydreams eventually became the basis for Zoom.

In the ’90s, Yuan decided that the US was a better place for his career. The mid-90s were critical years for the internet in the US whilst China was lagging. He was rejected on several occasions by the US and eventually after 9 attempts over two years, he finally received his Visa. He arrived in Silicon Valley in 1997 where he joined WebEx, which at the time was a real-time collaboration company with about a dozen employees.

The company grew very quickly and went public within several years of his arrival. In 2007 WebEx was acquired by Cisco and Yuan became Cisco’s Corporate Vice President of Engineering, in charge of collaboration software. He often met with customers, and in his conversations with them, learned they weren’t happy with the current collaboration solutions, including WebEx. Yuan pitched Cisco a new, smartphone-friendly video conferencing system in 2011 according to The Financial Times. When his bosses shot him down, Yuan left Cisco to found Zoom.

Yuan believed that he could develop a platform that would make customers happy as a result he did exactly that in June of 2011. He decided it was time to make the video communications solution that he imagined during his college days. The Zoom platform was later launched in 2012. Fast forward to 2020, Zoom has hosted billions of annualized meeting minutes and boasting a customer base that includes 1/3 of the Fortune 500 and 90 percent of the top 200 US universities. Due to COVID-19, Zoom has also become the default video conferencing platform across the world. Zoom has become the go-to video conferencing app for most information workers who are currently working from home due to Covid-19. The platform has brought much good to the world. By allowing people to meet face-to-face, it reduces isolation and increases team cohesion. It has also had its share of challenges related to the security of the platform and cancellations by those who are concerned about safety online. The company however has been quick to address security issues brought about by an increase in usage during the lockdown period. Currently, Zoom is worth more than $35 billion.

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