Eric Yuan: The Story of the Zoom Founder

This essay was originally published on my website.

Who?

I can’t hear you well and please turn the video on, I can’t see you well. Why don’t we use Zoom?

Who would have thought most of us would be using Zoom (almost every day now)? Who would have thought Zoom would be saving the world by allowing us to work from home? Who came up with this genius idea? This is the story of Zoom’s founder.

Eric Yuan was born in China and graduated from the Shandong University of Science & Technology. A natural-born entrepreneur, Eric made his first foray into business at a young age and nearly burned down his neighbor’s cottage in the process. In the fourth grade, Eric collected construction scraps to exchange the copper for cash. After he realized only the metal was needed, he attempted to burn away the extra material in a chicken shack behind his neighbor’s house. Needless to say, the firefights had to come put out the blaze.

How Zoom came up was, in fact, very romantic. He would spend hours traveling to visit his girlfriend. He hated those rides and brainstormed ways he could visit his girlfriend without moving a single foot. These daydreams would later become the foundation for Zoom.

He moved to Silicon Valley in 1997 and joined a videoconferencing startup called WebEx. This start-up was later acquired by Cisco, and he became Cisco’s corporate VP of engineering. He would talk to customers, and they weren’t satisfied with the current collaboration solution. In 2011, he quit and decided to make the daydreams of visiting his girlfriend without moving a reality.

Why Should You Care?

Eric Yuan’s entrepreneurial spirit is one that we can all admire. Many people think they need to create the next Facebook or the next Amazon to become a billion-dollar company. In other words, they think they need to be super innovative to create something valuable and useful. Zoom isn’t that innovative. Some even argue that is a ripoff of other video conferencing platforms. Do you remember Skype? Well, Zoom is like a Skype 2.0

He found a problem; he noticed that the current solutions were not the best or didn’t work well, and he attempted to solve it himself by creating Zoom. After he quit at Cisco, over 40 fellow engineers followed Eric in his new venture and a year later they launched the Zoom platform in 2012. Now, almost a decade later, they made $330 million dollars in revenue in 2019 and their customers include Fortune 500 companies and 90% of top U.S. Universities (perhaps even more now).

Favorite Quotes

These three quotes show the three most important angles of Eric Yuan. I chose the most meaningful quotes that highlight his perseverance, hard work, and courage.

  • “The first time I applied for a U.S. visa, I was rejected. I continued to apply again and again over the course of two years and finally received my visa on the ninth try.”

This reminds of his fellow Chinese entrepreneur, Jack Ma. Jack is also well-known for his impressive perseverance and work ethic. This quote shows exactly how Eric sees the world and how entrepreneurial he is. Many people would have given up after the third try but Eric continued applying until the ninth try!

  • “I was absolutely miserable at Cisco. I viewed WebEx as my baby and had no control to impact the customer experience. I voiced my opinion and was always told I was wrong. Why should I even go to the office?”

How much better big companies could be if they avoid bureaucracy. After Cisco acquired WebEx, Eric felt that he couldn’t make an impact and create something meaningful.

  • “Although the start-up journey is long and tough, it’s also fun and exciting. Don’t be afraid to start — just go for it!”

I love this quote. It’s a mindset that looks like a no-brainer, but it is hard to execute. Creating a company or start-up is a process where many people give up or fail, but it does not hurt to try, you might fail (most likely) or you could make it (just like Eric did). If you don’t try, you will never know.

We’re Now Connected

I read Eric Yuan’s story on Forbes magazine two years ago, and I was impressed by what Eric achieved moving from China to the U.S.

I could see myself in him. I really could! Like me, he was an immigrant and was a crazy entrepreneur who wanted to help the world and was willing to take risks.

Eric Yuan’s Zoom is another incredible example of the companies and ideas created by immigrants such as Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX, PayPal), Patrick Collison (Stripe), Peter Thiel (PayPal, Palantir Technologies), Sergey Brin (Google), among many others.

If the Zoom founder had not moved to the U.S., Zoom would not have existed as well as many other inventions and ideas that are positively impacting our world.

The WFH (Work from Home) community is thankful for your hard work, and we don’t know what we would be without Zoom. Oh, wait! I can’t hear you? Can you hear me? You know what, Let’s use Zoom. Now, I can hear and see you well. Thanks, Zoom, and Thanks, Eric Yuan!

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