20 April 2021

Lessons from Eric Yuan, the CEO of Zoom

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From university students to executives of large corporates, the number of Zoom users has been inclining for years. The rising trends of remote working and the pandemic-necessitated Work from Home (WFH) even further boost Zoom’s usage. Zoom’s success is a phenomenon worthy of further study, given that the sector of video conference application is by no means a blue ocean. Skype used to be the popular norm, followed by other products such as Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams. How has Zoom become the leader of the market? Here are some lessons that we can take from Eric Yuan, Zoom’s CEO.


Focus on Your Customer

Eric Yuan reached his first milestone when he started working for Webex, a startup in Silicon Valley. In 2007, Webex was acquired by Cisco Systems, which has been making conferencing products until now. When Yuan was still working for Cisco, he found that users were not happy with the product. Yuan then brought customer feedback to the management, yet his ideas to solve the problems were rejected. Focusing on these customer feedback, he decided to leave the company and start his own business.


Customer-centric culture has ever since become one of Zoom’s core values. In fact, Yuan often engages directly with customers on Twitter and responds to their feedback, especially the negative ones. He often brings issues to his team so that issues related to Zoom can be quickly resolved, keeping their customers happy. As expected, happy customers are returning customers, and this has allowed Zoom to expand the number of its users to hundreds of millions (roughly 300 million in March 2020).


Learn from your Mistakes and Weaknesses

Zoom’s customer-centric model also brings us to another point, which is how the company learns from its mistakes and weaknesses. Sweeping things under the rug and not acknowledging mistakes are the worst sets of action that a company can make. Customers will always pay attention to what developers do with their mistakes. Instead of escaping, Zoom does learn from its mistakes and weaknesses, and sometimes they do not hesitate to go the extra mile to fix an issue, especially when it’s a major one. 


Remember Zoom data breach in early 2020? It came as a shock to everyone, Eric Yuan included. There were global criticisms regarding Zoom’s privacy issues in their terms and agreements, lawsuits, and significant decline of customer trust. Yuan quickly apologized, solved many legal issues, and even went as far as buying a security company named Keybase to improve their security. In April 2020, Yuan also made Facebook security chief Alex Stamos a consultant for Zoom. The result is obvious: We’re all still using Zoom in 2021.


Be Mindful of Possible Target Markets

When Zoom was on their early days, it was focusing on huge companies. The demand for video conferencing has been on the rise since the Fourth Industrial Revolution happened, and trying to get users from large corporations is just logical. While it was a reasonable thing to do, what we can learn from Zoom is that it is wise to be mindful of possible change in target markets. Market is an ever-changing place where anything can happen, so opportunities might come from a direction that we don’t expect.


In the early 2010s, the popularity of online courses was skyrocketing, especially with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). This called for the supply of a good application which could facilitate remote learning sessions. Yuan was smart to answer the call. In November 2012, roughly one and a half years after Zoom was founded, Stanford Continuing Studies became Zoom’s first customer, even just three months after the product was launched. This great unshackles Zoom’s popularity from the limit of business uses.


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