Education: Masters in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science
College: Shandong University of Science and Technologytral Oklahoma
- Joined WebEx in 1997, which was later acquired by Cisco Systems in 2007.
- Post acquisition, Yuan became VP of the engineering team, leading and managing a team of 800 engineers.
2. Origin Story
When Eric Yuan was just a freshman in college, he used to take a ten-hour train ride to visit his girlfriend. He hated those rides and used to think of other ways of visiting her, maybe one that didn't involve traveling. "Those daydreams eventually became the basis for Zoom", Yuan says.
Fascinated by entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, and attracted by the U.S market's tech boom in the 1990s, Eric Yuan was convinced of starting his own business in the U.S market, and hence, decided to move to the U.S. However, Eric struggled to get a visa, having to try and fail 8 times before finally getting it approved. Eric soon moved to the US in 1997 and joined WebEx soon after - at the time, it was just a two-year-old startup.
A Six-figure salary or Entrepreneurship?
Just 3 years into the market, WebEx went public in the year 2000. Eric Yuan spent a decade working for WebEx. When it was eventually acquired by Cisco in 2007, Eric was made the Corporate VP of Engineering. He was tasked with managing a team of 800 engineers during this tenure. Not happy with the service and the collaboration solutions that WebEx provided, Eric Yuan started to convince the senior management to rebuild it from the ground up. “Someday someone is going to build something on the cloud, and it’s going to kill me” says Yuan, on the need of the hour to innovate on the original product. After repeatedly getting overlooked on his suggestions, Eric decided to leave the company. It was a difficult decision for him, as he was married at the time, and pursuing entrepreneurship was a risky bet. Yuan eventually convinced his wife that entrepreneurship was the path for him and he would regret it later if he didn't try it out.
Eric Yuan's idea to build a platform better than WebEx required a lot of manpower and funding. He hired more than 40 engineers (some in China) to work on his idea. Eric asked his friends to write him a check for USD 250,000/-, so he could pay the salaries of hired engineers. Former WebEx CEO, Subrah Iyar, gave him $3 million for his startup, which was then called Saasbee. The investors were skeptical given the existing competitors in the market - Microsoft's Skype, Google's Hangout and BlueJeans Networks' video conferencing software. Despite the state of the market, Eric Yuan didn't deter from his vision to build a product that would make customers happy.
Finally, Saasbee was re-branded as Zoom Video Communications and the product was launched in 2012.
3. Other interesting points
- Just within the first 5 months of the launch, Zoom was used by more than 3500 businesses.
- Eric Yuan is a big fan of the NBA, especially the Los Angeles Lakers.
- In fourth grade, Eric Yuan started collecting construction scraps to recycle their copper for cash.
“On the one hand that’s indeed a big risk, to go from a very well-paid and vice president position [at Cisco]. Why would you want to leave? However, on the flip side, I was not happy. So, mentally, that’s not a big risk. The purpose of life is to pursue happiness, and I was not happy. Then what’s the risk?" - Eric Yuan