The Eric Yuan Effect

I’ve been reading about Eric Yuan, founder of Zoom.

Yuan migrated to the USA from China in the 80s. He had heard Bill Gates speak about the internet and he wanted to be a part of the digital revolution.

So he applied for his visa. He was rejected. He applied again. Rejected again.

9 tries. It took Eric Yuan 9 tries to finally get his visa for the USA.

Once in the USA, he started working at the video conferencing software company WebEx.

He worked there for a decade and rose up the ranks to become the VP of Engineering.

Under Yuan’s leadership, WebEx grew to more than 750 engineers and had an annual revenue of around $1B (and was later acquired by Cisco). Safe to say the company was doing well.

But there was a problem.

The video conferencing software sucked.

Yuan would meet with customers and they would be unhappy. They’d complain about video and audio lag. Connectivity issues. All sorts of stuff.

In Yuan’s own words:

Before I left Cisco I spent a lot of time talking to WebEx customers and every time I talked to them I felt very embarrassed because I did not see a single happy customer, and I tried to understand why that was. Eric Yuan

So in 2011, Yuan left. He decided to start his own company with the mission of building the best video conferencing software in the world.

After he left, 40 of the 800 engineers he worked with immediately joined him at Zoom.

And according to this tweet, almost all of the others sent in resumes to work with him. He had something like 1000 job inquiries within a week of announcing his leaving.

Talk about engineering loyalty.

Today Zoom is valued at more than $40 billion. The pandemic may have accelerated the company’s growth but make no mistake: this was an overnight success 9 years in the making.


I think the part that stands out the most to me is that Yuan actually had the courage to leave Cisco and go on to start Zoom.

There is often great inertia that prevents us from leaving jobs we’re unhappy with.

In Yuan’s case, he had by all measures a very successful career ever since he immigrated to the US. Most people in his shoes wouldn’t even bother resigning from a comfortable VP of Engineering position.

So he could have settled and just resigned himself to the fact that maybe video conferencing software was supposed to be like this. After all, there was very little competition in the market.

But he didn’t. He chose discomfort and hundreds of other engineers believed in him.

Keep moving forward and don’t settle. You might be surprised at how many people follow you.

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