It was 1989 when a 19-year-old college student began to have a dream. Every Friday when he finished his classes at the university of his native Shandong (China), he would take a train that, after a ten-hour journey, would take him to the home of his girlfriend. After spending a few hours together, again the same trip back to their city. It was then that he dreamed of an invention that, now, has made him a billionaire.
Would it be possible to invent a way of remote communication without the need to physically move? After finishing his engineering studies in China, he married that girl and they went to Japan, where this young man began to work in the world of telecommunications. But, after four years, he heard a talk by Bill Gates that made him make the decision of his life: go to the United States in search of his dream. And so did Eric Yuan.
It was the mid-1990s and, at just 27 years old, he landed in Silicon Valley to work for the world’s most powerful telecommunications companies. He started as a programmer at WebEX, a company that years later was acquired by Cisco Systems, where Yuan went on to become vice president of Engineering. It was then that he presented the idea of his life to his superiors: an application to make video calls that would work on any device.
That dream he had as a young man in China and the experience in the US, led him to think of something new. Until now, video calls could only be made between people who had a similar device, but Yuan’s idea went further: a multiplatform to be in constant communication from any device that we had at hand. However, Cisco rejected the idea, after which Yuan left the company and decided to found his own: Zoom.
It took longer than expected to make it work, as it was difficult to find investors. But once it was launched, his idea proved to be unstoppable, especially since it was focused on the business world, where workers from the same company, with different devices, millions of kilometres away, could see and work together. In April 2019, he debuted on the Nasdaq with a success that seemed unstoppable.
But what Yuan himself did not expect was what was to come. The coronavirus pandemic has caused thousands of people to be confined to their home to prevent the contagion from spreading and, therefore, the only way to communicate with friends, family and work is through video calls. That’s where Zoom took on definitive relevance worldwide, with an exponential increase in its services that have made Yuan a billionaire.
At the end of 2019, Zoom had 10 million users; at the beginning of April, they already exceeded 300 million worldwide, a situation that would have grown the Yuan’s fortune by around $ 4 billion in these four months of the year. Almost nothing. The fact that it is not necessary to register, that it is free (for calls of less than 40 minutes) and that up to one hundred people can connect at once has undoubtedly made it the market leader.
Controversial for your safety
However, the massive influx of users also brought with it something unknown to date: hackers. Many users reported having been interfered with in their calls, where users appeared who had not been invited and who even broadcast sensitive content such as violence or pornography. As a result, some companies began to doubt their safety and even the New York attorney general sent a statement to Zoom to find out what kind of security they had.
The company was forced to issue a statement, in which it acknowledged not being prepared for the mass arrival of customers, a situation that turned it into privacy problems and ended with Yuan’s own ‘Mea Culpa’: “I am deeply sorry”, said the entrepreneur in the public report, in which he ensured that important security measures had been put in place to end the entry of hackers and the doubts generated.
Just a few days later, new security measures arrived at Zoom that, to this day, continue to be implemented. “Zoom may not yet be the ideal platform for high-ranking politicians discussing sensitive issues, but for the vast majority of people it is not a bad choice,” says Graham Cluley, a cybersecurity expert at ‘BBC’. This is how Zoom was born and became a successful application, being today the most widely used video call system in the world.