You probably only heard about the Zoom – video conferencing until recently. If digital meetings weren’t the usual part of the workflow.
But since the Covid-19 and social distancing caused so much of the world to adopt work from home policies, Zoom has become an essential part of the toolbox not only for business meetings but webinars, online classrooms, etc.
Zoom, like the other competing platforms, allows people to meet face to face virtually. Originally meant for enterprises and universities, Zoom is now in the business of connecting everybody in times when separation is so important.
It was a bumpy road of 9 years that lead to an overnight success. So let’s look back.
How it all started?
Originally Zoom is created by Eric Yuan but must add it wasn’t his first rodeo in video conferencing space. Back in 1997 after 2 years of visa rejections, he comes to the US because of the Internet blow up, which he saw the big future in.
Later he becomes one of the founding engineers at Webex. As VP of Engineering, he grows the team to more than 800 engineers worldwide.
But in the 2007 Webex was acquired by Cisco and the story took a turn.
New management and company focus cased the innovations came to a halt.
Year to year Eric was growing in the belief that product loses the opportunities and becomes outdated.
Later in the interview for Forbes he explained:
‘’I was paid very well as a VP at Cisco. But Webex was my baby. In 2010 and 2011, I did not see happy customers. I was very embarrassed that I spent so much time on the technology. Why are the customers not happy?’’
In 2011 completely frustrated with new management and issues that they wouldn’t address he left.
But around 40 engineers who supported his vision left too. And together they went and built Zoom.
Since day one, the team has been focused on customer convenience, more specifically – on building the tool that actually works and will fit all the needs.
‘’From the moment we founded Zoom, our main focus has been to provide a cloud video communications solution that would make customers happy. That focus has continued to guide all our innovations, partnerships, and other initiatives. The fantastic growth we’re experiencing and the many industry accolades we’ve received can all be attributed to having satisfied customers that enjoy using our platform.’’
Even that days it was a crowded market. In addition to Cisco which Eric left, there were several other big players including Microsoft, Adobe, Citrix, and Polycom, as well as newcomers like Highfive, Join.Me, BlueJeans Network, and Vidyo.
Eric’s way to stand out was fairy simple but genius:
Zoom not meant to be one of the competitors it meant to be the best. The most convenient and thought out.
Throughout the years they proved that customer feedback and focus on it is an efficient way to build a best-in-class product.
But it’s not just the quality was the advantage point, also it’s the strategy, how they deliver that product:
Zoom’s video conferencing features are free for everyone to use – up to 40 minutes, that is. That is not a random number too, according to the research they’ve made the most efficient meeting is always around the 45 min and more so they wanted to keep the free plan below that.
But clearly this 40-minute limit hasn’t deterred people from trying the product. In fact, their freemium model, is what has been powering their customer acquisition.
How Zoom stands out?
Zoom was so good for its customers as well as for the investors because it provided a lot for very little and still managed to grow its revenue year on year.
Earlier, video conferencing platforms have been a pretty expensive solution. And platforms were focused on the audio first growing to the video later. But what Zoom provided to the customers was a 3-in-1 package: HD video conferencing, mobility and web meetings, all for $9.99. (Zoom pricing in 2014)
Zoom was the first platform that offered mobile screen sharing within video conferences. The big advantage was the way the users can join the meeting. It’s not necessary to be registered – users can join via link, send invitations via email, SMS, and IMs, and utilize a full suite of collaboration features.
Also, Zoom was a true cloud-based solution, with no dedicated on-premises hardware necessary. It used the hybrid cloud model that runs on any virtual machine, can run behind an enterprise’s firewall, and meetings happened within the organizations’ own private clouds. This allowed the companies to keep meetings local while using Zoom’s public cloud infrastructure to conduct meetings.
Like for any other platform security can be a problem point and it’s not like Zoom is free of conflicts. It has been caught in a pile of controversies related to privacy and security too.
Recently the Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India had issued an advisory on the use of the platform, flagging it as unsafe and vulnerable to cybercrimes. Though the Government hasn’t banned Zoom in the country, Government officials have been barred from using it.
It came out after users complained about instances of leaked passwords and ‘’Zoombombing’’ – uninvited attendees break into meetings and demonstrated explicit/disturbing images.
India is not the only country that has raised red flags on using Zoom. Zoom’s security woes have led to several other countries taking up its case. Previously, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), warned users in the US. Later, Taiwan announced a ban on the usage within the country’s borders.
In 2019, Apple had to update its macOS after a vulnerability was discovered that allowed any website to forcibly join a user to a Zoom call with their video camera activated, without the user’s permission.
Zoom was also found to be sending unauthorized data such as when a user opened the app, their timezone, city, and device details to Facebook.
The success in the pandemic
The outline is, Zoom’s success happened well before 2020. It did so much right beforehand that when people were sent to distance and work from home, Zoom became a massive hit due to its features.
So, all these years working on making video calls easy and existing customers happy came in handy at the right time. People needed a platform that was ready for the job, and, there was one that stood out: Zoom.
It now has more than 300 million daily Zoom meeting participants.