Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify that Eric Yuan got his visa in his ninth application.
A man whose visa application had been rejected eight times is now the billionaire behind the app that keeps workers in the U.S. connected in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak.
By the end of March, the number of mobile users of CEO Eric Yuan’s Zoom were nearly three times that of Microsoft Teams, the app’s closest rival, according to research firm Apptopia.
Zoom’s daily mobile U.S. users rose to a record 4.84 million on Monday, as companies asked employees to work from home and students switched to online learning programs. On the same day, Teams had 1.56 million mobile users, while Slack logged 500,000.
“First, Zoom’s big advantage, as far as software goes, is it’s scalable, easy to use, and deployable across multiple devices,” said DA Davidson analyst Rishi Jaluria, according to Reuters. “Second, Zoom has a freemium model, which allows companies to dip their toes in the water before committing to a large roll-out, and expansions come easy.”
Zoom, a video-conferencing app, is the brainchild of Chinese-born Eric Yuan, who arrived in the U.S. in 1997. However, his road to the American dream was never smooth.
Inspired by Bill Gates talking about the internet, Yuan, then in his early 20s, set his eyes on Silicon Valley, so he applied for a visa.
Unfortunately, Yuan was rejected the first time — and seven more times. He struggled to apply for two years.
Then, Yuan finally got approved in his ninth try, arriving in the U.S. in 1997. Despite his limited English speaking abilities, he managed to secure a job at video-conferencing software company WebEx with his ability to code.
In 2007, Cisco purchased WebEx for $3.2 billion. Yuan found himself promoted to corporate vice president of engineering.
While the new position had him earning six digits, he eventually sought for better after hearing from dissatisfied customers. This fueled his appetite to start his own venture.
They launched the video-conferencing app the following year in stiff competition against Cisco, Google and Skype. Like many other new apps, Zoom started with basic services before offering more developed, paid options later.
The rest was history. Zoom became a stable name in the video-conferencing game, but it was not until multiple countries — including the U.S. — enforced quarantine measures that the app made sweeping headlines for its rapid growth.
Between March 14 and March 21, video conferencing apps topped 62 million downloads worldwide, according to the analytics firm App Annie. The majority of those downloads were Zoom, Google Hangouts Meet and Microsoft Teams.
Those figures from both iOS and Android users were up 45% from the week prior, and up 90% from the weekly average last year, Business Insider noted. The spike in the number of search queries for Zoom, in particular, was unprecedented.
Zoom debuted on the stock market 11 months ago. Yuan, whose net worth is $7.9 billion, owns 20% of the company’s shares, according to The Guardian.
“It’s good that I am 50 now. If you had asked me this question when I was 25, I would tell you, ‘yes, we are very excited about the stock price,'” he told the Associated Press when asked how Zoom has soared while the most of the market has plunged. “But, now, seriously, I can tell you the truth, it don’t matter. So the stock is up, it’s good for our investors. If it’s down, we keep working hard. I really do not focus on the stock price.”
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