Video conferencing in and of itself is certainly nothing new. It’s been around in some form or another for decades — businesses used it for remote meetings in the 1990s, and personal users have been “Skyping” with friends and family since high-speed Internet connections found their way into homes. Certain organizations have become virtually synonymous with the trend in much the same way that “Google it” has become shorthand for “search for something online.” Zoom Video Communications is one such company.
Originally launched in 2013 by a former Cisco engineer and executive named Eric Yuan, Zoom has enjoyed an almost unprecedented level of growth over the last two years, thanks largely to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, as the Coronavirus began to make its way around the world, people were sent to work from home indefinitely. Of course, they still needed a way to communicate and collaborate with one another. They suddenly had to figure out how to be just as productive at home as they could be in the office. For many, Zoom became that solution.
Charting the Rise of Zoom
It’s clear that COVID-19 has contributed enormously to Zoom’s current success. In January 2020, for example, it was estimated that the service saw approximately 56,000 daily downloads. By February, that number had already climbed to 1.7 million. Just a month later, when worldwide lockdowns and other social distancing restrictions began, it had risen again to 2.13 million — a trend that shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Likewise, the platform has also seen a dramatic surge in the number of people participating in meetings every day. After all, Zoom is a free download from both the service’s website and various app stores. Downloads don’t amount to much if people aren’t actively using the software, but thankfully for Zoom, they are. In December 2019, there were approximately 10 million daily meeting participants according to the same research mentioned above. In March 2020, that number had climbed to 200 million. Another month later and it hit more than 300 million.
The idea for Zoom was born from Eric Yuan, an immigrant from China who first arrived in the United States in the 1990s. Even back then, he was passionate about finding a way to make video calls not only easy, but portable — and this was before the advent of the smartphone.
His career began at WebEx, where he worked as an engineer. After WebEx was acquired by Cisco a decade later, he became that company’s Corporate Vice President of Engineering. He experienced a tremendous amount of success during that time, but he had visions of something bigger.
While he was at Cisco, Yuan listened carefully to customers express various complaints about how WebEx operated. They were constantly dealing with unreliable connections, a disconnect between the audio and video, etc. They even found the installation process frustrating, particularly in IT departments that were working with a large number of users.
Customers wanted something faster, more reliable, more efficient and more straightforward. Yuan was more than happy to oblige.
In 2011, he left Cisco and began to work on the solution that would become Zoom. It officially launched in January 2013 and was a major hit right out of the gate. Not only did Zoom hit one million active participants just a few months later in May, but Yuan was also able to secure funding of $10 million to continue his work.
Even before the pandemic, Zoom found ways to differentiate itself from many other competitors in the marketplace. For starters, Yuan prioritized very low data usage, meaning that calls would still function on slower Internet connections and mobile devices. Not only that, but Zoom was cloud-based, virtually eliminating the installation process and making it available on any device or platform — no exceptions. The Pro package cost just $9.99 per month at its launch, which was far cheaper than almost anything out there. In addition, Zoom was offered to K-12 schools free of charge in many of the countries it had entered.
The aforementioned features combined to form the perfect storm. Zoom slowly began to increase its market share, then the COVID-19 pandemic acted as an accelerant that solidified what many in the industry already knew: video conferencing was here to stay, and Zoom was now a frontrunner.
We hope to inspire business owners by sharing success stories like Zoom’s. If you need any assistance with your start-up or scaling your business, feel free to give us a call.