How Eric S. Yuan Connected the World
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We leverages expertise in financing, operating, and advising technology businesses to thoughtfully invest across the capital structure to the benefit of founders and limited partners.To Yuan, the answer was clear: None of the existing solutions were good enough. He knew, based on his experiences at WebEx, that customers would respond to a new option if it solved the problems that had long plagued video conferencing. In his mind, there was only one way to make video conferencing into an experience that people would actually enjoy. You had to take the best engineers you could find and invest as much time as you could afford into creating a product that provided the best possible version of the experience—not one that was merely serviceable.
In 2011, that meant bucking the industry-wide trend of trying to build a video-communication service that could live in the browser. Instead, Yuan hired an initial team of 40 Zoom engineers and spent almost 18 months creating the basic framework for a native app with custom-built access points for every possible browser. “Everyone else said, ‘We’ll use the WebRTC shortcut—it’ll be good enough,’” remembers Sequoia’s Pat Grady. “Eric said, ‘Nope—you’re not going to get the quality you need.
’”Part of why people had balked at what Yuan proposed was because of its sheer difficulty: It’s genuinely hard—from a technical standpoint—to build a good video-conferencing platform. Even the slightest flaws in function can ruin the experience, whether it’s lagging audio, dropped calls, or low-quality video. Sometimes, it would take the team several months to fix a single problem.
“The next thing I know, they just put me in the back of a truck, in the dark. It was like in the movies,” says Yahyaoui. “And then I was thrown out at the Algerian border.”