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How coronavirus helped this man make $4b in three months

Eric Yuan has made billions as Zoom takes off. Images: Getty

In the space of weeks, offices around the world have shifted from conducting meetings in boardrooms, coffee shops and across desks to instead take place from kitchen tables, bedrooms and hammocks. 

And it’s making Zoom founder Eric Yuan billions. 

In the three months to April, the tech CEO made nearly US$4 billion, with his fortune jumping to US$7.57 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index as of 2 April. The number of people using Zoom for daily meetings has jumped from 10 million in December to 200 million. 

Yuan got the idea for Zoom while in a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend and now-wife which saw him repeatedly travelling 10 hours to see her while the two were studying, Fortune reported. 

He wanted to find a way to replicate the feeling of being with her, without suffering the packed 10-hour train journeys. 

“I was only able to see her twice a year and it took more than 10 hours to get there by train. I was young then—18 or 19 years old—and I thought it would be fantastic if in the future there was a device where I could just click a button and see her and talk to her,” he told Forbes in 2017. 

Yuan started out at WebEx in 1997, staying with the company after it was acquired by Cisco in 2007 but left in 2011 and founded Zoom soon after. 

And when he founded Zoom, he promised his wife that Zoom would be so good he wouldn’t need to take more than two business trips a year - a promise that he has managed to keep. 

“After the product was ready, I told my wife I was going to have to work even harder, but promised I would only travel twice a year at the most because the technology is better,” he said. 

“If you look at the past three years, I have kept that promise. I hope that with video conferencing like Zoom everyone can spend time with family.”

However, Zoom has recently struggled with privacy issues exposed by the massive number of people currently using the service. 

As The Intercept reported, Zoom calls can’t be secured with end-to-end encryption, one of several flaws recently exposed. 

In a blog post, Yuan said Zoom will dedicate all engineering resources to shoring up the faults in the Zoom architecture, calling in third-party experts to carry out an extensive review. 

This is the future of work: Yuan

Speaking to The Associated Press, Yuan said the current crisis highlights how remote work is the way of the future. 

“I am pretty sure almost every company will be thinking about it and say, ‘Hey, maybe working from home makes sense,’ and maybe let every employee work from home, maybe once a week. Previously, a lot of businesses didn't even want to try,” he said. 

But the jury’s out on whether it makes people more productive. Yuan said he has “even more meetings” and regularly misses taking a lunch break. 

“I am also learning how to adapt to all this working from home.”

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