Many of us became Zoom users out of necessity in the last few months. I’ve attended a number of Zoom work meetings, Happy Hours, birthdays, etc. And I’ve learned the word “quarantini,” which is a martini that you imbibe while under quarantine!

The man behind Zoom is an immigrant from China named Eric Yuan. He founded Zoom in 2011. At the time, many thought that the video communication market was already too saturated, which made it hard for him to find investors. Instead, he borrowed money from friends and family. It took years for the company to finally turn a profit in 2019. That same year, the company went public. Shares opened at $36 but over the first day of trading, the value went up by 72%. That made him a billionaire. Zoom was aimed more at corporate clients such as Samsung, Uber, Walmart, etc. that paid for the service. In December 2019, daily users were about 10 million.

Then COVID-19 hit us, and it seemed that anybody and everybody was using Zoom. By April 2020, daily users had increased to 300 million. The U.S. has the most users and next is India. The primary focus is on the satisfaction of the end user. The person initiating the call just sends out a link for others to click on and join. What makes Zoom different is how easy it is to use – all participants can communicate in a side chatbox, chat privately, upload presentations, etc. The entry level model is called freemium! Using Zoom is free for the first 40 minutes of each call (although the user can hang up and start a new free 40-minute call). Zoom removed the 40-minute time limits on the free accounts for primary and secondary schools.

According to Bloomberg, as of January 2020, Eric Yuan is the 118th richest person in the world with assets of over $16 billion. He just turned 50 in 2020, so his success came later in life than many other tech billionaires.

Still, his is the typical immigrant story, where so often success is part hard work and part luck. In 1994, Eric Yuan attended a Bill Gates speech about the future of the internet, and decided he wanted to come to the U.S. to become a part of the industry. He applied for a visa but was denied. Getting a visa to the U.S. can often be very much hit and miss. He applied a total of nine times over two years before his persistence finally paid off and he was issued a visa. He has been persistent throughout his life. He had tried to convince his previous U.S. employer to pursue a Zoom-like product, but the employer failed to listen. When he first came to the U.S., he already had a master’s degree in engineering, but he spoke only a little English. He has worked to improve his English, but he still has a heavy accent. His limited English skills were likely one of the reasons that his employer failed to listen to his ideas. In 2007, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Eric Yuan said that in the early days of the company, he personally emailed every customer who tried Zoom but then canceled. Because he believes so strongly in the quality of Zoom’s service, he travels very little. He prefers to meet people via Zoom. When the company went public in 2019, people were impressed that he travelled to New York for the initial public offering of the company’s stock. That trip to New York was only his eighth work trip in five years! When he decided to form his own company, he promised his wife that work would not take him away from family time with her and their three children.

In a Medium.com article titled “The Inspiring Backstory of Eric S. Yuan, Founder and CEO of Zoom” the interviewer asked him what were the five things that he wished someone had told before launching his startup. He said the following:

1. Although the start-up journey is long and tough, it’s also fun and exciting. Don’t be afraid to start — just go for it!

2. You don’t need to hire the people who are the most qualified on paper; instead you should hire those with self-motivation and a self-learning mentality.

3. Your company’s culture is the #1 most important thing to get right. Everything else flows from there.

4. If your employees are not happy, nothing else at your company will go well.

5. Find the investors who want to invest in you, not only in your business.

His focus on a positive company culture led him to be the #1 CEO of 2018 on Glassdoor.com, which is a website that allows employees to anonymously rate a current or previous employer. His employees gave him a 99% approval rating. Some of the perks that Zoom offers include free meals, fitness reimbursement, high-quality health insurance, etc. It also reimburses employees for any book that they purchase for themselves or their family members, including children’s books. In September 2020, Time magazine named Eric Yuan as one of the 100 most influential people of 2020.

Zoom is headquartered in San Jose, California. Zoom started 2020 with over 2,500 employees – more than half in the U.S. and the rest in international locations. They have grown to almost 4,000 employees. So one man’s vision has created jobs for many direct employees. Not to mention the jobs that are created in order to serve those employees, who will shop, buy cars, get married, buy houses, send their children to school, and hundreds of other activities that will create jobs for others.

Alice Gruber has been practicing U.S. immigration and naturalization law since 1995. Since 2007, she has practiced in Cooke County for a range of small to medium-sized corporate clients nationwide, quarter horse ranches in Texas and individuals. If you’d like to suggest a specific immigration topic for a future column, email alice@alicegruber.com.

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