Eric Yuan / Founder of Zoom Communications: Make Products that Make the Customer Happy

Eric Yuan has been deeply involved with engineering since the 90’s with a knack for innovation and collaboration. He was one of the founding engineers and VP of engineering at WebEx for over a decade. Interestingly enough, Eric and his team of engineers laid the foundation for SaaS web conferencing technology almost by accident. In the early years, WebEx was originally a custom development shop until one of the co-founders felt productivity would improve if they monitored the engineers via video conference. This sparked the idea that other companies would benefit from such a concept as well and thus the pivot to web conferencing occurred.

WebEx became the market leader in Web Conferencing and later got acquired by Cisco for $3.2 B.   After the acquisition, Eric stayed on as head of WebEx Engineering.   He realized that in order for WebEx technology to evolve, it would have to be re-engineered from scratch which was something that his upper management would not allow.  Frustrated, Eric left Cisco and started Zoom..

Despite competition from a plethora of web conferencing solutions (Cisco, Microsoft, Citrix), Eric fearlessly began to develop a new solution. As Eric enlightens, “Startups [and smaller companies] are much better for building up individual products. In larger companies, it’s a little bit harder.”

His team of over 100 engineers worked around the clock for 2 1/2 years in developing Zoom’s video conference platform.  Since their launch, Zoom has achieved unicorn status and has a valuation over $1 B. In explaining the success of Zoom, Eric declares, “You can be successful if you make a product that makes a customer happy even in a crowded market.”

You can watch the full interview with Eric here.

Startup Lessons from Garage Ventures Bill Reichert

Silicon Valley icon Bill Reichert from Garage Technology Ventures recently spoke at Startup Grind Sacramento and offered some invaluable insight. With over 20 years as an entrepreneur and two public companies, Bill’s resume is quite impressive.

Originally from Chicago, Bill grew up spending quality time with his grandfather who exposed him to the adventurous world of entrepreneurship. He was in Silicon Valley when the PC was first released and arguably ran one of the first app development firms in United States history, which was apparently amazingly successful but eventually “crashed and burned.” In 1992, Bill and his buddy helped save a failing organization called “The Learning Company,” which later became the first business they took public for $60 million. Later down the line, the Learning Company was sold to Mattel for $3.6 billion. Ouch!  Bill eventually stopped kicking himself for selling too early and learned the ingredients to achieve success years later at the National Venture Capital Conference with Peter Lynch.

“I only invest in companies that even a complete idiot can run.”

This statement hit home for Bill, making him simplify his approach and become cautious with ventures that seem overly complex. When he looks for investments, he wants startups that have novel technology, a sustainable competitive advantage, and can make a significant impact in its designated sector.

Take for example Voke VR that “utilizes a synchronized multiple point-of-view stereoscopic panoramic camera system” technology. They’ve partnered with the Sacramento  Kings to enable mobile users in the stands or at home to receive an advanced VR spectacle without the bulky headset. The audience is able to pause, rewind and review the action from virtually any angle on the court.

When asked about ways for entrepreneurs to receive funding, his response was surprising:

“The best way to receive funding for your startup is to get endorsements from bigger companies for validation and reach out to venture capital sources.”

Bill firmly believes that by following these simple words of advice, you will be “head and shoulders” above your typical startup seeking that almighty dollar. Of course, you will most likely still need to meet the criteria that he mentioned when looking for a potential investment (i.e. novel technology, etc.).

Watch the full interview with Bill Reichert at Startup Grind Sacramento here.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at @ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.