Apr 21, 2019

Videoconferencing startup Zoom's happy IPO

Zoom staff celebrating IPO. Photo: Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Eric Yuan helped shatter one of the weirdest corporate taboos on Thursday, becoming one of the first Chinese CEO of a major U.S. publicly-listed corporation. (Indian CEOs, by contrast, including Microsoft's Satya Nadella, Pepsi's Indra Nooyi, and Citi's Vikram Pandit, have been highly visible for years.)

The backdrop: Yuan's triumph came in the highly competitive world of videoconferencing. It's a world he knew very well when he founded Zoom in 2011: He had been the head of engineering at one of Zoom's competitors, WebEx, which was sold to Cisco for $3.2 billion in 2007.

  • Zoom was an improbable startup. As CNBC's Ari Levy writes in an excellent profile, "not even Eric Yuan’s closest friends, oldest advisers and earliest investors thought Zoom needed to exist." It was also fighting giants: Not only Cisco but also Microsoft and Google.
  • Yuan's Zoom is also a great place to work. It's the top-rated company on Glassdoor, with a 96% "recommend to a friend" rating. (One corporate perk: Zoom will reimburse you for any book you buy for yourself or your family members.) In contrast to Alibaba, with its notorious "996" culture of working 12-hour days 6 days a week, Yuan encourages employees to spend a lot of time with their families — and does the same himself.

Zoom raised $751 million in its IPO on Thursday, none of which might ever be needed. The company is profitable, and, partly for that reason, now trades at a valuation of $16 billion. (“The price is too high,’’ Yuan told Bloomberg.)

  • Zoom's profits are still small — the company's p/e ratio is north of 2,000 — but profitability means long-term sustainability. Loss-making companies like Uber and Lyft, by contrast, will ultimately fail if they can't persuade investors to keep funding their losses while they attempt to find that elusive path to profitability.

The big picture: Zoom, like Slack, is part of a new breed of enterprise software companies. The financial decision to start paying for the product is still made in the executive ranks, but it's invariably driven by bottom-up adoption of the free version by rank-and-file employees. If a sales team can say that half of a company is using the product already, just because they love it, it's a lot easier to close the deal.

Editor's note: This piece was corrected to show Eric Yuan is one of the first Chinese CEOs of a major U.S. publicly-listed corporation (not the first).

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 857,487 — Total deaths: 42,107 — Total recoveries: 178,034.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 188,172 — Total deaths: 3,873 — Total recoveries: 7,024.
  3. Business updates: Should you pay your rent or mortgage during the coronavirus pandemic? Find out if you are protected under the CARES Act.
  4. Public health updates: More than 400 long-term care facilities across the U.S. report patients with coronavirus — Older adults and people with underlying health conditions are more at risk, new data shows.
  5. Federal government latest: President Trump said the next two weeks would be "very painful," with projections indicating the virus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans.
  6. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Captain of nuclear aircraft carrier docked in Guam pleaded with the U.S. Navy for more resources after more than 100 members of his crew tested positive.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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World coronavirus updates: UN warns of recession with "no parallel" to recent past

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus pandemic is the "greatest test" the world has faced together since the formation of the United Nations just after the Second World War ended in 1945, UN chief António Guterres said Tuesday.

The big picture: COVID-19 cases surged past 856,000 and the death toll exceeded 42,000 Tuesday, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy reported more than 12,000 deaths.

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White House projects 100,000 to 240,000 U.S. coronavirus deaths

President Trump said at a press briefing on Tuesday that the next two weeks in the U.S. will be "very painful" and that he wants "every American to be prepared for the days that lie ahead," before giving way to Deborah Birx to explain the models informing the White House's new guidance on the coronavirus.

Why it matters: It's a somber new tone from the president that comes after his medical advisers showed him data projecting that the virus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans — even with strict social distancing guidelines in place.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Health