I was extremely fortunate to animate a fireside chat with Eric S. Yuan recently, in front of an audience of Harvard Business School and Harvard University Alumni, as part of the CEO series of the HBSANC and Harvard Club SF. What a fantastic evening that was: Eric is really charismatic, fun and an incredible and original thought leader. It was a very entertaining evening for everyone, packed with business learnings and life lessons. The story behind Zoom is fascinating and I personally very much enjoyed conversing and hearing firsthand the advice from a great entrepreneur, who happens to also be a very humble person. In this post, I wanted to share just a few learnings from the 90mn discussion with Eric, illustrated by his actual answers. I hope that you will like my selection and will be encouraged to attend the next CEO series event.
Can large companies foster disruptive innovation to their own businesses from within?
Eric was instrumental in building WebEx into the $1B+ business it is already today. Yet he started Zoom out of frustration for what he perceived were the frictions and inefficiencies of the WebEx model, as well as the fact that it left out a large segment of the population. Zoom initially addressed the SMB space, where WebEx did not compete, but the company has now become very directly competitive in the Enterprise segment with a disruptive service that is more affordable and simpler to use than WebEx. It is another example of The Innovator’s Dilemma phenomenon and I asked Eric whether he thinks that large companies can find a way to harness the innovation that comes from within, instead of seeing their business being disrupted from the outside. Eric’s answer is very categorical, he thinks that it is very hard to innovate inside corporate cultures that are resistant to change. The segment captures his full view on the topic, preceded by the story of how the idea for Zoom came about.