They said it could not be done. Zoom broke through a barrier and hit the big time, with over 300 million daily users according to CNN in a few short weeks because of Covid-19!
But let’s be clear here. On the other side of this unexpected marketing break-through for Zoom all because of the Coronavirus, there are 4 nasty corporate monsters waiting to pounce on anything new and shiny that gets started. I call them GAFA. GAFA is the big 4, Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. And with 100 million daily users of Google Meet and 700 million daily viewers of Facebook videos, Zoom has joined a special class.
5,000 tech startups are not being funded or prospering right now. I’m not talking about all the ones that are suffering for real. I am talking about the ones that never got started. You don’t go into business if the opportunity is less than nil.
What investor, including Silicon Valley funders, in their right mind would invest in a competitor to GAFA in any market GAFA dominates in? Why should an investor invest in the next Smart Phone, Mapping Software, Social Network or E-commerce play with the absolute high risk that they will be crushed? They don’t want the risk of going up against GAFA. And therefor no e-commerce tech startup is getting funded, at least in 2020. That lack of capital is called Barriers To Entry. That’s an old MBA saying, and easy to understand.
Whether they intended to or not, because I remember “Do No Evil”, the GAFA companies have created both real and invisible barriers to entry in a ton of software and hardware markets. And the impact has been the slowing of new features, no new competitors and lack of innovation. But somehow, one of the trailing indirect competitors in a small market broke through this barrier and entered the tech leadership of a new world order. Zoom crashed through the glass ceiling. So there should be hope for thousands of other startups now!
So you may be thinking, what do the 1,000,000 GAFA workers actually do every day who work for GAFA? They are all highly trained engineers and developers and marketers. It takes literally the team sizes of a small European nation to run these companies. When you are running the biggest tech monopolies in the world, like Hooli, just day to operations takes up 99% of their time. Employees do have their own ideas, and would help these guys continually innovate. But the truth is in any large corporation I’ve worked in, the best ideas are not shared with the big corp execs.
And from my experience working in big corporations the top product managers used to say to me “we don’t have room on the product road map for your idea or you’re not in product dev, you’re in web dev. Keep in your lane”.
It’s like GAFA has taken the place of old time companies like IBM, where eventually innovation got stifled. GAFA is now the new old time IBM and AT&Ts, who got out of sync with innovation at some point in their histories. Plus, workers want their best ideas for the own startups, which they would pursue if they had the opportunity. Today what GAFA execs do is just acquire everything in site that looks promising, thus Google Ventures. That way they always own the future. So how did Zoom slip through their grasp of this Back To The Future episode?
GAFA may have acquired a ton of startups, where they get their taste of innovation, but in their core businesses, I see very little difference in their product or services from 5 years ago and in some cases like the Amazon interface and experience is more like 20 years old. Let’s face it, they are not young and fast moving at this point.
Interfaces aside, you could say the internals of GAFA services and products, the guts, are all great and new and wonderful for software and hardware. They all do updates on a regular basis. They are using AI in ways I can’t imagine. I know when I search in Google on my laptop for something, I get an ad on my iphone in seconds for the same thing. They are working on innovation that is good for them, not me. I love my iphone. I love working with Google Search. But there is innovation I don’t know about that concerns me. I am too old to know what is better. This stuff is so much better than what I had when I was a kid 30–40 years ago so I stopped questioning it. We had nothing basically but books and TV back then. But if you are in tech, you will get it. These apps and hardware can always be better.
So how did Zoom break through to this elite class of tech titans who keep all competitors all day and sit around in their ivory towers moving chess pieces around?
You can’t control everything in the market. GAFA can’t have it all, that would be impossible. But right now Zuckerberg and Google Execs are rubbing their greedy hands and thinking how to squash this bug, which has grown to an elephant.
Zoom has been around for 10 years. I have used Zoom as long as 6 years ago for business video calls. It had been a stable business product many companies have used for many years. But this still does not explain why competitors Uberconference, Microsoft Skype, Webex, Join.me and GoToMeeting did not become the ultimate go to company during Coronavirus. The fact that Zoom is Chinese owned could be a factor. Maybe they were doing Zoom calls long before us in Wuhan! And as you have heard Zoom has major security flaws. Even I have been Zoom bombed. But that aside, it did the job, it works well on desktop and mobile, and it scaled, and did not crash during at least 90% of my Zoom calls and webinars. I have been on 3 to 4 Zoom calls and webinars a day for the past month. I should know.
What made Zoom so special it became the darling of the Coronavirus/Covid-19 era?
Zoom’s competitors are no different in feature set. I was on GotToMeeting and Webex in the past 2 weeks. It’s just is not the same hype as what Zoom gets.
So once again how did Zoom get to 300 million daily users! That’s not an easy task.
Let’s call it first to market during the virus. Think about this. Jimmy Fallon, the first person to go online for his talk show used Zoom. He talked about Zoom right there on TV. The fact is it has been mocked on Saturday Night Live, used by CNN, used by governments and schools. It’s everywhere. Critical mass is not easy to achieve. For now let’s call it luck. I think that luck has more to do with timing and visibility. But they also have longevity. They stuck it out for years in the smaller business markets. Zoom now has been adopted by 3 big markets, business, personal and school. That is a huge amount of people. I guess you can make your own luck eventually.
I don’t have all the answers why Zoom made it big, but as you plan out your next startup think about it. Somebody broke through and forced Facebook and Google to rethink their entire business strategy in video conferencing. And it seems that it all happened in a 3 month period. Now, Facebook is on the hunt, about to introduce their own “Zoom-like” service. Google is changing their “Meet” product to be more like Zoom. It’s like the good old days when they actually had to compete!