The spread of COVID-19 has posed major challenges to American businesses, and as companies close to prevent the transmission of the virus, video conferencing call services are booming. From UberConference to Skype and Houseparty, no other conference call company has grown as quickly over the last month as zoom. As the Chief Financial Officer of the Camino Community Center, Peter Schieffelin Nyberg relies heavily on the videoconferencing application, and its skyrocketing usage has not gone unnoticed. As first-time installations of Zoom’s mobile app have skyrocketed 728% since March 2nd, 2020, Peter Nyberg wants to dissect the steady rise of this company, and how it is helping people all over the world stay connected during this difficult time.
Zoom as Means to Cope with Social Distancing
One of the strangest aspects of social isolation is the lack of face-to-face connection with family members, friends, and loved ones. COVID-19 has brought with it a crisis of loneliness, as social isolation can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, fear of others, and negative self-esteem. However, Peter Schieffelin Nyberg explains that we can ease some of this burden digitally, through phone calls and video conferences. Hearing a familiar voice or seeing a familiar face can relieve stress and anxiety by releasing oxytocin, activating the area of the brain associated with happiness. As people adapt to this new social norm, certain applications are excelling above the others, and Zoom is one of them.
Zoom was founded all the way back in 2011 by Eric Yuan, a former Corporate Vice President at Cisco Systems. As Chief Financial Officer of Camino Community Center based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Peter Nyberg explains that the service officially launched in January 2013, and by May 2013, it had claimed one million users. Zoom is a platform that allows free video conferences for up to 100 participants with a 40-minute time limit. For longer or larger conferences with more features, paid subscriptions are available. Used for telecommuting, distance education, and social relations, Zoom has become one of the most popular free software applications worldwide.
Zoom’s mobile application was installed about 3.7 times more than Skype and 8.6 times more than Google Hangouts. Zoom, unsurprisingly, is one of the few technology stocks that investors have supported in the past few months while the rest of the market has generally been sold off as a result of the current virus outbreak. The company’s shares are up 74% this year, while the S&P 500 is down 21% in the biggest sell-off since the 2008 recession. To keep up with the demand, Zoom has added servers and other equipment inside of every single one of their 17 data center locations. Additionally, the company has been increasing its capacity with two cloud infrastructure providers, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, and is hiring engineers as well as salespeople. According to Berstein Research, Zoom has added more users in 2020 than it did in all of 2019, with over 2.22 million monthly active users in 2020 so far.
The Platform Offers a Wide Range of Features
So why is Zoom beating all its competitors? That is difficult to say, but Peter Schieffelin Nyberg explains that there are a few key features that users consistently praise about Zoom online. The first of these various praises is a built-in beautification filer, which smoothes your skin—which is useful especially when you are working from home in your pajamas. Another feature is Zoom’s virtual backgrounds, which allow you to swap out whatever is behind you in the video for dreamier options—like the Milky Way galaxy. However, above all else, users cite functionality to be the greatest driver behind the use of Zoom. While some cite streaming much higher video as the reason for using Zoom, others point out the ability to record meetings and being able to share high-quality video over their calls.
Zoom is Customer-Driven
Being customer-driven is deeply ingrained in Zoom’s company culture, and it shows. As the founding engineers of Webex back in 1997, Yuan did not see happy customers, and was frustrated with how Cisco refused to address the issue and update their strategy. So, when Yuan founded Zoom, he was given the opportunity to put the focus on customer satisfaction. As Yuan explained, “That focus has continued to guide all our innovations, partnerships, and other initiatives. The fantastic growth we’re experiencing and the many industry accolades we’ve received can all be attributed to having satisfied customers that enjoy using our platform.”
Technology is the unsung hero of this pandemic without a doubt. While many studies have associated higher levels of anxiety and depression with the increased use of technology, it may be the very thing maintaining our sanity during this pandemic. Providing comfort and solace, Zoom is the social support we need.