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Refused US visa eight times, Zoom CEO is now a billionaire

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 4/19/2019 Ben Stupples
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After hearing Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates give a speech about the internet three decades ago, Eric Yuan decided he wanted to become part of the Silicon Valley dot-com boom.

Then the China-born entrepreneur hit a snag. The U.S. government denied his visa application -- eight times.

After two years of rejection, Yuan, 49, finally made it to the U.S. and is now the major shareholder of video conference services firm Zoom Video Communications Inc., which raised $751 million in an initial public offering Wednesday.

Yuan and his family sold stock worth $57 million, based on Zoom’s IPO price of $36 a share. The company’s shares closed at $62 on their first day trading on New York’s Nasdaq Global Select Market, valuing their stake at $3.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Priscilla Barolo, a spokeswoman for San Jose, California-based Zoom, declined to comment. Yuan said in an interview with Bloomberg TV that "the price is too high" and that the huge leap in the stock is piling pressure on the company.

See more: Zoom Video CEO wishes shares didn’t soar quite so high

Yuan, Zoom’s chief executive officer, joins Alphabet Inc.’s Sergey Brin, Nvidia’s Jensen Huang and Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk as immigrants who became billionaires after helping create Silicon Valley companies. The U.S. is the favoredcountry for more than three-quarters of wealthy Chinese looking to emigrate, according to the Hurun Research Institute and immigration adviser Visas Consulting Group.

Eric Yuan© Michael Nagle/Bloomberg Eric Yuan

The global video conferencing market is expected to expand almost 8 percent a year through 2026, according to Transparency Market Research, as a growing number of employees work from home. Zoom reported net income of $7.6 million on revenue of $331 million for the year ended January, and is now worth nine times the $1 billion valuation it secured after a funding round two years ago.

Before starting Zoom in 2011, Yuan was an early employee at WebEx Communications, an online conferencing firm, and then worked at Cisco Systems Inc. after it acquired the company for $3.2 billion in early 2007.

Yuan came up with the idea for Zoom -- which counts Uber Technologies Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. as customers -- after repeatedly traveling 10 hours to see his girlfriend while they were college students.

“Someday, if I can have a smart device and with just one click I can talk with you, can see you, that was my daydream, right?” Yuan said in a July interview with U.S. venture capital firm GGV Capital. “And every day I thought about that.”

--With assistance from Sophie Alexander.

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