Zoom founder was inspired to start his Internet business after attending a Bill Gates speech

Why it matters: Some of the world’s best ideas originate from a desire to meet a need or solve a problem. The story of Eric Yuan’s journey to billionaire status is a perfect example of how determination – and a bit of inspiration – can lead to great things.

In 1987, Yuan was a college freshman living in China. His girlfriend lived in a different city, a 10-hour train ride away. During the long treks, Yuan would daydream of ways that he could see his girlfriend from afar.

Years later in 1994, Yuan attended a speech in Japan by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on the future of the Internet which was barely a blip on the radar at the time. Inspired by Gates and not yet having scratched the itch that was the topic of those daydreams, Yuan decided to move to Silicon Valley and pursue a job in tech.

Except, it wasn’t that easy. Yuan’s visa application was denied eight times before he finally got approved on the ninth try.

Zoom founder was inspired to start his Internet business after attending a Bill Gates speech 1

Yuan eventually made it to the US in 1997 and landed an engineering job with a videoconferencing software company. WebEx was sold to Cisco a decade later and Yuan stuck it out, eventually moving up the corporate ladder before leaving in 2011 to start Zoom.

The outfit now employs more than 1,300 people around the globe. On Thursday, his video conferencing company went public and with a 22 percent ownership stake, his shares are now worth around $3.5 billion. Had Yuan not attended the Gates speech in 1994, he may never have been inspired to come to the US and chase his dream.

Lead image courtesy Ivakoleva via Shutterstock. Second photo courtesy Victor J. Blue via Getty Images.

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