Co-founder @ MindsDB, YCombinator alumni, former consultant @ Deloitte and University of Cambridge G
A lot has been written about Zoom in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The share price has risen 800% since its IPO, valuing it at $144 Billion, it is well funded, profitable and has attracted some of the smartest people in tech and business into its ranks. Zoom is riding a high that is well deserved. It has an amazing product that cut through a crowded field to do things better than the well-established competition, including the likes of Oracle’s Webex, Google Hangouts and Microsoft’s Skype.
When I first started to use skype in the mid-2000’s it was easy to use, lightweight and always maintained a connection in other words… it just worked, first time every time. So when I first used Zoom, I instantly had warm a feeling of Déjà vu. When I first tried it, it was a delight to use, it just worked, even when one participant had a low-quality bandwidth. Setting a meeting was easy, entering it was easy, and the quality was superior and rarely dropped out. This is why, as a startup founder (who at that point had not raised any money) Zoom was the first SaaS product we paid for. It was that far ahead of the competition in my eyes.
In my opinion, there are a few essential metrics to measure any video conferencing service by. Some of these are more subjective than others.
- Number of clicks to set a meeting
- Number of clicks to enter a meeting
- The experience of someone who hasn’t use zoom before but joins a zoom meeting for the first time
- Audio & Video Quality (Audio being the most important here)
- How often a “critical issues” occurs (I define this as anything that stops a participant from engaging in the call, including dropped participants, connections issues etc.)
Skype, over time, got more bloated, less reliable and less intuitive to use, it started to fall behind in many of the measures I list above. It didn’t get the fundamentals right, and eventually, this is why I and many others like me stopped using Skype.
In 2021, Skype will be dead, almost precisely ten years after its acquisition by Microsoft, I doubt many will mourn its demise.
Zoom is at risk of making the same mistakes, over the years of using Zoom, the number of complaints from my employees has increased significantly.
Unable to join meetings, the app closing mid-call repeatedly, people inside the organization (company email) unable to join without being let in, and in one instance in a meeting of four people, two were put in one room and two into another with the same zoom Id.
Someone in each room almost simultaneously messaged asking why the other party hadn’t shown up. Some of these may sound like small issues, and yes I agree, but small problems and annoyances are how we judge these types of products because ultimately they should blend into the background and facilitate rather than dominate. It was these types of issues that had in the past driven me, and many like me from other competing products.
Zoom is in a great position to become the next big platform, but it risks it all if it doesn’t get the fundamentals right. The fundamentals are, after all why I, my company and many other Zoom users were attracted to Zoom in the first place, it just worked… and it worked well.
Don’t get me wrong I am excited by the slew of new features in the pipeline, and third party integrations can transform Zoom from a mere video conferencing service to a full-blown platform. However, these integrations and new features mean nothing if they come at the sacrifice of the fundamentals, high-quality video conferencing that just works.
Zoom has grown quicker than even it had anticipated due to Covid-19, and many of these issues I mentioned above are probably growing pains. Still, they should be addressed quickly because as we have seen in the past consumers and businesses are fickle, especially with video conferencing tools.