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Zoom’s founder left a 6-figure job because he wasn’t happy—and following his heart made him a billionaire

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Zoom CEO Eric Yuan dreamed of leaving China to go to Silicon Valley, ever since he was a young man and heard Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates give a speech on the promise of the internet.

Yuan spent over two years struggling with visa issues — he was rejected eight times in total, finally receiving a U.S. visa on his ninth try — before finally coming to the U.S. in 1997 at the age of 27. He didn’t speak English, but he knew how to write computer code, and he landed an engineering job with the videoconferencing software company WebEx.

WebEx sold to Cisco for $3.2 billion a decade later (the platform is now known as Cisco Webex). Yuan became the tech giant’s vice president of engineering, earning compensation in the “very high six-figures.” But he was unhappy.

“Every day, when I woke up, I was not very happy. I even did not want to go to the office to work,” Yuan tells CNBC Make It.

Though his first couple of years at Cisco had been “great,” he started noticing that, when he’d talk to Cisco Webex’s customers about the video-conferencing product he’d helped build, he “did not see a single happy customer.” In Yuan’s opinion, the product didn’t evolve quickly enough, making it a chore for customers to use. (In fact, Yuan told CNBC earlier this year that Cisco was still using the same buggy code he wrote for WebEx roughly two decades ago.)

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