Over the past 6 months, mostly due to the ongoing global pandemic, the video app Zoom has experienced a surging success, one that very few companies could even dream of achieving. It has actually become a term on its own, from “getting on a Zoom”, “we have a Zoom”, Zoom this”, “Zoom that”, and many other variations of Skype-like video meetings online.
The man responsible for the catchy name is Jim Scheinman, who is a Founding Managing Partner at Maven Ventures. Scheinman reveals the story behind the trendy name, what made him decide to invest in startups, and what are his thoughts regarding the Israeli CEOs that he’s met. You can only guess which platform was used for the interview.
The name came from a children's book
Scheinman, an entrepreneur himself and over the past 12 years has moved to the investing side, interviewed at a master class held at the IDC Herzliya university’s entrepreneurship program. In a conversation with Vice Dean Dr. Yossi Maarvi and head of the entrepreneurship and the Upstart program Dr. Gali Einav, Scheinman explains that after conquering the user side, Zoom is aiming to be the next major platform for software developers: “Zoom applications are going to be the next big thing. It’s relevant for schools and enterprises for social gatherings and more. I predicted this two years ago, but due to COVID-19 I realized that now is the best time.”
This statement is not only backed with words, but also with capital. Scheinman tells that his fund has already invested in startups that develop Zoom dedicated applications. Down the development pipeline is an in-video button, where companies can fundraise or donate in real-time; a company that optimizes tasks and scheduling operations through Zoom; and a company developing a virtual conference networking platform for Zoom - while viewing a lecture, you can start a “side” chat with other conference viewers, with the main talk going on in the background.
The connection was made through mutual investment in an Israeli startup
Scheinman explained that he had met Zoom founder, Eric Yuan, when the two both invested in the chat app Tango Me, which was developed by Israeli entrepreneur Uri Raz” “There was no belief back then that Zoom would succeed, the video chat market seemed to be dominated by other channels like Skype and others. However, none of these options really rose to the challenge, thus opening an opportunity to take over. This was my thought, but even then, we were turned away from every major VC. Only when we hit our Series D did everyone realize that something major is happening.”
But, we all want to know how he thought of the name Zoom, which wasn’t the first choice: “When Eric Yuan asked me about the name - Saasbee - which he was considering, I told him to imagine a decade into the future, will people say: can you Saasbee me? I didn’t think so. Then I gave him 3 options, and he picked Zoom as his favorite. The name actually came from a book that we read to our kids at the time: Zoom City.” Eric and the investors loved the name, but the lawyers were the ones who initially objected: “The lawyers said that we’d never get the copyrights or the zoom.com domain, but I said that if the company succeeds, then people typing the word Zoom in Google will find us.” By the way, this the reason that the company’s domain is still zoom.us.
“Loves investing in Israeli CEOs”
Maven Ventures, which is headed by Scheinman, makes between 7-8 investments a year through its now 3rd fund, totaling $65 million. The VC fund predominantly invests in early-stage startups, with Scheinman mentioning that “all we need is two or three founders and an idea.” The fund focuses on Consumer-Facing technologies, and according to Scheinman, he chooses startups based on 10 different filters, with one of the key ones being that entrepreneurs that want his capital must show complete dedication and passion to the idea that they’re pitching. “Entrepreneurs that are just looking to push an idea, usually don’t work out. The best type of founders are those with a story like ‘I worked for Google and saw that they’re not solving a specific problem, so me and a friend left to develop a solution’,” notes Scheinman.
Another characteristic that he searches for in entrepreneurs is that they want and are able to accept insight from others. “For example, Eric Yuan truly believed that he could learn from his team members.”
A true supporter of the Israeli ecosystem
Scheinman also mentioned his views on Israeli startups or startups led by Israelis by saying that the fund loves investing in Israeli CEOs: “Usually at least one or two companies a year that we invest in are led by Israelis. We haven’t invested in Israeli CEOs that have remained in Israel yet, but that shouldn’t keep entrepreneurs from coming to us. I am a big supporter of Israel’s ecosystem, and would always love the chance to invest in companies with an Israeli technical team.”