Why Zoom had to make a big platform play

To fill its massive valuation ($145B), Zoom needs to create a business moat: enter Zapps.

October 23, 2020

If you’ve been afflicted by Zoom fatigue, we hate to tell you… there’s probably more coming.

Last week, the video chat platform announced the release of Zapps — “apps that you can use within the Zoom platform to help improve productivity and create more engaging experiences.”

It’s basically an app store right in your vid chat window, with an impressive list of 25 partners for collaboration (Slack, Dropbox), education (Coursera), misc (Cameo), marketing (Hubspot) and support (PagerDuty).

Zoom’s move to a platform was inevitable

Since the close of its first trading day (in April ‘19), Zoom has seen the value of its firm grow by ~10x, to (not a typo) $145B.

However, as noted by tech analyst Benedict Evans, Zoom’s business doesn’t have a clear-cut moat. It was able to crash the video chat party by removing all friction.

“Zoom made network effects irrelevant,” Evans writes. “But, that means Zoom doesn’t have those network effects either. It grew by removing defensibility.”

The company has been trying to level up

In July, Trends published “Zoom: The Next Platform for Billion-Dollar Apps.” The piece highlighted key moves by Zoom to lock in its leading position.

  • Zoom for home: a dedicated remote work screen
  • Hardware-as-a-service play: a Zoom program to rent out top-notch video equipment to corporate clients
  • 3rd-party apps: Separate from Zapps, Zoom has been pushing its API and SDK solutions for third party developers

Over the summer, CEO Eric Yuan described his vision for how every industry (e.g., telemedicine, fitness) could build on top of Zoom’s platform: “Each vertical use case can be a huge market on its own.”

Zoom has a good app store example to draw from: Shopify

Ross Simmonds — a Trends member and founder of B2B content firm Foundation — notes that since launching in 2013, Shopify’s app store has grown from 100 to 3.2k apps.

Now, 87% of Shopify stores have an app installed, generating millions for app creators and billions for merchant sellers.

According to Simmonds, Shopify’s “app ecosystem… has allowed them to build a competitive advantage against other platforms.”

To stay on top, Zoom needs a thriving app store — let’s just hope one of these Zapps will be a cure for Zoom fatigue.

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