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Wall Street Needs To Recognize That Zoom Is Here To Stay

In 2016, Zoom raised eyebrows when it put up a brilliant billboard on the 101 with a simple and powerful message: “Video Conferencing That Doesn’t Suck.” Eric Yuan identified a huge service inefficiency in the video conference marketplace, and solved it with a relentless focus on customer experience.

Today Eric has a different message: “Work is no longer a place, but a space.” Clearly, his company is now on an entirely different level. Zoom has emerged from the pandemic as part of the fabric of our everyday life; it has ascended to “verb” status. Some people even joke that “Gen Z” stands for “Gen Zoom.”

But that’s not what Wall Street seems to think, at least when it comes to the company’s stock price. Amazingly, the Zoom has roughly the same valuation that it had two years ago, just before the pandemic started.

Wall Street apparently believes that the Zoom era is over. Now that the pandemic is behind us (knock on wood), we can all head back to the past. Goodbye remote work, hello daily commutes and business casual! Time to dust off the cubicles and khakis!

This makes no sense to me. Our lives have irrevocably changed, and we’re not about to give up our newfound flexibility.

Sure, I’m enjoying seeing people at the office again, brainstorming, grabbing lunch, gossiping, hugging, high-fiving and shaking hands. But I also love the ability to work at home, skip the commute, and enjoy all my newfound productivity and work-life balance gains. I’m also happy about the fact that my company can find new talent in all sorts of communities, while also reducing its carbon footprint. My company isn’t canceling its Zoom subscriptions any time soon – is yours?

The fact is that Zoom is here to stay. But so are a lot of other things.

Telemedicine, for example, is here to stay. Before the pandemic, we had to schlepp down to the doctor’s office to get a routine prescription filled. But according to a new report from Doximity, today nearly three-quarters of patients say they plan on using telemedicine for some or all of their care in the future. That same report notes that almost 70% of the physicians surveyed believe that access to telemedicine helps maintain trust with their patients from historically marginalized communities.

Online education is here to stay. Yes, we’re all grateful to get the kids back in school (so are the kids!). But distance learning is now an integral part of the education landscape. And just like telemedicine, this is a story about expanding access and lowering costs. Three-quarters of colleges in the US now offer online courses. Companies like Coursera, Chegg and Pluralsight are revolutionizing remote learning. And while not all online college courses are cheaper than brick-and-mortar courses, on average the cost savings are substantial.

Instant communication and on-demand services are here to stay. Today we’re all divinely discontent. We expect Instacart-like experiences. We expect those cupcakes to show up at 11 PM when we get the late-night munchies. Sixty percent of American consumers order takeout or delivery at least once a week. Thirty percent of American consumers use third-party food delivery services at least twice a week. The same mentality applies to shopping, travel, transportation…you name it.

What else is here to stay?

Well, as I’ve written previously, all the “Stay at Home” subscription companies like Docusign, Peloton, and Netflix. Because these companies were designed to serve customers instead of just sell products, they were able to expand by orders of magnitude by spinning up free trial promotions, offering discounts, capturing downsells instead of churns, and generally giving their customer base a giant bear hug.

And as a result of all this work, according to the latest Subscription Economy Index, all of these companies are actually keeping most of the gains they made during shelter-in-place. The fact is that churn significantly dropped in 2021 for SEI companies, with a 14% improvement. The companies that grew exponentially during the pandemic are also holding onto their new subscriber cohorts.

What’s more, according to the Subscribed Institute’s research in conjunction with the Boston Consulting Group, when successful subscription businesses grow bigger, they actually speed up — best-in-class enterprise SaaS companies consistently outperform smaller companies in overall growth, average net expansion, upsell revenue expansion, new customer growth, and churn.

That’s the beauty of a maturing subscription model. As you grow larger, you can blow the roof off your key financial metrics even as the rate of your new customer acquisition slows down. I have no doubt that Zoom is still keenly focused on opening up new markets in order to pick up new subscribers, but they’re also in a commanding position when it comes to growing the value of their existing customer base.

So what can Zoom do today that it couldn’t do two years ago? Well, it can raise more pricing tiers, sell more services, build new products, forge new alliances, create new marketplaces, make more acquisitions. And it can do it all on an enterprise scale. Oh, and did I mention that it has a free cash flow of more than $1.5 billion for the full year?

In fact, Zoom is five times bigger than it was before the pandemic. Five times! Today the company makes over a billion dollars a quarter, while two years ago the company was making roughly $200 million dollars a quarter.

Now, you’re never going to find me arguing that the stock market is a rational enterprise, but the fact that it can completely disregard a 5x revenue increase strikes me as jaw-droppingly dumb. That’s like equating Bruce Banner with The Hulk.

The fact of the matter is that today we’re in a new world. All of our professional and personal functions have been transformed into digital-first services that are now important pieces of our new way of life. We have a new set of technical and societal infrastructures that we did not have before. And from what I can see, things will only get faster from here.

Hopefully Wall Street will catch up with what we all know, because there’s no going back.

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