Zoom's former CIO explains what it was like navigating the 'chaos' of the pandemic boom — and why he's now joining $110 million marketing startup Birdeye (ZM) thumbnail

Zoom’s former CIO explains what it was like navigating the ‘chaos’ of the pandemic boom — and why he’s now joining $110 million marketing startup Birdeye (ZM)

  • Zoom’s former chief information officer Sunil Madan is joining marketing startup Birdeye as CIO.
  • Madan helped Zoom scale, including navigating its incredible (and chaotic) growth during COVID-19.
  • Madan aims to help Birdeye enter “acceleration mode” and grow the business. 
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

An exec who spent six years at video conferencing firm Zoom — most recently as its chief information officer — just joined a marketing software startup. 

Sunil Madan, who was one of the first 100 employees at Zoom when he joined in May 2015 and helped it navigate incredible growth before leaving in late February, told Insider that he’s excited about the opportunity to help digital marketing firm Birdeye scale its business. 

“At Zoom, we have done so much and I learned so much,” Madan said. “At the same time, I do think my sweet spot (in terms of my ability to help) is in ‘acceleration mode.'”

Birdeye helps its customers collect reviews, convert sales leads, run surveys, text their clients, and more. It raised $33 million from investors like Trinity Ventures and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, with a 2017 valuation of $110 million, according to PitchBook, which has since swelled to nearly $1 billion, per the firm. Madan, who joined March 15, will be its first CIO. 

“We are really excited to have Sunil,” Birdeye CEO Naveen Gupta told Insider. “It’s one of our achievements to attract a leader of Sunil’s caliber from Zoom. If you have a chance to hire Zoom’s CIO, you go for it, and we are excited about it.” 

How Madan helped Zoom through the chaos of the pandemic

As Madan prepares to help Birdeye grow, he can lean on his experience helping Zoom navigate its hyper-scaling over the past year. 

In 2020, Zoom skyrocketed to 300 million daily meeting participants and its stock price increased fivefold as it became the de facto way for people to communicate with coworkers, family, and friends during the pandemic.

But that success didn’t come easy:

“From inside, there was chaos in terms of managing the demand and managing the processes,” Madan said. “We were not prepared.”

For example, at the beginning of the pandemic Zoom had to add servers every night as it raced to keep the service up and running given the huge influx of new users. 

“Phones were ringing and we were not able to serve the demand,” Madan said. “Just going through that chaos itself was a great learning experience. How do you handle this and have a very focused, single-minded service for the customer?”

At the same time, Zoom faced increased cases of “Zoombombing,” where uninvited users hijacked meetings (sometimes displaying pornography, racist language, or other disturbing content), as well as other security issues. Madan said Zoom had to revamp its messaging to help customers understand that the product was still safe to use. 

But even before the pandemic, he learned a lot about scaling a business at Zoom. 

He joined the company after founder and CEO Eric Yuan reached out to him in March 2015. He and Yuan had previously worked together at WebEx, and the Zoom founder was recruiting him to join the firm as its head of business operations and IT. At the time, Madan had finished a five year stint at RingCentral and was working on his own sales software startup called Masskom, but Zoom’s potential reeled him in. 

“The way the product was architected, I just loved it,” Madan said. “The product was designed early on so well, that it had the scalability from the get-go. Just looking at all the pieces coming together — that was so exciting for me.” 

Shortly after the IPO in April 2019, Madan was promoted to corporate CIO, where he focused on Zoom’s IT strategy, systems architecture, data insights, employee services, and more. He believes that the videoconferencing company ultimately became wildly successful because it had a “huge network effect,” used a freemium model, and sold on a grassroots level.

During his nearly six years at the company Madan said that he learned to focus on execution, which requires “rigor and discipline,” and gained experience helping sales organizations and bringing in talent, skills he plans to bring to Birdeye. 

Why Madan is excited about Birdeye — and how he’ll help it grow 

Madan and Birdeye CEO Gupta worked together at RingCentral and remained good friends even after they both left the company. Gupta frequently reached out for advice on building a team, Madan said, and ultimately offered him the CIO job. He decided to make the leap because he believes in its ability to grow.

“I see a huge opportunity here,” Madan said. “It’s a great team. The founders and management team are amazing.”

He aims to help Birdeye build the next level of its operations and sales strategy. He also plans to understand every detail of the product so he can help make it better by providing feedback to teams.

“The product is innovating so fast,” Madan said. “If we play our cards right and keep growing the way we’re growing and keep adding the right people, I think we can do amazing things.”

Got a tip? Contact this reporter via email at rmchan@insider.com, Signal at 646.376.6106, Telegram at @rosaliechan, or Twitter DM at @rosaliechan17. (PR pitches by email only, please.) Other types of secure messaging available upon request.

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