With the cooperation of our founders K.V. Rao, Tien Tzuo and Cheng Zuo (pictured above), Leena Rao has written a fascinating profile of Zuora over at Tech Crunch:
“The idea for subscription billing startup Zuora was born in Marc Benioff’s office. In 2006, K.V. Rao, then a WebEx senior engineer, was meeting with Benioff and Salesforce CMO Tien Tzuo. Tzuo made a comment that subscription billing was a hard problem for Salesforce, and Rao agreed that WebEx also felt the same challenge. He left the meeting with the feeling that this problem was something he could solve.
Rao researched ideas for the next few months and recruited fellow WebEx engineer Cheng Zou to work on the fledgling startup. The next step was to raise money. By then it was 2007, and it wasn’t easy to raise money, he says, especially for a company that wasn’t consumer-focused. Rao and Zou scored a meeting with Benchmark’s newest partner at the time, Peter Fenton.
As Rao tells it, he totally bombed the meeting. “[Fenton] told me that it was one of the worst presentations he’d seen in VC history.” Fenton did see a potential opportunity with the idea, but saw deficiency in the team. Not long after seeing (and passing) on Zuora, Fenton had breakfast with Tzuo and told him about Rao and his idea, with the subtext that this could potentially be Tzuo’s next step after Salesforce. Fenton always believed Tzuo would be a great CEO, and saw the potential to apply his Salesforce learnings to Zuora.”