How Tien Tzuo, CEO of Zuora, Built a Tech Unicorn Thriving Off the Subscription Economy

Tien Tzuo is the founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of San Mateo, Calif.-based Zuora, the leading SaaS platform for subscription businesses.

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The son of two Taiwanese immigrants, Tzuo grew up in Brooklyn in the 70s, at a time when the borough was more known for its high crime rate and less for the luxury condos and artisanal shops that now line its streets. Tzuo made his way to Cornell University, where he majored in electrical engineering and found a passion for computer programming. Upon graduation, he was hired by legacy tech titan Oracle Corp.

After six years at Oracle, Tien left to receive his MBA from Stanford. He later inked a position at CRM market pioneer, beginning as one of the firm’s first eleven employees and working his way to become Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Strategy Officer. In between, Tzuo held a variety of technology, marketing and strategy roles at the cloud computing company, including the responsibility for building out Salesforce’s original billing system.

The entrepreneur took the leap of faith in 2007 and founded Zoura in efforts to meet an unmet demand in the booming subscription based business space, wherein his company seeks to help providers such as Box, Dollar Shave Club and DocuSign manage their services.

Zuora gives companies in any industry the ability to launch new businesses, shift products to subscription, implement new pay-as-you-go pricing and packaging models, gain new insights into subscriber behavior and disrupt market segments to gain competitive advantage.

Backed by Tzuo’s former boss, Salesforce’s Marc Benioff, the now decade-plus old SaaS provider has raised nearly $243 million in funding from investors including Benchmark, Greylock Partners, Blackrock and Redpoint. Its latest $115 million Series F funding round in March 2015 brought its total valuation to over $1 billion.

Widely recognized as one of the thought leaders in the SaaS industry, Tzuo has championed the widespread shift to subscription based business models, coining the phrase “Subscription Economy.” He has earned handfuls of recognitions and awards including CMO of the Year Finalist by the CMO Council and BusinessWeek Magazine. Tzuo is also listed on DestinationCRM’s Who’s Who in CRM List and serves on the board of directors for Network for Good.