Re­cur­ring Rev­enue

Tien Tzuo’s Zuora can help al­most any busi­ness adopt a sub­scrip­tion model. A huge mar­ket—that he al­most blew.

Forbes - - Entrepreneurs Small Business Playbook - By Amy Feldman

In 2011 Tien Tzuo was wor­ried. He was the CEO of a hot tech com­pany with an idea whose time seemed to have come. Zuora makes busi­ness soft­ware that lets com­pa­nies of all kinds sell their prod­ucts by sub­scrip­tion. In re­cent years one com­pany af­ter an­other has em­braced the “sub­scrip­tion econ­omy,” sign­ing up cus­tomers on­line to long-term con­tracts that gen­er­ate the busi­ness owner’s holy grail: re­cur­ring rev­enue. Meals, movies, clothes, tooth­brushes, cos­met­ics, soft­ware, text­books, yarn, snacks, fights—you can buy them all by sub­scrip­tion now.

But Tzuo, born in Tai­wan, raised in Brook­lyn, N.Y., and equally at home with fnance and tech­nol­ogy, was not an ex­pe­ri­enced man­ager. His in­tense style—high on drive and fo­cus, low on tact and em­pa­thy—had some em­ploy­ees fee­ing. At the re­quest of one of his board’s di­rec­tors Tzuo sub­mit­ted to a 360- de­gree re­view by an or­ga­ni­za­tional psy­chol­o­gist, who found that of the eight char­ac­ter­is­tics he be­lieves a great leader must have, Tzuo pos­sessed two.

Re­mem­ber­ing it now in his Fos­ter City, Calif. ofce, Tzuo, a slim and se­ri­ous man who looks younger than his 47 years,

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