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