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CTRL/ALT/Disrupt: Zooming In with Bill Tai

Lifelong learnings in technological transformation: From the internet advent to Twitter to Zoom

November 16, 2020

min read

When it comes to digital tech advancements, Bill Tai has seen it all. But he’s also been integral in helping make a significant part of it happen. Bill has been a hands-on, early-stage venture capitalist since 1991, with 22 of his startups becoming listed companies. He is among the first investors in Canva, Color Genomics, Safety Culture, Tweetdeck, Twitter and Not to mention Zoom Video, where he was the first backer to commit at the company’s formation.

Bill sat down, via Zoom, with Jason Illian, managing director of Koch Disruptive Technologies to discuss his journey in an industry that feeds on constant and rapid disruption – and to tell us stories about picking winners, bettering the way we work and living generously. 


Seeding Twitter

In the early days of Web 2.0, Bill’s venture firm took a chance and invested $250,000 in a little company, then called TWTR, becoming Twitter’s first outside investor. It is the fascinating backstory of that investment that demonstrates the vital interconnectedness of people, resources and technologies.


Zoom in

Technology is renowned for its cycles of creative destruction – with newer, more high-value products and applications replacing the old at blistering speeds. So, what happens when you have an idea disruptive enough to put yourself out of business? Bill tells us how he helped spark the genesis of Zoom Video – not just through funding but also encouraging a friend to create the thing he was afraid was coming to destroy his own business.


Looking for a wave

Every investment is a bet of sorts. But investing in new and emerging technologies is not for the faint of heart. Bill shares how basic lessons he learned in his early days in Silicon Valley inform his investment decisions today for the better.


Rehumanizing work

Decentralization. Working from home. Greater employee autonomy. Multiple roles and projects. The nature of work is redefining itself to more fully align with human nature. And Bill Tai thinks that’s a very good thing.


Three Karmic vows

Bill introduces us to the empowering concept of living life in “karma deficit” and how a non-profit he started called ACTAI is helping people from many backgrounds and disciplines use their unique capabilities to empower others and better the world.


This story is part of the CTRL/ALT/Disrupt speaker series presented by Koch Disruptive Technologies. Access past sessions on Koch Newsroom here and the entire series on KDT's website here.