Zwift Announces Two Key Hires: Chief Product Officer and Senior Director, Content Programming

Zwift Announces Two Key Hires: Chief Product Officer and Senior Director, Content Programming

Zwift sent out a press release yesterday announcing two key hires. Here is the release in its entirety, with some additional thoughts from me following:


Zwift Appoints YuChiang Cheng As Chief Product Officer to accelerate its product and customer experience

Mark Cote also joins Zwift as Senior Director, Content Programming 

Zwift, the online training platform for cyclists, runners and triathletes worldwide, has today announced the appointment of YuChiang Cheng who joins as Chief Product Officer where he will own the end-to-end customer experience of Zwift’s products; driving customer value, innovation and quality. Cheng will lead Product Design & UX,  Engineering, Game Design & Art, Product Management, R&D, Content Programming, LiveOps, QA, and Community Support.

Prior to Zwift, Cheng built cross-functional teams to create products for name brands such as Topgolf, Virgin Games, World Poker Tour, Monopoly, Sky, USGA, PGA of America, and MGM-Mirage. Through his career, Cheng has been at the forefront of connecting physical and digital together, creating premium, integrated experiences. 

Cheng co-founded the World Golf Tour (WGT), a virtual golf simulation game which grew to over 28 million players. WGT pushed the traditional sport of golf onto Facebook, iOS, and into the esports competition world, making the game more accessible to a larger, more diverse audience. WGT pioneered the free-to-play business model in the western world and merged real-world professional events with the virtual world by hosting the Virtual US Open over 10 years ago, which still continues today. 

“I’m thrilled to welcome YuChiang Cheng to Zwift,” says Zwift CEO and Co-Founder, Eric Min. “This is a critically important hire for Zwift as we continue to invest in the very best people to develop our product experience and build out our teams. YuChiang brings considerable experience from a highly impressive career spanning companies of all sizes. I have no doubt that he will have a huge impact on levelling up the business as we move into hardware and continue to invest heavily into the core product experience, making Zwift more accessible to use and more personalized by design.”

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to steward the future of such an innovative product and work with a passionate world-class team at Zwift”, says YuChiang Cheng, Chief Product Officer, Zwift. “This is a rare opportunity to be able to join a business which is wholeheartedly committed to investing in its product, people and consumer experience. Eric Min and the Board have committed substantial resources to build the best team, polish the product and drive new experience innovations for existing Zwifters. We are also committed to make Zwift a more accessible platform and fulfil our mission to help get more people, more active, more often.”

The news comes shortly after Zwift confirmed the appointment of Mark Cote as Senior Director, Content Programming. Cote joins Zwifts following a 13-year career at Specialized where he worked across physical and digital product development, brand, and marketing. At Specialized, Mark held roles including Leader of Integrated Technologies, Leader of Global Marketing and Innovation, and most recently Active Category Leader. Cote will report into YuChiang working to define and implement the strategic vision for in-game training and event experiences at Zwift to ensure a consistent, engaging, and results-driven experience for all Zwifters. Cote will be working with the Product, Marketing, Engineering, Commercial, and Customer Support teams. 

“As a long-time Zwifter and huge fan of the brand, I’m thrilled to be joining Zwift”, says Mark Cote, Senior Director Content Programming. “My team will be working super closely with the Zwift community to bring enticing experiences that are even more engaging and accessible for all Zwifters.”


More Thoughts on YuChiang Cheng

Cheng’s long experience at WGT as co-founder and CEO bodes well for his new position at Zwift, because his new remit is very broad. Zwift’s press release says Cheng will lead “Product Design & UX, Engineering, Game Design & Art, Product Management, R&D, Content Programming, LiveOps, QA, and Community Support.”

Is Zwift just adding another layer of management to their corporate structure? Well, perhaps. But consider this: since the big re-org in April 2020, there really hasn’t been anyone at the helm of the product teams. So this is a layer of management – but probably a much-needed one, given the tendency of tech teams to turn into inefficient silos instead of cross-functional powerhouses.

With something like 400 employees broken up into many different teams, it will take clear vision, effective planning, and properly-resourced teams for ZHQ to develop product features beyond the MVP (minimum viable product) phase we’ve seen so much of lately.

Cheng launched WGT with co-founder Chad Nelson in 2008. It was acquired by Topgolf in 2016. He stayed on with Topgolf until late 2020, when he posted this on LinkedIn, saying, “it is time for me to return to my entrepreneurial roots.”

Is this job a return to his entrepreneurial roots? Probably not. But I’m sure the rest of the Zwift community joins me in hoping Cheng brings an improved level of leadership and focus to the product teams. There are so many improvements to be made to the Zwift product, but it will take a skilled leader to build and guide the teams necessary to make Zwift all it can be.

More Thoughts on Mark Cote

I had a nice Zoom chat with Mark last week, and while he’s still getting the lay of the land in his new role at Zwift, he’s clearly already working hard to discern the needs/desires of the Zwift community, and how teams at Zwift could be optimized to deliver better content (think events, training plans, and more) for Zwifters.

Jordan Rapp recently departed from his position as Game Designer/Software Engineer at Zwift, and he’s been friends with Mark for years (triathlete buddies). Mark isn’t taking Jordan’s position, but there will be some overlap as Jordan’s work on features such as structured workouts and anti-sandbagging did directly affect in-game content. Hopefully Jordan left Mark some good notes!

Mark has become a presence on social media in recent weeks, interacting with the community to address particular concerns. He’s also a longtime Zwifter, joining in the early beta Jarvis days. Both of these are good qualities in any Zwift employee, as it means he understands what makes Zwifters tick, and has his finger on the pulse of the community.

And of course, his career at Specialized means he understands the bike category very well. That’s going to be helpful as well.

Your Thoughts

It’s much too early to see what effect these new hires will have on Zwift overall. But it takes good people to make great things, so I’m saying these hires are good news. Share your thoughts below!

About The Author

Eric Schlange

Eric runs Zwift Insider in his spare time when he isn't on the bike or managing various business interests. He lives in Northern California with his beautiful wife, two kids and dog. Follow on Strava

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Paul
Paul
8 months ago

Seems like a wise move, especially getting Cheng on board.

Alex Fuller
Alex Fuller (@atfuller)
8 months ago

Long overdue – glad something like this finally happened. Great thoughts Eric!

Dirk Diggler
Dirk Diggler (@eggshapedfred)
8 months ago

Hopefully they get someone in to sort out the Minecraft graphics and things like having to log in and out to move about the UI.

MKD
MKD (@ridefree_77)
8 months ago
Reply to  Dirk Diggler

coming from a mobile gaming background I doubt it

Ziizii
Ziizii
7 months ago
Reply to  MKD

When I checked out the “World Golf Tour” game I became a bit concerned about the future of Zwift. WGT runs on what looks to be quite dated technology with a heavy emphasis on microtransactions. You can even buy/rent clubs and equipment to be a better golfer. Sure, buying better equipment is a thing in the real world, but I REALLY hope Zwift is not going down that path. It would be the exact opposite of what I personally hope for Zwift in the future. I’m hoping the guy will bring something else to the table than ways to rake… Read more »

Ben Nicholson
Ben Nicholson
7 months ago
Reply to  Ziizii

I echo your sentiment to an extent, but as long as ‘buying’ upgrades don’t become a necessity to compete – so pay $100 for a Tron bike or earn it through hard work, it can only be good right? – as it would inject more cash into the business so potentially more worlds, may run specific trails etc?

Brian Spencer
Brian Spencer
8 months ago

Great to see a renewed focus on the end user experience. I am looking forward to seeing their vision become a reality.

Eddy Raptor
Eddy Raptor
8 months ago

A virtual golf simulation isn’t anything like the vibrant multiuser community of Zwift. I struggle to see what this hire will bring to Zwift other then a further erosion of its brand and an embrace of a freemium pricing structure.

Alex Fuller
Alex Fuller (@atfuller)
8 months ago
Reply to  Eddy Raptor

On the flip side – if you can make golf more entertaining, then making indoor cycling even more fun makes sense. Maybe it’s because I think golf is super boring – but I’m sure golfer would think cycling is super boring. 😀

rdcyclist (Mark Crane)
rdcyclist (Mark Crane) (@rdcyclist)
8 months ago

This is good news but at the same time, frightening news. The frightening aspect of this news is the fact they needed to make these hires nearly a year after the re-org last April and didn’t have personnel selected to fill these positions back then. NOT the way to run a cutting edge high-tech company. Operating in our usual mode surrounding the going-ons at Zwift HG, conjecture, this probably explains why virtually NONE of the promised upgrade have materialized during that time. Can’t navigate worth a damn if you don’t have someone running the ship. It’s going to take some… Read more »

naan
naan
8 months ago

Word. To me it seems that the current software architecture is all kinds of untenable (just look at all the bugs introduced by each update) and pretty much a complete reimplementation will be needed. The only question is, how long will it take for ZHQ to realize that this is the case and how long it will take to implement.

Anton
Anton
8 months ago
Reply to  naan

I agree. It seems like the architecture is so bad that it is impossible to implement new improvements hence they only add more of the same. More hairstyles, more flowers, more imaginary roads etc.

M4rk0
M4rk0
8 months ago

Hoping this brings in some much-needed focus and change as I browse through another inconsequential update (unless you’re 1 of the 50 people with the steering hardware)’

Andrew Linquist
Andrew Linquist
8 months ago

Hopefully the Cheng hire will be a good one. I do have concerns. I tried WGT and ended up not using it not because I don’t like golf, but because the game required spending all kinds of real currency to level up your golfer and equipment to be competitive instead of developing a skill set that made you good at the game. If Zwift heads towards this model in any way, count me out. Zwift isn’t primarily a game we play for fun. It’s a social training platform. Being good at it should be all about power and virtual racing… Read more »

Doug
Doug
8 months ago

I was just looking at old posts here and found this link to a video from 2015 when Zwift was just Jarvis Island. It looked awesome, but it’s also very clear that today’s Zwift is a long series of patches and extensions. Sure seems like both the back end and the interface are ready for an overhaul!

Doug
Doug
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Forgot the link to Jarvis Island! https://zwiftinsider.com/jarvis/

M4rk0
M4rk0
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Incredible how little things have changed in 6 years. Virtually the same graphics.

Anton
Anton
8 months ago

So does this mean that they will be building a UI that does not need explaining? Sure hope so for the sake of their paying users.

abaelard
abaelard
8 months ago

400 Employees, hundreds of millions in venture capital, close to 50k concurrent Users and still no way to navigate back to the main menu after a ride. Let’s see, if the new lead of product design & UX does more than cool meetings and motivational speeches. Reading, that the new director of content programming “has become a presence on social media” i doubt it. Propably just two more hands for stacking money bags.

Alex
Alex
8 months ago
Reply to  abaelard

I doubt there are any money bags. Everything Zwift does is expensive and there’s almost no way they could finance that through their current number of monthly subscriptions. Well, everything except for product development.. The fact that they made it almost a year without a formal owner of the core product tells you everything you need to know about their priorities. One can hope that’s changing now, but not because they finally hired a new CPO. That alone won’t change anything. What would need to happen is a reallocation of (financial) resources because the game needs to be rebuild from… Read more »

naan
naan
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex

…or release the Zwift bike.

Paul
Paul (@paul-mcneil)
7 months ago

I do really enjoy Zwift. I would echo the big concern of many people in the comments. Paying a monthly fee is fine, I’m ok with that. Even if it increased minimally, with an option for discount if buying a yearly subscription would be acceptable (maybe). The concern is the little things…the in app purchases…the $2 for (insert item that may or may not improve game experience). This is my concern. I truly hope that Zwift does not go this way. I hope that these new hires bring a fresh and insightful approach to our beloved platform and carry it… Read more »

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