Learning about YouTube

YouTube was sold to Google for $1.65 billion in Nov 2006. 1.65 billion dollars. How is that possible? Thats what I’m trying to figure out. This post starts small, covering the history of YouTube. In future posts, I’ll dig deeper, and try to find out what’s going on.


YouTube was founded by three former PayPal employees: Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim.

Chad went to Indiana University of Pennsylvania where he got a Fine Arts degree [1]. After he graduated, he went to work for PayPal where he met the other two YouTube founders. According to Wikipedia, he designed the PayPal logo and according to a speech he gave recently [2], he designed the YouTube logo as well. It would seem like he’s got an eye for design (hence the Fine Arts degree). Its interesting to note that it doesn’t seem like he’s got a formal  technical or business education, yet he’s currently YouTube’s CEO.

Steve went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), not positive on what degree. According to Valleywag [3] he worked at Facebook temporarily after starting YouTube, to pull a paycheck. When YouTube started taking off, I guess he went back to work on it full time. He’s currently the YouTube’s CTO, indicated he probably had a CS degree.

The third and apparently less well known founder was Jawed Karem. He’s another UIUC grad, with a CS degree, who went to work for PayPal, where he worked with Steve, who he already knew from school [7], and Chad [4]. He helped found YouTube — the idea for it was his — but never held a major roll in the company. After it started taking off, he went back to grad school at Stanford, where he served as an informal adviser to the company. You get the impression reading about him that he’s a really smart and really modest. He wants to be a professor one day. The NY Times article on him [4] has a lot of good information on him, if anyone is interested in reading more.



  • Jan – “The three of them would meet at night at Max’s Operate Café, near Stanford, to discuss their ideas.” And so it starts [4]. The original idea was to make videos for online auction sites.
  • Feb 15 – Domain is registered
  • April 23 – First YouTube video posted, of Karem at the Zoo [5]
  • April 28 – First archive.org entry. The about page reads only: “YouTube is the first online community site that allows members to post and share personal videos.” The site isn’t much to look at, but given that they only started developing it four months earlier, you can’t really say too much. There’s something to learn from that.
  • May – Preview to the world. “To try to attract viewers, the three figured the best thing would do would be to get hot chicks involved. So, Karim recounts, they posted an ad on Craigslist in Los Angeles promising attractive females $100 if they’d post 10 videos on YouTube. They got not a single reply.” [6]
  • June – Adds viral growth features: related video recommendations, one click sent to a friend invites, video comments, and an external video player
  • July 7 – First blog entry on their site
  • Nov – Sequoia invests $3.5M


  • April – Sequoia invests $8M more
  • 2006 – July – 100M clips viewed daily
  • 2006 – Oct 9 – Announced that Google was purchasing YouTube for $1.65B


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chad_Hurley

[3] http://valleywag.com/tech/rumormonger/steve-chen-millionaire-laptop-borrower-293378.php

[4] http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/12/technology/12tube.htm

[5] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNQXAC9IVRw

[6] http://gigaom.com/2006/10/26/jawed-karim-how-youtube-took-off/

[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_YouTube

[8] http://web.archive.org/web/20060113091101/youtube.com/blog

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