YouTube CEO on the art of the start


11 Nov 2010

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When Chad Hurley’s YouTube was bought by Google it turned out that the practice of operating a lean and efficient business out of necessity – especially when it came to managing computing resources on a budget – turned into an unexpected bonus for Google, Hurley related during his recent visit to Dublin to attend the Web Summit.

A fine arts graduate, Hurley co-founded YouTube in 2005 with PayPal colleagues Jawed Karim and Steve Chang.

YouTube was sold to Google in late 2006 for $1.65bn.

Hurley was interviewed live on stage at the Dublin Web Summit by Siliconrepublic’s editor John Kennedy, where he talked openly about
building YouTube, the company’s acquisition by Google and the future of the video-streaming site. He said he is to move from the CEO position to an advisory role at YouTube. He also doled out sage words to start-ups. His advice: "Surround yourself with great people. You need people you can trust to do their job and sometimes the product or idea can die if someone is too controlling. Be prepared to adapt. Also, being lean and mean helps you build something more efficient."

The beginning of YouTube

Referring to YouTube, Hurley spoke about the site’s humble beginnings and how it managed to create the world’s biggest video-sharing network.

"We were in the right place at the right time in terms of people having the devices to create these videos. And having the connections to upload and view them, as well."

He said he believes having an art degree helped him think outside the box and dream up ideas that relate to your customer more instead of focusing on the mechanics of the web. However, Hurley emphasised the importance of having technical muscle to reinforce your concept and see it through to fruition.

Despite only being in existence for 18 months, YouTube had multiple offers before Google came knocking on its door. Hurley admitted such rapid popularity and growth took YouTube by surprise.

"Unfortunately, growth surpassed our expectations and we weren’t able to keep up on all fronts – namely infrastructure, people and cash. All of those things were in great need and exponentially continued to grow. Google was trying to build a video service at the time so it was a great combination. They had the sales teams and we had the community."

The impact YouTube has had on the world at large was completely unplanned and, despite becoming a new form of news service in its own right, the content still has to go the distance in terms of becoming truly valuable socially.

"We still have a long way to go in terms of people producing their own content that is new, compelling and valuable. Just to hear about the community has been one of the things I’ve been happy about – not necessarily making a difference in politics or producing something newsworthy," he said.

YouTube’s future

Hurley also spoke about what he believes the future holds for YouTube. He said he would like to see the site made widely accessible.

"We need to focus on making the site easier to use. It’s not just a problem of search, it’s building better and better recommendations.

"Down the road we need to extend this experience to all devices and make the site interactive on the mobile phone or PC or TV and provide more business models. It would be great if we became this video platform that supported all types of distribution."

Hurley also spoke about how he believes the world of online advertising and YouTube will cross over.

"It’s going to be huge considering the progress we’ve seen over the last five years. Creating a great ad experience will help our partners, which in turn can create great content for the community. And we have a long way to go in terms of integration with TV. These worlds will merge and if it’s still a linear broadcast they’ll be pooling ads dynamically to serve the individual."

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