November 22, 2013

An interview with Chad Hurley

Chad Hurley (his twitter) is the co-founder of YouTube and founder of AVOS. The latter company is building a common technology platform to help developers create fun and beautiful apps faster than ever. He has also designing the original PayPal logo. This interview is from 2013.

Lessons learned
  • The reason to why he wanted to move to Silicon Valley was because he heard of a company called Confinity with just 10 employees. They needed someone who could work with the interface of their latest product: PayPal. After PayPal was acquired by eBay, and made Chad Hurley wealthy, he didn't work with anything else for two years. After two years, he settled down and began working on new ideas. 
  • Chad Hurley and co-workers from PayPal looked at the photos-sharing websites and saw that there were no websites where you could share videos. They didn't finance the idea themselves - others invested $3.5 million in the beginning.
  • They tried several things to grow the company, including flyers, and they had competitors. But the difference between YouTube and the competitors was that YouTube focused on shorter videos and speed. One of the competitors was Google Videos and when Google launched their competing service, YouTube thought they were doomed, but it also made them more motivated. While it took Google Video's users two weeks until they could see an uploaded video, users on YouTube could see their videos almost immediately.
  • It was interesting to hear how YouTube's competitors, including Google, began to spread bad rumors about YouTube. When Google acquired YouTube, they realized that it hadn't been such a good idea to spread these rumors. 
  • Social is currently more selfish than social - people share mainly for themselves. Chad Hurley is currently working on concepts to make social more collaborative to make better content - like Wikipedia. He calls it "structured storytelling." What if more people with different skills could upload better videos together on YouTube? 
  • Chad Hurley has the idea to release a broad solution and then see how the world defines it - most startups tend to be more specialized.
  • The customer is not going to tell you what you should build - "they want a faster horse" - so you have to trust your instincts. When you idea is finished, you shouldn't look at the data and try to optimize the product you have since it may be the wrong product. What you should do is to observe how you users are using the product and then come up with the correct product. For example, PayPal didn't optimize the original idea which was payments through Palm Pilots - they saw (without data) how people used PayPal on eBay. So they changed focus from Palm Pilots to eBay. "Nothing has been defined, you need to define the future of your company." 
  • Don't treat everything like a fire-drill. Take your time to figure things out, recruit competent people, and correct the mistakes.

More articles in the same series: Lessons learned from the Foundation interviews