YouTube nearly didn’t succeed

YouTube Lecture by founder – Karim

Once they had the site up and running, Karim and partners Steve Chen and Chad Hurley set about pitching the site to every Wired writer they could find. Nobody bit. Urging would-be entrepreneurs in the audience to trust themselves as experts, Karim notes, “Of course now it’s hard to pick up any copy of Wired that doesn’t mention YouTube.”

Problem was, nobody used YouTube. Karim shows another video of the YouTube boys sitting around pondering their existence. Nobody’s going to watch this, they complain; “This is lame.” 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.

In June 2005, YouTube revamped, adding the four essential features that jump-started viral growth.

1) related video recommendations,
2) one-click emailing to spam a friend about a video,
3) more social networking and user interaction tools like video comments, and
4) an external video player.

That sharp uptick of growth (which, included in today’s YouTube traffic chart of the last two years, shows up as part of the flatline days) made it possible for YouTube to raise $3.5 million in November 2005. Sequoia, the sole venture firm that took a stake in the company, was apparently the only VC that really got involved with the product. Right after the first meeting, Karim recalls, the YouTube guys watched the entire Sequoia office, including the secretaries, register and start using the service.

And that’s where Karim’s talk ends. We don’t get to hear about his decision to leave the company and return to grad school at Stanford, but of course that’s a more personal story. What we do get is not so bad, though, and you can bet it’s a lot more than we’re going to get out of Google/YouTube PR in the foreseeable future.

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