YouTube Co-Founder Chad Hurley's Next Act
You’d think that selling YouTube to Google for a whopping $1.65 billion would have been enough for co-founders Chad Hurley and Steven Chen. But their desire to solve problems was too strong, so the pair made a video-editing tool called MixBit, released last week through their company, AVOS Systems.
MixBit, currently free on iOS, hopes to bridge the gap between what competitors like Twitter’s Vine and Facebook’s Instagram do well--capturing short spurts of video--and what they don’t--bringing people together.
With MixBit, users can shoot and string together up to an hour’s worth of 16-second clips, but rather than simply share these videos, they can also “remix” strangers' clips to make something entirely new.
“We’re trying to build tools that are simple and intuitive, but powerful enough to help people tell those stories, and more importantly, to tell those stories with other people,” Hurley said by phone from San Mateo, California.
But will their second act prove to be a vanity project or something more meaningful?
The company declined to provide hard numbers from its launch, but Hurley had plenty to say about where he hopes to take MixBit, and why the editing platform might change the world. A lightly edited transcript of that conversation follows.
What problem were you trying to solve with MixBit and how did that vision evolve over time?
Initially, we were looking at the problem of how people effectively tell stories. I was thinking of ways to give people more structure--to give them more structure to create content--and to enable that in a global sense so people could collaborate in that fashion. We had to build a site like MixBit to make that possible.
A big draw to MixBit is its emphasis on community. In contrast to other apps, on MixBit the user's name is not visible, suggesting the tool, and the clips, are meant for everyone. What else sets MixBit apart from its Facebook- and Twitter-owned competitors?
The tool itself is just more flexible. You can manipulate every range of clips that you've taken. You can reuse content that's been submitted by the community. Too much of social media is isolating and selfish. Users are just sharing content for themselves. With MixBit, hopefully they're thinking about ways that people can use clips of content and collaborate on particular ideas.
I feel like there's a lot of noise in the social space. The Vines and Instagrams of the world are gaining traction and their solutions are perfect for their communities. But I feel like there are bigger opportunities in the world of video and we're going to try to address more of them, hopefully with a platform that supports many different ways of things being created ... Really, for them to compete with us, they need to change everything they're about. But I find it hard to believe they'll go through the works to retool and rebuild their entire platform.
What is your ultimate vision for MixBit?
I'm mentioning ways for TV or movie content to be created around the world. We want to inspire people through video. I feel like that's one of the most powerful ways to spread ideas.
Then is the goal to create a movie studio of sorts?
That would be great to the see the community take it to that level. We were definitely thinking about that from Day 1. The platform we put in place is pretty sophisticated and complicated. This is much more complicated than YouTube.
So are you a film buff yourself?
I'm probably not creative or talented enough to create an especially compelling piece of content, but I really do enjoy watching a great movie or TV show. I think there are a lot of people in the world who'd like to tell a story themselves, but they don't have the opportunity or tools to do so. So hopefully with MixBit, we'll enable people to tell better stories and in turn to have better content. Maybe it's selfish for me to have created MixBit, but hopefully other people will appreciate it as well.
How was the experience of launching MixBit different from YouTube?
It's definitely been a different turnaround because Steve and I connected two years ago to start working on ideas and we did it with no specific idea in mind. We wanted to give ourselves the opportunity to work on many different projects. We set out initially to build some tools that would allow us to do that, and more importantly, a team that would help up get there. It was really focused on building the technology and the company versus any specific idea.
And what did you look for in your team?
Good people. People that you want to hang out with that obviously are smart and ambitious. I think that you need someone that's going to really work with you and maybe take what you're doing to the next level. Some amount of creativity is required as well. It's really a mix. With building a product, I think it's more of a gut call in terms of how you feel about someone. It's more than just experience, it's how they're going to work well with ours.
You and Steven worked together on YouTube and MixBit. What do each of you bring to the table?
We both bring in different pieces of the equation. Steve is the CTO and has the traditional engineering background. I have a design background, so maybe I contribute more on the ideas side or the product side. I think it's just talking through problems to make sure neither one of us goes crazy. I think it probably makes it easier for start-ups to exist with co-founders. To some extent, being an entrepreneur is a lonely journey. You don't know until you build it and put it out there.
JILL KRASNY | Staff Writer
Jill Krasny is a staff writer for Inc. magazine, where she covers the intersection of entertainment and startups. Prior to Inc., she was a writer for MTV and Esquire and an editor at TheStreet. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in communication. She lives in New York City.