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From day one, YouTube’s founders built a product that spoke to their users — including, in particular, one former colleague. Sequoia became an enthusiastic early user of the product and offered the founders office space to enable growth.

Steve, Jawed, and Roelof tell the story.

Steven Chen
Co-Founder, YouTube

We’d known Roelof as our CFO at PayPal. That’s where the three YouTube founders — Jawed, myself, and Chad — met as well, in ‘99. So when we wanted to form this bridge of communication with Sequoia, Roelof was the obvious choice.

Roelof Botha
Sequoia Capital

I don’t think people often appreciate these threads in our business over time — where Jobs works at Atari and then starts Apple, Trip Hawkins works at Apple and then starts EA. Each partnership begets these subsequent relationships, and it was actually another former PayPal colleague who showed me the early YouTube site.

Jawed Karim
Co-Founder, YouTube

Roelof wrote us right away and said, “Hey guys, just seeing if you want to chat about your new project.”

Roelof Botha

I’d received a digital camera as a wedding gift in 2003 and shot videos on our honeymoon, and those files had been sitting on my computer for two years. I'd never shared them with anybody. I went on the website, uploaded them, got a URL, and immediately emailed it to friends and family. And it was an eye-opening experience.

Jawed Karim

We talked to a lot of other very high-profile VCs in the Bay Area and they all said, “Oh yeah, that's a nice website.” But I was monitoring the database every day for new signups and new videos back then. None of those people ever signed up for YouTube, and they didn't upload any videos. Roelof was the only one who started using the site.

Roelof Botha

It was just a compelling experience. They’d made some really good choices around doing the hard work to make it easy for you, and that characterizes many of our great consumer companies. Instagram did the hard work to make your pictures look better, so you didn’t have to spend an hour in Photoshop. YouTube took care of all the transcoding on the back end and would just return a simple URL that made it easy for you to share.

Jawed Karim

Soon we saw that some of the other people at Sequoia were signing up and emailing videos. We went, “Wow, they actually use the product. They get it.” I think they decided very early that this was going to be interesting, and we ended up working out of the Sequoia office for the first few months until we ran out of space.

Roelof Botha

There was still so much to figure out — there were several people in the venture community who told us that we were insane to contemplate the investment. But because of our history at PayPal we knew that we could work with the team, and trust each other, and I just had a visceral reaction to the product. The phrase I've often used for consumer services that just work is a little bit like art or music: Somehow the pieces fit together beautifully, and it just resonates.

YouTube partnered with Sequoia in 2005 and grew quickly into the world’s largest video sharing website. Today a billion users upload some 300 hours of content to the platform every minute. YouTube was acquired by Google in November 2006.

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YouTube
The world’s leading video-sharing service.
Milestones
  • Founded 2005
  • Partnered 2005
  • Acquired 2006
Team
  • Chad Hurley
  • Steve Chen
  • Jawed Karim
Partner