As MixBit Launches, YouTube Cofounder Chad Hurley Tells Us How Startups Succeed

On the verge of unveiling the new video app MixBit, Hurley discusses with Fast Company what almost 10 years and more than a billion dollars has not changed about the process of starting something new. Here are four ideas that are always in play.

As MixBit Launches, YouTube Cofounder Chad Hurley Tells Us How Startups Succeed

Since the first time YouTube cofounders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen launched a new video service, they’ve sold a company to Google for $1.65 billion and helped develop a product that more than 1 billion people use each month. Now the pair is launching a new video app, MixBit, the second product of a company they founded called AVOS Systems.


Here are four things Hurley says that almost 10 years and more than a billion dollars hasn’t changed about launching something new.

Solving Your Own Problems Is A Good Starting Point.

AVOS Systems’ Beijing team designed its first product, a Vine clone called WaiPai, to work better in China than the original app. “Those services don’t work well, or are even inaccessible in China,” Hurley says. “So the team wanted to build a solution for themselves. And that’s really how me and Steve have always approached problems. When we were at YouTube, basically, it was realizing it was hard for us to share a video with family and friends, and what would we build for ourselves? What barriers would we remove to make this process easier? Along the way we realized people had this same frustration with video.”

Big Solutions Bloom From Small Insights.

It’s not necessarily the big idea that makes products successful, Hurley argues. Something as small as working well in China or allowing video creators to swap clips, as MixBit does, can be enough. “I think the success around any product is really about subtle insights,” he says. “You need a great product and a bigger vision to execute against, but it’s really those small things that make the big difference. I mean, Google is basically this idea that sites that link to other sites create a better way to search. Or Facebook is, let’s connect people through email aliases. Again, just a little unique insight that allows you to build a much more powerful solution.”

Being Smarter Isn’t Enough


Hurley says he doesn’t feel any smarter now than he did when he was launching YouTube in 2005, and that it wouldn’t matter if he did. “It’s not about being smarter,” he says. “It’s not about being necessarily more talented. I think anyone that is going to be successful, it’s about continuing to try, being creative, and having unique insights. It’s really just the small subtle things that I think make the biggest difference. And not being afraid to try. I think a lot of people may have a unique insight or some idea that they feel could be a great solution for a particular problem, but for some reason never have a chance to try or never have the courage or maybe the self-doubt. Really, it’s best just to remain naïve and continue to work on things and see if people have the same problems.”

Arguing Isn’t Bad

At AVOS Systems, Hurley and Chen argue over a whiteboard. “Being more of a technical founder, he really pushes the team to their limits to do things better, do things faster,” he says. “So he applies the technical side of things. I bring the product side of things. We usually are on opposite ends of a particular decision, and within a day or two have argued each other to opposite ends.”

Then, of course, there are the things that do change after launching a platform as successful as YouTube.

“Yes, it’s definitely a little easier to get funding,” Hurley says. “For sure.”

[Image courtesy of MixBit | Eric Millette]

About the author

Sarah Kessler is a senior writer at Fast Company, where she writes about the on-demand/gig/sharing "economies" and the future of work.