Brent Hurley ‘01, director of finance and operations (right)
and his brother Chad Hurley, CEO and one of three founders of YouTube.
In September 2005, business professor Dave Martin got an e-mail from former student Brent Hurley ’01.
“A few weeks ago, I left Fisher Investments to tackle a new adventure, working for an Internet start-up, YouTube.com…
“My brother and two of his former colleagues from PayPal created the site. It’s still kind of hush hush, but we’re in final negotiations with
one of the best VC firms in Silicon Valley to secure our first round of funding… At YouTube, I’m a handyman of sorts, responsible for anything
and everything outside of engineering: marketing, biz dev, client services, finance and accounting, etc.”
A year later, Brent Hurley helped seal the
$1.65 billion sale of YouTube to Google, a deal
that made headlines in every media outlet on
In November 2006, YouTube was named
the invention of the year by Time magazine. It
beat out a vaccine that prevents a cancer-causing
sexually transmitted disease.
For those to whom “Numa Numa”* means
nothing, YouTube is the hottest online video
site, where anyone can upload and watch videos – 100 million videos are viewed daily, and every day 70,000 new
videos are uploaded by anyone with an idea and a video camera.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
At Albright, Hurley wanted to be a philosophy major. He decided to
combine philosophy with finance because he was interested in business
and the practical dimension pleased his parents.
What did philosophy bring to finance? “Communication, writing, even
in things as simple as e-mail. It taught me about making very clear points
and stating my case,” Hurley says.
Professors from both disciplines became his mentors: economics
professor Dave Martin and former Albright philosophy professor
Martin also helped Hurley shape internships that in turn helped
shape his career. At a financial consulting firm in Reading, and two
rounds at a young California start-up company that would fundamentally
change business on the Internet — PayPal, which provided a safe,
real-time payment solution for companies like eBay.
PayPal was also where Hurley’s brother Chad worked. PayPal “sparked
my interest in start-ups. The hyper growth of a start-up company was
interesting,” he says.
But Hurley turned down a job offer at PayPal to come back to school.
A post-graduation backpacking trip through Europe was sidelined by
September 11, and he ended up in California, living with his brother and
looking for a job to “test out my financial background.”
Hired as a portfolio accountant with Fisher Investments, Hurley
managed high-net-worth clients for what Dave Martin calls a “world-class”
asset management firm. Quickly promoted to securities trader, Hurley
worked “market hours” for Fisher for three years, getting up at 4:30 a.m.,
and the idea of his own business seemed more and more appealing.
One day he went to lunch with Chad and his PayPal co-worker,
Steven Chen. “We had gone out to lunch, thinking
about what we could start. We really didn’t come up
“I was getting sick of trading and was looking
to expand my horizons. I took the GMAT, and
applied to business schools to start an MBA in fall
of 2005 so I could have the skill set to run my own
company.” He weighed the reality of a $100,000
debt load plus two years of lost earnings while in school against
starting a business. Significant debt would make it hard to incur
even more to get something started. “I decided to budget myself
$100,000 to start something with the potential to turn that into a lot
Meanwhile, Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim were busy
in a garage building a little online video company called YouTube,
conceived as a “place for people to engage in new ways with video by
sharing, commenting on, and viewing videos,” according to the YouTube web site.
“I was working informally with them, working on investor
interest. This is exactly why I wanted to go to business school. There
was an opportunity without taking all the risk because I was in it with
three other guys.”
Chad Hurley became CEO, and by August 2005, Brent
Hurley was the first full-time employee – director of finance and
operations. “I was a one-man finance team before the Google deal. The
utility guy, customer support, finance, payroll, everything.”
Hurley worked for free for a few months, calling it a leap of faith that
he was willing to take to see what happened. “If after six months we
didn’t get any funding, I’d find something else to do.”
He began working on the first round of venture capital, $3.5 million
from Sequoia Capital, “the best venture capital in the Valley. People
invest in the team behind the idea and the market potential more than
the idea – a team that can meet the challenge and adapt quickly, a team
in it for the long haul. If the wave is big enough, it’s got to be lucrative.
We happened to be the top guys on the wave.”
The YouTube team had been working at each others’ houses and
wherever they could find space to squat. Along with cash, Sequoia provided incubator space and after nine months of beta testing, YouTube
launched in December 2005 and “took on a life of its own.”
YouTube instantly became a viral entertainment destination, with
videos from “Chad Vader, Day Shift Manager,” a hilarious short about
Darth’s less successful brother who works in a supermarket (five million
views), to sculpting an owl with a chainsaw. And who hasn’t seen the
flamboyant, musical, guaranteed-to-drive-the-neighbors-crazy Christmas
light display? Much of it is painful – and hilarious, like the pudgy
guy lip-synching a Romanian pop song in the “Numa Numa Dance.”
Some of it is brilliant. All of it is free, all accessible to anyone with a
computer and a video camera. It’s also helping make the careers of a few
extremely talented filmmakers.
YouTube is “completely democratizing. You program what you are
interested in. Videos play right away. It’s the fastest and cleanest site and
the most easy to use,” says Hurley.
According to Hurley – and writers about new media – YouTube is“changing the landscape of media. PayPal simplified a very complex
problem when there was no solution out there. PayPal did for payments
what YouTube does for video. No one had come up with a simple
Meanwhile, YouTube has become a “real community of creative
content producers and an audience. Video is so captivating and such a
low barrier to entry to creating content. It’s different from music, which
requires skill, practice and learning.”
YouTube now has 75 or 80 employees. Hurley calls the company’s
One-hundred million videos
are viewed daily, and every day
70,000 new videos are uploaded
by anyone with an idea
and a video camera.
“The whole thing is a phenomenon,” he says with modesty. “I get
caught up like everybody else. I watch so many videos, it’s ridiculous.
It’s like a little treasure hunt. You find so much content.”
Phenomenal is the word that comes to mind. In case you’ve managed
to ignore the news for the past few months, YouTube has been there,
everywhere and every day. They closed deals with CBS, Warner Music
Group, Universal Music Group and Sony BMG to detect copyrighted
material and make much of it available to YouTube’s video makers in
exchange for a share of advertising revenues.
But the monster deal was the $1.65 billion buy out from Google in
November. To put this into context, this is six times the gross domestic
product of Micronesia, or what Target paid for 257 department stores
and four distribution centers in 13 states, according to an article in Wired magazine.
In a testament to their stamina, the YouTube team finalized the Sony,
CBS, Universal and Google deals all on the same weekend — while also
moving their offices from San Mateo to San Bruno.
They announced the first three deals sequentially early on a Monday
morning after spending the weekend working and sleeping in their
lawyers’ offices, and sent out the press release about Google around noon.
After rushing with Google CEO Eric Schmidt back to YouTube
to tell the staff the news, the Hurley brothers walked across the parking
lot and spent the afternoon celebrating at TGI Friday’s.
What does all this mean to the YouTube team?
“We are figuring out what it all means, what is integrated and what is
independent,” Hurley says.
YouTube and Google have a few challenges ahead. They still have to
figure out how to really monetize the site. They need to figure out how
to get some of the $67 billion that advertisers spend annually as they turn
from television to the relatively uncharted territory of social networking
and video. YouTube also faces solving the challenge of really protecting
intellectual property while running a democratic, open video site.
On October 24, 2006, Professor Dave Martin got another e-mail from
“Remember that little web site I told you about last year, YouTube.com?
Well, I’m sure you’ve heard about our recent merger with Google. I can’t begin
to tell you how exciting and educational this year has been for me. Up until last
month, I was the only member of the finance team, participating in and managing
everything from our Series A and B financing, preparing board reports, and
of course, payroll. And now I have the great opportunity of being on the front
lines of our acquisition. It has been a wild ride to say the least.”
Dave Martin is very proud of Brent Hurley. “He’s a wonderful man– hardworking, very bright, and with empathy and feeling for people.”
Martin is looking forward to introducing Hurley to his business students
when Hurley visits Albright this spring.