TC40 Keynote Speakers: Humble Beginnings

Our live blog of the Keynote Speakers: Humble Beginnings Sessions from TechCrunch40.

Sequoia’s Michael Moritz introduces the three guests: Marc Andreessen, David Filo and Chad Hurley.

An amazing lineup: for those old enough to remember Andreessen was the CTO and Co-founder of Netscape, more recently he co-founded while label social networking startup Ning. David Filo was a co-founder of Yahoo, the first great internet company of our age. Chad Hurley is CEO and Co-founder of YouTube…and that story doesn’t need repeating.


Chad Hurley is first. First business was selling trying to sell paintings as a kid..apparently not a huge market in Philly.

David Filo was at Stanford..he selected Stanford due to the connections and possibilites.

Marc was from Wisconsin, middle America. First business was a lemonade stand when he was kindergarten. Distribution method was wrong though, he set up 10 miles out of town :-) Went to U. Illinois, had no idea about business…he lucked out by being able to come to Silicon Valley.


Back to David Filo. Question: what made you leave Stanford with Jerry Yang. DF: when Yahoo started they weren’t thinking of it as a business. 6 months after they started they were still trying to come up with business ideas for new projects…they didn’t consider Yahoo as a business proposition.

DF had an early business relationship with Marc Andreessen and Netscape…Netscape provided data space when Yahoo was moving out of Stanford.

Back to Marc: question: did ppl know what Netscape would turn out to be. MA: it was a crazy idea, no one was doing this stuff in 94. 99% of ideas are crazy and fail as well, no one can say with any degree of confidence what will absolutely work.

Question: were there key things in the first 60 days of Netscape, MA: radical distribution model, the first with free for personal use.


Question to Chad Hurley: how long did it take to get YouTube up and running, CH: we sat down and thought out the problem, within a couple of months we had a working model. Within 12 months we’d closed funding to grow. Scaling was the hardest part, didn’t expect YouTube to grow like it did.

Q to David Filo: on growth, did it surprise you. DF: as said before we didn’t expect to make a business out of Yahoo, so yes it was surprising.

David Filo is asked what he does at Filo has he’s not seen at industry events that often. Broad laughter. DF says he covers data centers, growth etc..

Marc Andressen Q: what is it like being in top roles. MA: I’m not the CEO for a reason, I’m the chairman (laughter). MA talks about the stress and work involved with running a company. David Filo added that as soon as they realized that Yahoo was going to take off they hired a CEO. Chad Hurley takes running YouTube as being a challenge.

Q to Marc Andressen: what would he do differently, MA: things are different now (makes some jokes about Red Herring), advice is to not take too many people with you from company to company, it’s healthy bringing in new people.


Q to Chad Hurley: how did you cope with growth, CH: our first hosting company was setup to deal with us, so we had to go out and build our own data center, which was “scary.” Luckily YouTube never suffered from major outages, only scheduled downtime for maintenance, no longer required.

Q to Marck Andreessen: how close have you gone to going under, MA: 60 days with LoudCloud, we were burning too much cash, the crash had happened.


Q to all 3: what’s your worst business decision. Chad Hurley: we would have hired more people, more quickly to deal with the growth. David Filo: we underestimated the opportunities and hence like YouTube we would have bought on more people at Yahoo in the early days, we also weren’t taking a proper long term view. Marc Andreessen: we treated search money as free money, VC’s would give it to search companies who gave it to Netscape for traffic. With hindsight Netscape would have worked better as a content company as opposed to a service company.

Q: who do they admire outside of their own company. David Filo: Steve Jobs. Chad Hurley: Steve Jobs. Marc Andressen agree, Steve Jobs.

Q to all 3: what are your fondest memories. David Filo: it’s hard to pin down a particular time, I’ve enjoyed it all. Being able to shape the internet was exciting. Chad Hurley: when we started, it’s difficult to ever recreate that experience, a “special time” where YouTube didn’t know what would happen, or even how they’d pay the bills.

Thoroughly interesting sessions. Audience questions

q: tips for startups. Marc A: a founder should be CEO, don’t bring in CEO, professional CEO’s can dupe the company, second tip: beat off with a stick hiring to many people too soon, keeps burn rate down. Chad Hurley: small teams work because you can “aerate” more quickly and solve problems. Use the product yourself..important tip. David Filo: be passionate about what you are doing, even if you fail people will enjoy the experience.


q: 60% of traffic is global, how do accommodate that audience. Chad Hurley: at first it was mostly US traffic at YouTube, now much broader, but we were acquired by Google so we could handle the international traffic. Doing things like language support and tagging.

q: is there a myth or thing related to your company that isn’t true. Marc Andreessen: Al Gore never said he invented the internet.

Favorite sites: all 3 say TechCrunch then get serious, Chad Hurley likes Facebook, Marc Andreessen loves Amazon, David Filo Sequoia.

Session finishes. You don’t get that caliber of speakers at many conferences at all.