Chad Hurley, Steven Chen and Jawed Karim, three former PayPal employees, started a little technology company in 2006 called YouTube. Eight years later, after a successful run with YouTube, co-founders Hurley and Chen have split up to join other ventures. Signalling the end of an era, the pair has called it quits after working for almost 15 years together on two popular Internet breakthroughs, PayPal and YouTube, and a fledgling firm, Avos Systems.
Avos Systems formed in 2011 as a collaborative effort by Hurley and Chen to pursue other projects they had in mind. The project functioned like Expa, a design studio that helps launch products and services, and enabled the pair to test beta versions. What made Avos unique was that it was based on ready-made application programming interfaces (API) and other codes to help entrepreneurs grow quickly. Chen said that he was working on nine products all at the same time, though they were not based on Avos’ sound structure. He added that 40 percent of iOS apps and websites were rebuilt on the same technology. With the servers being secure, authenticated, well written and handled better than before, it is easier for Avos to test new ideas. Of all the ideas they worked on, a mobile video platform called MixBit is the one that caught their attention. Hurley, who had the original idea for MixBit from the start, had been drumming up ideas for MixBit. However, Chen and Hurley could not avoid the notoriety they earned with YouTube, making the joint announcement on MixBit and other ventures a challenge. In October 2013, they went beta with the app, which allows users to record clips to create videos with some help from friends.
The project seemed silent after the beta release. Chen explained that it was a period of observation; a transitional period that allowed them to observe and understand what people wanted from Avos and MixBit. It is no surprise that Avos worked on projects that were based on video production, consumption and collaboration. This helped ease the transition from Avos to MixBit because the staff of 20 to 25 based in San Mateo and New Zealand will now focus on Mixbit. The team sold Delicious, an internet start-up, and cleared the way for most of Avos’ team of developers and engineers to work on MixBit, with the Beijing staff being the only exception. The co-founders of YouTube are heading toward different ventures after their split. A design graduate from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Hurley will be heading development at Avos for MixBit. Chen, a computer science graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is taking up the role of entrepreneur-in-residence with Leena Rao at Google Ventures.
When questioned on how they took this decision personally, Hurley and Chen seem to take different views on the separation of their professional careers. After 15 years of collaborative efforts, Hurley says he will be fine, but Chen allowed that it was a difficult personal decision, but he did not want to be the one who got in the way of Hurley’s ideas of turning Avos to MixBit, since that was Hurley’s idea all along. Chen expressed his desire to work on other projects and laughed the question off, saying that he would stop by Hurley’s office and steal some food.
Chen kept most details of his new role at Google Ventures under the wraps. Explaining his role in bits and pieces, Chen said that he wanted to bring fresh and young minds to the frontline in technology. Although hinting at media and its distribution, Chen would not discuss the specifics of his vision, but added that the prospect of working within other industries and conversing with young adults would be exciting. It will be interesting to see how Chad Hurley and Steven Chen work in different ventures after their split as the co-founders of the biggest success on the internet, YouTube.
By Rathan Paul Harshavardan