The Youngsters Behind YouTube: The Early Years of Chad Hurley and Steve Chen

“Everybody aspires to be a star,” says Steve Chen, a Taiwanese immigrant who came to the U.S. with his family in the hopes for a better life. Chen’s aspirations became a reality when he, along with Pennsylvania-born Chad Hurley created what is today the world’s largest online video website. YouTube, having been launched no more than two years ago has now become a global sensation, propelling both Hurley and Chen to the top of Business 2.0’s list of “The 50 People Who Matter Now.” YouTube was also named TIME magazine’s 2006 “Invention of the Year.” When Hurley and Chen decided to sell their company, they did so for a hefty price tag of $1.65 billion.

Steve Shih Chen was born in August 1978 in Taiwan, where he lived until he was eight years old. His family then emigrated to the U.S., where Chen attended John Hersey High School, and later the Illinois Math and Science Academy. After graduating from high school, Chen enrolled in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to pursue a degree in Computer Science. But, it would be a part-time job he was hired for at a small e-commerce startup called PayPal that would change his life forever.

Chad Meredith Hurley was born in 1977 as the middle child of parents Donald and JoAnn Hurley. His father was a financial consultant, while his mother worked as a local school teacher. Chad, along with his older sister and younger brother, grew up near Birdsboro, Pennsylvania. After graduating from Twin Valley High School in 1995, where his mother continues to teach the gifted program, Hurley enrolled in the Indiana University of Pennsylvania to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art.

Before graduating from university, Hurley also applied for a job at PayPal. He was flown to California and, as part of his job interview, was asked to design a logo for the young company that would demonstrate his artistic abilities. Hurley got the job, and the logo he designed remains PayPal’s official logo to this day.

It was while working at PayPal that Hurley and Chen became fast friends. They began to spend their free time discussing several different business ideas. When eBay purchased PayPal for $1.54 billion, the two received large bonuses for their role in growing the small startup. They decided to use their money to create their own venture. With Chen’s engineering skills and Hurley’s creativity, they thought forming a company together was a plausible idea.

In January 2005, Hurley and Chen attended a friend’s dinner party in San Francisco. They had taken a few digital videos of the event and wanted to share them with each other the next day, but could not find a good means to do so. The files were too big to email, while posting them online would take hours. With that, Hurley and Chen had their first idea for a sustainable business. Using the money they had received from the PayPal buyout, Chen and Hurley decided to create YouTube, to make uploading and sharing videos online as easy as anyone could want.

It was the birth of a revolution.

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