Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Jawed Who? Meet YouTube's silent partner

Posted by Richard Koman - October 12, 2006

By Richard Koman for

The story of YouTube's founding is rapidly approaching a level in the Valley's mythology approaching Steve Jobs' garage and "the letter" Bill Gates wrote to the Homebrew Computing Club. Essentially, that the founders were shooting video at a party and discovered there was no easy way - even for geeks - to exchange video online, thus was born YouTube.

When one says "the founders," everyone has seen Chad Hurley's surfer-boy good looks and Steve Chen is somewhat less well-known. But who knew that there was a third founder, Jawed Karim, who worked with Hurley and Chen at PayPal and, perhaps, came up with the original notion of a video-sharing site?

He made a couple mil at PayPal but is considerably more loaded this week, even at substantially lower levels than Hurley and Chen. That's because he made the unusual Valley choice of staying in graduate school rather than devoting himself day and night to building a start-up.

The New York Times' Miguel Helft spent a little time with Karim on the Stanford campus, where he is pursuing his master's in computer science.

On Wednesday, during a walk across campus and a visit to his dorm room and the computer sciences building where he takes classes, Mr. Karim described himself as a nerd who gets excited about learning. Nothing in his understated demeanor suggests he is anything other than an ordinary graduate student, and he attracted little attention on campus in jeans, a blue polo shirt, a tan jacket and black Puma sneakers.

Mr. Karim said he might keep a hand in entrepreneurship, and he dreams of having an impact on the way people use the Internet — something he has already done. Philanthropy may have some appeal, down the road. But mostly he just wants to be a professor. He said he simply hopes to follow in the footsteps of other Stanford academics who struck it rich in Silicon Valley and went back to teaching.

By February 2005 he knew he didn't want to leave school and the three partners negotiated a deal where he would take a vastly smaller share of the company in exchange for serving as a consultant.

oelof Botha, the Sequoia partner who led the investment in YouTube, said he would have preferred if Mr. Karim had stayed.

“I wish we could have kept him as part of the company,” Mr. Botha said. “He was very, very creative. We were doing everything we could to convince him to defer.”

Karim showed Helft some videos he shot of Chen and Hurley back in April 05. In one Chen says he is “getting pretty depressed” because there were only 50 or 60 videos on the site.

Presumably, Chen is no longer depressed and Karim has reason to be happy, too, although he's pretty laid back it all.

Asked what he thought of the acquisition price, Mr. Karim said: “It sounded good to me.” When a reporter looked puzzled, he raised his eyebrows and added: “I was amazed.”

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