Well, what a Thursday! Twice I was able to listen to Susan Wojcicki ’98, CEO of YouTube telling her story. Written below are my highlights from her Dean’s Distinguished Speaker Series presentation in Korn Hall. Or, feel free to watch her presentation here and enjoy for yourself.
Susan opened with some of the “Wow Stats” about YouTube, and the global consumption of video.
Susan then got more personal, telling us her journey from UCLA Anderson to her position as CEO.
Susan’s first post-MBA job was with Intel, and she was quick to acknowledge her respect for Intel still today. But, she didn’t even stay at Intel a full year. She left Intel and it was risky to leave, not just because she was going to a start-up; she was also pregnant at the time. (Susan shared that she is the mother of five children.)
We all know the story of the start-up she left Intel for, Google. She happened to be renting her garage in Menlo Park to these two young men, Larry and Sergey.
So Susan became employee #16 at Google.
But, how did you get from there to be CEO of YouTube?
Believe it or not, a dominant conversation in 2005 was “Will people voluntarily upload videos of themselves? Is this just a pipe dream to make a video distribution platform?”
During her tenure running Google Video, Susan had an “Aha Moment” when she saw this user-generated video posted online, straight from a dorm room in China. Have you ever watched this one?
Susan didn’t just “like” this video. Her reaction was going to change history [Dylan’s editorial, not Susan’s statement] because her viewing this video became the seed that grew into her championing Google’s ultimate purchase of YouTube, for well over $1B.
Buying YouTube was a second risk that Susan took. And it wasn’t like everyone agreed with her. As you see, the ever-bombastic Mark Cuban has this to say about the acquisition:
Susan saw that there was something authentic about those lip-syncing college men from China, all the way to the third roommate in the background, who is completely ignoring the whole scene. I mean, who’s never had to ignore roommates before?
YouTube allows for both authenticity and diversity.
Of the top 12 YouTube performers according to view counts, only 3 of the 12 are actually “famous” in a traditional sense (e.g. Bruno and Taylor). The other 12 (e.g. KSI and PewDiePie) have all connected to their global audience via their authenticity, via the platform of video.
Susan pointed out the incredible diversity of voices YouTube brings together.
So Susan’s journey has led her to the role of CEO of YouTube… So far.
Susan’s story is one of education, preparation, risk-taking, great luck, more risk-taking and more hard work.
But what’s next? Where is Susan “Thinking in the Next”?
She addressed some “where things are going” ideas.
Here was Susan, earlier Thursday at the Media Mogul Lunch at UCLA. To her left is Mike Hopkins, CEO of Hulu and FEMBA 2001.
At the end of the Dean’s Distinguished Speakers Panel, Susan took questions from Dean Olian, from the audience and from Twitter.
Hope this re-created some of the flavor of Susan’s day on campus. It was humbling listening to her. There was, in this author’s opinion, a marked absence of showmanship. She was centered and confident and her results speak for themselves. It was inspiring.
PS Thanks to Britt Benston from UCLA Anderson Marketing. Britt got a signed copy of our brochure for me from our very own Mike Hopkins ’01, CEO of Hulu, after the lunchtime panel with Susan.
What amazing heights will you and your FEMBA classmates reach?!? Keep Sharing Success and Driving Change and you’ll find out.