All about Me…

YouTube co-founder looks for his next success…

Posted by vishalsinghal on August 17, 2008

An Ar

ticle from StarTribune

St. Paul Central grad Jawed Karim talks about launching start-ups, being an entrepreneur and Silicon Valley.

Many university students spend summer break painting houses, backpacking through Europe or spending some quality time with Madden 08. Jawed Karim is scouring the Twin Cities for the next YouTube.

The St. Paul Central High School graduate and a co-founder of the popular YouTube video sharing website recently launched Youniversity Ventures, a firm that provides venture financing to Internet software start-ups by college students and first-time entrepreneurs.

Karim, a 29-year-old Ph.D. student at Stanford University, is believed to be worth tens of millions of dollars or more. He is a founder of online payment processor PayPal, which eBay acquired in 2002 for $1.5 billion. Four years later, Karim received $65 million in Google stock when the Internet giant bought YouTube for $1.65 billion.

He started Youniversity last year with Kevin Hartz and Keith Rabois, two Stanford grads and partners at Sequoia Capital, the high-powered Silicon Valley venture firm that invested in Google, Apple, Oracle and Yahoo. The three men will invest $50,000 to $300,000 of their own money per company. To contact Karim, e-mail him at

Karim chatted with the Star Tribune about first-time entrepreneurs, taking risks and why people in Minnesota need to get out of the convention center and into the coffee shop.

Q Who is Youniversity Ventures targeting?

A We feel that the [college student] segment is underaddressed. There is not a lot of attention given there, even though there is a lot of innovation coming out of that space. People may be working on something that is very useful but they may not know how to take and translate that into an actual business. There are [venture capitalists] but they serve a segment that is a little bit higher up. If you go to a VC, you are expected to have a fully polished business plan.

We want to be involved in a much earlier stage. We act as almost co-founder for the first six months. We just enable the team to get off the ground. … We work on a very informal basis. We will coach people along if it falls into our area of interest [Internet software], even though we don’t make an investment. We are working with a lot of companies right now, even the ones we are not investing in.

Q How did you become an entrepreneur?

A It’s very difficult to get started. The best advice I can give is to learn by example. I was surrounded by other successful entrepreneurs. And I did a lot of reading.

Pick a company that you admire and find out everything about it: who’s behind it, how they got started. For me, the companies were FedEx, Best Buy, Oracle, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google. I just knew everything about how they got started. I was just trying to emulate the companies I was interested in.

Q What’s the difference between being an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley and in Minnesota?

A Silicon Valley has a lot of noise, a lot of hype. People are very excited about all of the Facebook stuff, Facebook applications. It’s just been a huge hype over the last year when actually … there isn’t really that much value. It’s just a bubble. It’s almost a distraction.

Whereas here, there is certainly less activity. But at the same time, you don’t have these bubbles of nonsense out here. Things here seem a little too formal. I think that it’s inhibiting productivity.

People in Silicon Valley will just get together and shoot around some ideas or program something together. Here, we have to go to a specific conference to meet people.

Q It seems that people in Minnesota are much more risk-averse than in California. Why?

A It’s a cultural issue. In California, you see everyone taking lots of risk. So comparatively to them you are not taking that much risk by doing a start-up because everyone is doing it. Whereas here, when you do a start-up it’s like: “Oh, my God! Like, I’m doing a start-up. No one else I know is doing a start-up, so I am taking a lot of risk,” when actually you are not but it’s compared to everyone else. The local culture might discourage risk.

Q What will it take to spark innovation in Minnesota?

A In Silicon Valley, what really helps is that people are always working together. You see people hanging out all of the time. Even people from competing companies are talking about stuff. It’s that interaction that creates the motivation to do something. Here people are more separate. They don’t interact as much.

What it’ll take is much closer collaboration in a much-less-formal environment. But in Silicon Valley, people network all of the time — on the street, coffee shops, dorm rooms, garages.


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