From their Silicon Valley garage, Messrs. Hurley and Chen, a Taiwan-born engineer, maxed out credit cards and their understanding of open-source software to design a simpler alternative to the sites offered by internet heavyweights like Google.
By summertime, the service they named YouTube had attracted the attention of former PayPal Chief Financial Officer Roelof Botha-partner at venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, which would eventually invest $3.5 million in the operation.
Now the envy of every media company from New York to L.A., YouTube.com is by far the most-visited video site on the web, attracting more than 20 million U.S. users in May, compared with 11.1 million for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Video. Its steadily expanding audience now watches about 100 million videos per day.
"We are very community-oriented at YouTube and have democratized the experience for all users, allowing everyday people to have their voices heard by millions," says Mr. Chen, 27, YouTube's chief technology officer.
"Now advertisers have a new opportunity to align their brand with the video content that our users want to see in order to engage them in a more personal and emotional way," Mr. Hurley adds. The 29-year-old CEO, who studied design in college, was treated to belle-of-the-ball status last month at the elite Allen & Co. media summit in Sun Valley, Idaho.
But amid wild acquisition rumors, YouTube's co-founders are going it alone for now. "This experience taught us how to manage a rapidly growing business and make our technology infinitely scalable," Mr. Chen says.
Says Julie Supan, senior director of marketing at YouTube: "For Chad and Steve, they see how the right ad model can change everything. Google found an incredible way to build an ad model around ad links. We're going to do something just as big with video." -gavin o'malley
* Creators of massively popular web- site
* 100 million videos viewed each day