March 31, 2007

What other start-ups can learn from YouTube

Deepak Thomas and Vineet Buch have published a case study on YouTube.
YouTube essentially took a problem with a few pre-existing, albeit clumsy solutions, added some engineering ingenuity and lots of creativity to come up with the best working solution. Content suppliers, i.e. those uploading videos could now upload video effortlessly. They could tag uploaded videos with keywords. On the consumption side, by adopting a Macromedia Flash-based video player embedded on a web-page, which played the video almost instantaneously, YouTube eliminated the need for downloads and local media players. Users could now search for videos by keywords, share them by mailing links to the videos, and also rate and comment on these videos. Consequently, popular videos bubbled up to the top in an organic fashion. Notice how, besides the player, other features were essentially attributes of sites sharing pictures, Flicker for example. YouTube was able to adopt what worked in the world of picture-sharing to the world of video-sharing.

...Distributing popular and hard-to-find video clips was clearly a success factor. Clips of the popular, long-running television show, Saturday Night Live was a particularly significant example. A free-form platform that allowed users to upload content had to contend with copyright violations. While this is one of the oft-repeated complaints about YouTube, it should be remembered that the founders decided to go ahead with the idea despite the eventual failures of the likes of Napster and Kaaza. While the ethics of such a strategy would require a lengthier discussion in an of itself, the founders clearly took a chance with something that other entrepreneurs might have balked at.

...YouTube allowed users to easily embed any hosted videos on web pages or blogs. This turned out to be particularly popular with social-networking websites, especially MySpace. The inbound links from these ‘widgets’ also helped YouTube increase its page rank on Google, thereby driving traffic via natural search..

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of information and networking services to the Private Equity and Venture Capital ecosystem in India. View sample issues of Venture Intelligence India newsletters and reports.