The role of workplaces
in fast-growing start-ups

This Monday, at the very first Nordic Business Forum Sweden we had the great pleasure to meet YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley and talk about the role of the workplace in a start-up company. We also took a little peek into the future.

YouTube was founded in 2005 by Chad Hurley and two of his colleagues from PayPal. Within eighteen months the number of employees at YouTube had increased to 67 and the company was sold to Google. As a part of Google, the growth continued. So how did the YouTube workplace adapt to the fast growth?

Laid back atmosphere and free food

To start with Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim worked from their homes and garages. Soon they were offered a few desks at the office of a venture capital firm they were working with. Their first own office was a small warehouse type room above a pizza shop and a sushi restaurant.

“It was a little concerning because we had a problem with rats”, Hurley tells laughing. “There was only about eight of us. One of the jobs we gave to our new employees on the first day was to build their own Ikea desk. It was sort of an initiation”.

“The working atmosphere at YouTube has always been laid back in terms of people being able to come in and leave when they want”, says Hurley. “Engineers would typically like to work late, so food would be brought into the office. The strategy is to give free food and make it feel like college so you didn’t have to leave, you just need to keep on working”, he continues with a smile.

Casual setting encouraged encounters

The atmosphere was kept casual. “Most of the time we were throwing footballs and Frisbees around the office to make it fun and that carried over to even after the acquisition”. At Google, they had a much larger building with indoor putting greens and Frisbee golf in the back yard.

As the size of the company grew, the importance of ensuring collaboration grew also. People met naturally in the more casual places but there was also a more formal structure through emails and meetings to communicate and touch base. Typically, there were Monday meetings where everyone got on the same page on what they were going to do for the week. They would also talk about what happened the week before.

All the groups within the office space sat in a traditional setting with their own department. The departments did not grow into silos however. “I think we continued innovating growth so quickly that it wasn’t necessarily a concern. We were a start-up within Google”, Hurley says.

The role of video in future workplaces

So how does Chad Hurley see the future of workplaces and the role of video and even augmented reality in them? “I can definitely see augmented reality affecting the physical workplace especially, if you are talking about opening an empty space and envisioning what it would look like – how to place the furniture and see the workflow”. Hurley also told us that in his current company MixBit, they have a “video window” open between their offices in the US and New Zealand.

He also sees some issues with the current virtual reality solutions. He finds them a little isolating. Nevertheless, he is in no doubt that in the future we will be taking part in meetings more and more also virtually.

In case you are curious to see what MixBit office looks like today, you can take a tour on their New Zealand office on MixBit website.


Image: Sarut Chaprasert / Shutterstock, Inc.
Bangkok Thailand ,DEC 2016 a man enjoying YouTube video 360 virtual reality experience at an office

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