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Jawed Karim

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Jawed Karim (born October 28, 1979) is an American software engineer and Internet entrepreneur of Bangladeshi and German descent. He is a co-founder of YouTube and the first person to upload a video to the site. This inaugural video, titled “Me at the zoo” and uploaded on April 23, 2005, has been viewed over 260 million times, as of March 16, 2023. During Karim’s time working at PayPal, where he met the fellow YouTube co-founders Steven Chen and Chad Hurley, he had designed many of the core components including its real-time anti-Internet-fraud system.

Me at the zoo

Me at the zoo“, the first video on YouTube, was uploaded by Karim on April 23, 2005

Me at the zoo” is the first ever video uploaded to YouTube, on April 23, 2005, 8:31:52 p.m. PDT, or April 24, 2005, at 03:31:52 UTC. The 19-second video features YouTube’s co-founder Jawed Karim, who was 25 years old at the time, in front of two elephants at the San Diego Zoo in California, noting their long trunks. Using Karim’s camera, it was recorded by his high school friend, Yakov Lapitsky, a University of Delaware PhD student at the time, who was in San Diego to deliver his research to the American Chemical Society.


The Los Angeles Times explained in 2009 that “as the first video uploaded to YouTube, it played a pivotal role in fundamentally altering how people consumed media and helped usher in a golden era of the 60-second video”. The Observer described its production quality as poor. Digital Trends called it a “nondescript affair” and “tongue-in-cheek” video that set “the tone for what was to come” on YouTube.

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Greg Jarboe describes the video’s representation of an “ordinary moment” to be “extraordinary” for its time, demonstrating YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim‘s vision of what YouTube would become. According to Jarboe, “Me at the zoo” showed that YouTube was not simply about trying to “capture special moments on video” but rather trying to empower YouTube users “to become the broadcasters of tomorrow”. This paved the way for YouTube to become the world’s most popular online video-sharing community. Aaron Duplantier said that the ordinary “everydayness” and “dry aesthetics” of “Me at the zoo” set the tone for the type of original amateur content that would become typical of YouTube, especially among YouTubers and vloggers. In addition to being the first video on YouTube, it has been described as the first YouTube vlog clip.

Business Insider ranked it the most important YouTube video of all time, stating: “It is representative of YouTube—it doesn’t need to be this fancy production; it can be approachable. The first YouTube video is something anyone could create on their own. The New York Observer also ranked it the most important video in YouTube history, stating “the thing is practically a historical artifact”. BuzzFeed News listed it among the 20 most important online videos of all time

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Early life

Jawed Karim was born on October 28, 1979, in MerseburgEast Germany, to a Bangladeshi father and a German mother. His father Naimul Karim (Bengali: নাইমুল করিম) is a Muslim Bangladeshi who works as a researcher at 3M, and his mother, Christine, is a German scientist of biochemistry at the University of Minnesota. He was the elder of two boys. He crossed the inner German border with his family in the early 1980s because of xenophobia, growing up in NeussWest Germany. Experiencing xenophobia there as well, Karim moved with his family to Saint Paul, Minnesota, in 1992. He graduated from Saint Paul Central High School in 1997, and attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He left campus prior to graduating to become an early employee at PayPal; however, he continued his coursework, earning his bachelor’s degree in computer science. He subsequently earned a master’s degree in computer science from Stanford University. In addition to English, Jawed speaks German and Bengali.


In university, Karim served an Internship at Silicon Graphics, Inc., where he worked on 3D voxel data management for very large data sets for volume rendering, including the data for the Visible Human Project. While working at PayPal in 2002, he met Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. Three years later, in 2005, they founded the video-sharing website YouTube. Karim created the first channel on YouTube, “jawed”, on April 23, 2005 PDT (April 24, 2005 UTC), and uploaded the website’s first video, “Me at the zoo“, the same day.

After co-founding the company and developing the YouTube concept and website with Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, Karim enrolled as a graduate student in computer science at Stanford University while acting as an adviser to YouTube. When the site was introduced in February 2005, Karim agreed not to be an employee and simply be an informal adviser, and that he was focusing on his studies. As a result, he took a much lower share in the company compared to Hurley and Chen. Because of his smaller role in the company, Karim was mostly unknown to the public as the third founder until YouTube was acquired by Google in 2006. Despite his lower share in the company, the purchase was still large enough that he received 137,443 shares of stock, worth about $64 million based on Google’s closing stock price at the time.

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In October 2006, Karim gave a lecture about the history of YouTube at the University of Illinois annual ACM Conference entitled YouTube From Concept to Hyper growth. Karim returned again to the University of Illinois in May 2008 as the 136th and youngest commencement speaker in the school’s history.


In March 2008, Karim launched a venture fund called Youniversity Ventures (now known as YVentures) with partners Keith Rabois and Kevin Hartz. Karim is one of Airbnb‘s first investors, investing in the company’s initial seed round in April 2009. Y Ventures has also invested in PalantirReddit and Eventbrite.

Responses to YouTube

Occasionally, Karim has updated the video description of “Me at the zoo” to criticize decisions made by YouTube.

On November 6, 2013, YouTube began requiring that commenting on its videos be done via a Google+ account, a move that was widely opposed by the YouTube community. An online petition to revert the change garnered over 240,000 signatures.

In response to Google requiring YouTube members to use Google+ for its comment system, Karim wrote on his YouTube account, “why the fuck do i need a Google+ account to comment on a video?”, and updated the video description on his first video titled “Me at the zoo” to “I can’t comment here anymore, since i don’t want a Google+ account”.

In response to pressure from the YouTube community, Google publicly apologized for forcing Google+ users to use their real names, which was one of the reasons the Google+ integration was unpopular with YouTube users. Google subsequently dropped its Google+ requirement across all products, beginning with YouTube. Google announced in October 2018 its intention to permanently shut down Google+, as it had failed to achieve broad consumer or developer adoption, and because of a vulnerability. Google+ was closed for personal accounts on April 2, 2019.

In November 2021, Jawed updated the description of “Me at the zoo” to include “When every YouTuber agrees that removing dislikes is a stupid idea, it probably is. Try again, YouTube🤦‍♂️.” A few days later, Karim updated the description again to a more detailed condemnation of YouTube’s decision. The description was later removed, and as of January 2023 the video’s description is blank.

How Jawed Karim Achieved a Net Worth of $160 Million

magine you are barely thirty years old but have $64 million in your bank account. Yet, you prefer to remain in the shadows and enroll for your master’s degree to quench your thirst for learning. That is the story of Jawed Karim, one of the co-founders of YouTube and the first person to upload a video on the site. He is soft-spoken but is passionate about start-ups, going to the lengths of helping those interested in becoming entrepreneurs. His efforts have not gone to waste, and Jawed Karim’s net worth is $160 million. Let’s tell you more about he has achieved such a fortune.

His Interest in Technology Leads to Joining PayPal

Karim was born in East Germany to a German mother and a Bangladeshi father. In 1981, when Karim was about two years old, the family moved to West Germany due to xenophobia. They spent ten years in Neuss, where Karim and his younger brother were raised, but they still experienced xenophobia. Eventually, in 1992 the family moved to Minnesota. His mother got a job at the University of Minnesota as a research assistant professor of biochemistry, and Karim’s father also was employed by 3M as a researcher. As a son of researchers, Karim’s interest in learning grew. He also was passionate about technology. Thus, after graduating from Saint Paul Central High School, Karim decided to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign where he enrolled in the Department of Computer Science. According to the New York Times, the entrepreneur chose the university because it is where Marc Andreesen and other tech-companies founders attended. However, Karim explained that he was not interested in being the next Andreesen; he only wanted to be in the same place that the co-founder of Netscape once was. His love for technology resulted in him seeking employment at PayPal even before getting his degree. Karim continued with the coursework through online classes and attended Santa Clara University. Hence, he finally graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. By then, he was already making a lucrative income at PayPal. Although it is unclear what his job description at PayPal was, we can go by the average annual salary of $133,706, but it could have been significantly less back then.

Getting Millions from YouTube

Destiny had a hand in Karim’s decision to get a job at PayPal because that is where he met the two other men who would be the future co-founders of YouTube. One of them, Chad Hurley, had been tasked with designing the PayPal logo. The other was Steve Chen, whom Karim already knew because they both had attended the University of Illinois. The three explored different business ideas and their potential for growth until they came up with YouTube. There are different theories regarding how the video-sharing site came to be. According to No Film School, one of the rumors is that Hurley and Chen attended a dinner party in San Francisco and were frustrated that they could not share the videos shot that night because of how hard it was. Hurley even said in an interview that they felt the issue of video-sharing had to be addressed because, after people recorded on their cellphones, they could not share the clips. The other theory is that Karim is the one who came up with the idea after the Janet Jackson wardrobe function during the 2004 Super Bowl. He had missed the event and wanted to see the clip but could not find any video online to satisfy his curiosity. Thus, he started thinking of building a site where people could share videos for others to watch. Hurley began working on the code for the proposed website.

According to Gigaom, Karim also credits the emergence of digital cameras and phones, cheap bandwidth, and broadband penetration for the successful launch of YouTube on February 14, 2005. Karim uploaded the first YouTube video titled “Me at the Zoo” on April 25, 2005. It only lasts 19 seconds and is the only video uploaded to Karim’s channel “jawed.” Surprisingly, the channel has 2.67 million subscribers, and the video had over 219 million views as of January 18, 2022. However, it took a while before people could show interest in YouTube. Nobody was using the platform, and none of the writers they pitched to about the site wanted to talk about YouTube. The three co-founders were so desperate that they even placed an ad on Craigslist looking for beautiful girls to post videos on the site. Unfortunately, no one responded. After revamping the site with important features such as social networking tools and an external video player, YouTube gained traction. Google acquired the site for $1.65 billion on October 16, 200. Karim had 137,443 shares, valued at $64.6 million, making him a multi-millionaire at 27. If he still has the shares, they are currently worth at least $350 million.

Founding Y Ventures

Karim opted to return to school for his master’s degree hence the smaller stake in YouTube. USA Today published that the entrepreneur was working on another start-up, but Karim kept the cards close to his chest. Karim had met Keith Rabois and Kevin Hartz during his employment at PayPal. They reconnected in 2007, and the three decided to back former and current students at Stanford University and the University of Illinois. Rabois and Hartz were Stanford alumni, and Karim had enrolled there for his master’s degree. The partnership resulted in Youniversity Ventures with Karim telling The Los Angeles Times, he wanted to help students because he wishes he had received the same kind of mentorship. By 2008, Youniversity Ventures had backed two companies. In 2009, the venture fund became one of the earliest investors in Airbnb, now valued at more than $113 billion. Therefore, Karim is raking in millions from his various investments because Youniversity Ventures has stakes in different companies.

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