How Jared Karim from Saxony-Anhalt invented YouTube and became a millionaire

The three YouTube founders Chad Hurley, Steven Chen and Jawed Karim.

The three YouTube founders Chad Hurley, Steven Chen and Jawed Karim.

Jawed Karim / Wikipedia

A young man stands in front of an elephant enclosure in the zoo. It is a gray spring day and the camera quality of the recording is rather poor. The cool thing about elephants? They have a very, very long trunk. “That’s pretty much all there is to be said.” And so the 18-second clip ends.

But there is still a lot to be said. The end of the video marks the beginning of the largest video platform in the world: Youtube. The shot from the San Diego Zoo now has over 150 million views and is the first video uploaded on the platform. The protagonist in front of the elephant enclosure: Youtube founder Jawed Karim, who grew up in tranquil Merseburg.

Since the start of Youtube in 2005, the video portal has grown rapidly. Over two billion monthly active users can access millions of music videos, tutorials, parodies or film trailers. Every minute, 400 hours of video material are uploaded to YouTube and only the search engine Google records more visitors on the Internet. This is also reflected in the business figures of the parent company Alphabet. In the fourth quarter, the group had sales of 56.9 billion US dollars. The profit rose compared to the same quarter last year by 43 percent to 15.2 billion dollars, according to a company report.

Youtube has a large share in Alphabet’s economic success through its advertising income and steadily growing number of users. The group also owes this success to Jawed Karim. The protagonist from the first YouTube video is a co-founder of the platform. In contrast to many other young entrepreneurs in the tech industry, Karim did not grow up in Silicon Valley, but in the Rhine district of Neuss.

The YouTube founder from the GDR

Karim is the son of a German assistant professor of biochemistry and a chemist from Bangladesh. The future multimillionaire was born in 1979 in the small town of Merseburg in Saxony-Anhalt. Just three years later, he and his parents left the GDR for Neuss. In the neighboring town of Dormagen he attended high school.

At the beginning of the 1990s, the multicultural family no longer felt safe in Germany. Racist riots like in Rostock-Lichtenhagen confirmed the uncomfortable feeling and so Karim emigrated with his parents to the USA after their father offered a job. There he attended a high school in the US state of Minnesota. Karim discovered his passion for programming here at an early age, even if his mother occasionally limited his time in front of the PC.

After graduating from school, he began studying computer science at the University of Illinois. However, Karim interrupted his studies and started working for the online payment service PayPal. Here he met his future partners Chad Hurley and Steven Chen. After Karim had obtained his bachelor’s degree in 2004, the three young computer scientists founded the video platform Youtube on February 14, 2005.

Karim himself left the company during the growth phase, but remained one of the largest shareholders in the platform. Google recognized the great potential of the website and bought Youtube in 2006 for 1.3 billion euros. In return, Karim received Google shares worth 64 million US dollars at the time and became a multimillionaire overnight.

Since then it has become very quiet around the German-American. Karim founded Y Ventures in 2008. The company has made it its mission to financially support students in setting up their start-ups. Not much is known about his personal life. Since 2018, Karim should also have French citizenship. The millionaire also rarely appears on social media. However, the first Youtube video starring him will go down in history forever.


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