Success equals scrutiny in Silicon Valley. If youthful YouTube CEO Chad Hurley hadn't understood that equation before now, he got a lesson on Wednesday.
Poor guy probably didn't realize when he accepted an invitation to join a panel discussion at the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit that his company would be probed like a laboratory rat.
Tough questions and raw skepticism were hurled at Hurley during a discussion titled "How Far Will Consumer-Generated Media Go?" To start, panel moderator Kara Swisher, a staff reporter for the Wall Street Journal, asked Hurley whether his company--which went live in the spring of 2005, was profitable.
Hurley suggested that the company would be making money if it wasn't trying to grow staff and build infrastructure.
Hurley's statement sounded familiar to Swisher. "I get it," she said. "It's just like it was in the dot-com days."
Swisher and MP3.com founder Michael Robertson prodded Hurley to reveal more about YouTube. Clearly, they are interested in how Hurley and YouTube co-founder Steve Chen built their juggernaut, which is seeing 65,000 videos uploaded to its site every day and more than 13 million unique users visit every month.
Hurley, with his shoulder-length hair and good-natured grin, looked as if he just wanted to get back to the company's headquarters in San Mateo, Calif., as the discussion bore in YouTube.
"There are going to be video ads on YouTube within a year without a doubt," Robertson told the crowd. "There is no way they will be able to cover their nut without doing it...This is just the normal evolution of a company."
When Hurley said that YouTube is a great promotional platform and said that the site would incorporate advertising as entertaining as the homemade videos it was Swisher who came down on him, noting that most commercials weren't very entertaining.
Despite the tough questioning, at least one of the panelists sees a bright future for YouTube. Following the session, Robertson said he expects the company to overcome challenges with copyright issues and advertising and become a whopper of a service.
Other panelists included David Goldberg, head of Yahoo Music, and Michael Arrieta, senior vice president of Sony Pictures.