Steve Chen

YouTube logo


Country of origin: Taiwan

Year came to U.S.: 1986

Education: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Business: YouTube (2005)

Headquarters: San Bruno, CA

2021 revenue: $28.8 billion (YouTube purchased by Google in 2009)

U.S. employment: 2,800


  • Steve Chen quit college to work for PayPal and then Facebook before founding YouTube.

  • YouTube was bought by Google in 2009 for $1.65 billion.

It has been dubbed “the ultimate form of reality television.” It’s likely videos of you, or your cat, can be found there. It’s YouTube.

The Internet’s premier video-sharing site was co-founded by a Taiwanese immigrant named Steve Chen. Arriving in Chicago at the age of eight, Chen earned money working at 7-Eleven that helped him go to college. When his classmates at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign went on to found companies like PayPal, Chen quit school to work for them. He even had a stint at Facebook.

It was at a dinner party in 2005 that the YouTube concept was born. Chen and friend Chad Hurley couldn’t find an easy way to share videos of the party. Realizing that digital photos were easier to share thanks to websites like Flickr, they reasoned that a similar software package for videos was possible too. The idea was that it had to be easy to use and not require downloading software.

With $3.5 million in venture capital financing, YouTube launched in December 2005 with a flick called “Me at the zoo.” Within a year, there were 34 million unique visitors each month, 100 million videos in its archive and 65,000 new videos daily.

Chen was named in Business 2.0’s “50 Most Influential People,” GQ’s “Men of the Year,” Time magazine’s “Best Invention of the Year” and Fortune’s “Most Powerful People in Business.” Chen became a multi-millionaire after YouTube was bought by Google in 2009 for $1.65 billion.

A true entrepreneur at heart, Chen keeps his focus on creating new companies and new technologies. After YouTube, he co-founded business incubator Avos Systems, creators of the mobile video platform MixBit and worked as entrepreneur in residence at Google Ventures. In 2016, he launched Nom, a video-streaming service for foodies, which has since shut down.

Check out the blog post Nine Famous Asian and Pacific Islander Immigrants to learn more about accomplished AAPI immigrants to the United States.

Updated July 2022