• Gil Hildebrand
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  • Why I'm Betting Big on THIS Platform For My Next Startup

Why I'm Betting Big on THIS Platform For My Next Startup

The big reveal...

5 billion videos watched every day. 500 hours of video uploaded every minute. 52% of internet users accessing the platform every month. I was on it already today. You probably were too. It’s YouTube.

These numbers are incredible. But they’re not the reason why why I’ve grown increasingly enchanted by the platform.

Here’s a typical night. It’s 9pm. I’m finally ready to lay in bed and wind down. Not quite ready for sleep. So I turn on the TV for a few minutes. No, not cable. Not Netflix or Disney+.

Whether I’m looking for today’s news, wacky documentaries about the most random things, ways to get more healthy and fit, or even just observing a day in the life of something I’d never attempt, like off-grid living—I find myself watching YouTube.

YouTube is big business. The platform itself generated over $29 BILLION in ad revenue last year. Until recently, it was one of the only major social networks that actually paid its creators. Many YouTubers earn enough income to quit their jobs and create content full time.

By some estimates, there are over 60 million active creators on YouTube. Collectively they received $16 billion of revenue from YouTube last year. This opens up a huge market for tools that can help creators publish more and better content.

While many creator-focused startups are struggling, this seems to be due to over-investment in the space and a losing bet on the current opportunities for VC-scale businesses in the creator economy. Still, there are plenty of revenue-generating opportunities for the taking—especially for bootstrapped businesses that don’t need to scale rapidly to 9 figure revenues in order to be successful.

And that’s why I’m betting big on YouTube for my next business venture.

What about AI?

If you’re building a tech startup today, it’s basically impossible not to incorporate AI in some way. It’s both exciting and necessary to stay competitive. Now, there is rampant speculation that we are currently in a VC-driven AI startup bubble. But just like with the creator economy bubble, there are still plenty of opportunities for bootstrapped companies with a laser-focus on solving a niche use case.

That last part—solving a niche use case—is critical. In many of the speculative markets in emerging technology, it’s often the infrastructure providers that benefit the most. I’ve certainly observed this while working in the crypto industry—where crypto exchanges like Coinbase and dev tooling providers like Alchemy grew to billion dollar valuations while many startups floundered.

Infrastructure vs Application Companies

Infrastructure companies are often the best bets in emerging tech because they act as an index fund on the market as a whole. Application layer companies take big risks in exploring how the new technology can be applied, while the infrastructure companies profit regardless of which applications take off.

And then comes this week’s OpenAI DevDay Keynote, which felt reminiscent of Steve Jobs announcing the iPhone, and was described by many as an extinction event for AI startups. Like Apple, it appears likely that OpenAI will absolutely dominate the AI infrastructure space for years to come—making a bet on other AI infrastructure startups a risky proposition.

Also like Apple, OpenAI will create a thriving ecosystem of businesses building on top of its infrastructure. Many are calling OpenAI’s new GPT product the next major App Store. If that is true, the door is literally wide open to apply AI productivity to every niche and workflow.

YouTube + AI

The single most important thing that makes YouTube successful is authenticity. Sure, you can find plenty of scripted, mass-market, commercial content on YouTube, but it’s the authentic stories of individuals that have been the impetus of YouTube’s massive growth.

Once you’ve spent a few hours with ChatGPT, you can easily spot text written by it. The copy lacks depth. It’s like a person with a really big smile that still looks dead behind the eyes.

So there is great opportunity in helping YouTubers create more and better content for the platform. But is bringing AI to YouTube really just diluting what makes it special? The core thesis of my venture into YouTube + AI is that solving this problem will be really hard, but that’s exactly what makes it worth doing.

Here’s What I’m Doing Next

Now that I’ve identified a niche for my next business, it’s time to get building.

But before I can do that, I must first ask questions to make sure I build the right thing. That’s why I’ve spent the past couple weeks poring over market research to make sure I have a good handle on the market, its major players, and potential gaps I can fill.

The next stage is initiating conversations with as many YouTubers as I can—to validate my assumptions and make sure I’m on the right track.

I’m also beginning to experiment with simple prototype apps designed to test potential solutions to the market gaps I’ve identified.

All of this—plus a recent camping accident that left an unsightly gash on my formerly beautiful face—has prevented me from publishing any new content to my YouTube channel. I’d like to continue building my audience there, so it’s time to get back to it.

Move Fast and Break Things

Right now, speed feels more important to me than perfection. I’m doing my best to stay focused, but also carefully analyzing every step and pivoting often to avoid wasting time in any rabbit holes. Strong opinions, weakly held.

There is one way you can help. If you know any full time YouTube creators, I’d love to interview them and share what I’m working on. Please feel free to share this post.

With mad respect, thank you for joining me on this journey.

What should I do next?

This is sort of like a choose your own adventure. Help me figure out what I should do next.

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