Y Combinator on Smash Notes

#118 - Marques Brownlee

Y Combinator

Marques Brownlee is a YouTuber. He has over 8 million subscribers to his channel MKBHD where he reviews electronics, drives electric vehicles, and interviews people such as Kobe Bryant and Bill Gates.You can find Marques on YouTube and on Twitter at @MKBHD.The YC Podcast is hosted by Craig Cannon.***Topics00:00 - Intro00:26 - What does Marques attribute his channel's success to?2:41 - The early days5:11 - How does he go about evaluating a product?7:31 - Features that Marques thought were great that didn't catch on8:41 - Peak smartphone?10:31 - Folding phones and new trends11:26 - Tesla and the EV market15:46 - Getting older and staying relevant17:06 - New kinds of videos and podcasting22:26 - Does Marques feel limited by gear?26:11 - Storytelling techniques28:16 - Tech vs Marques as the star of the show29:56 - Marco Castro asks - What advice do you have for new creators on YouTube?30:56 - When did Marques find his voice as a creator?33:56 - Overcoming perfectionism 34:56 - Gut instinct vs data37:26 - YouTube comments39:31 - Austin Ryder asks - In the early years of his channel, Marques took a several month hiatus from YouTube, but then came back with a new video format and seemingly renewed drive. What happened during those months off that led to the channel becoming what it is today?40:41 - Winston asks - What’s your daily schedule?43:06 - Ultimate frisbee injuries43:26 - Amad Khan asks - Are there any problems that you see or face that you really wish engineers/developers would solve?44:51 - Christian Giordano asks - Any tips on how to engage/work with influencers when you are a very early stage startup with little or no money?46:41 - The future of creators supporting themselves financially49:31 - His biggest challenge as a creator50:31 - Long-term goals

Episode notes last updated on August 14, 2019 17:16

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Smash Notes summary for this episode

What makes Marques Brownlee so successful?

Tech has been interesting and important to people so doing videos in tech naturally attacks visitors. Meanwhile, Marques has been doing his YouTube channel for over ten years now, and while there are many other channels, this consistency over a long time is what brings his subscribers back.

Check out Marques Brownlee on YouTube.

What drives new subscribers to a YouTube channel?

Reputability [one could also call it herd mentality]. You are more likely to subscribe to a channel that already has millions of subscribers than the one with nobody listening to it.

What are some things that companies would send to a YouTuber to review?

In the early days, companies would send Marques Brownlee computer accessories such as a mouse, keyboard, and even paid software to access and review. Phone items weren’t sent to him until later in his career.

How do you differentiate between a gimmick vs. something used daily?

Brownlee tries to evaluate a feature by thinking whether or not he would incorporate it into his daily life. He states that other details to consider is how much storage does it take up, how much RAM is used, and how fast is it— which these all factor into the demanding needs of someone's phone use.

What is an example of something that was great but didn’t catch on in society?

Brownlee values high resolution and really nice screens. The average person would not recognize the differences between various resolutions. People may discount this point if they are not looking for the quality of a screen in Brownlee's product review videos.

Will we ever reach a peak smartphone?

Brownlee doesn’t believe we ever will because he has heard this question for the past five years. He thinks it’s due to the constant change of trends in society.

Where do car features seem to fit in today’s society?

Brownlee thinks that tech features in a car seem to be ahead. when thinking of Tesla, their car features include having smartphone controlled apps that bring the car to you and having the remote stop/start button. All these tech features make Tesla basically like a tech company, also creating a natural segue into the car world.

Can age affect a YouTuber’s grasp on the latest trends?

Yes, it can. Brownlee is currently 25. One fear for when he’s older is that he will not be able to grasp the latest trends in society. He thinks that the process will be slower for him because he’s so immersed in tech currently. If you stay in that world, you’ll continue it.

When Marques Brownlee creates a podcast, what’s one thing he hopes that he can use it for?

His main goal will be to talk to other creators to get their insight and help. He states that there will not be an article with information of, say, starting a new series for his YouTube channel compared to talking with a YouTuber content creator.

Can a camera limit a YouTuber’s content?

According to Brownlee, it only slightly limits his content, mainly meaning the cameras he uses. He wishes his camera had other minor features, but it does not affect his ability to capture his content.

How is storytelling different from a review for a YouTube?

Brownlee states that context and momentum compared to the products that came before and after it differentiate a story and a review. Also, it depends on the person and their personality incorporated in the content.

What advice does Brownlee have for new YouTube creators?

He says to take your inspiration from other places, but you have to always come back to your own voice and perspective. You shouldn’t try to be something that already exists. Find your own new angle, voice, and way of talking about something.

When it comes to making videos, how does a YouTube create their content?

Brownlee states that his content does not come from the data or the people that comment on his videos. For him, information density is his writing challenge.

Which hour of YouTube comments contain the most useful feedback?

Brownlee states that the first hour of YouTube comments are useless. Between 2-24 hours after the video has been uploaded contains the useful contents. Hours even later are the ones who find it in their search are his most useful comments since these are usually not from his subscribers.

How do you engage with influencers while being a beginning startup company with little or no money?

Even if you don’t have financial means, you can always offer something to make a video better. It has to be a win-win for everyone involved: the audience, creator, and the company.

What is Marques Brownlee’s long-term goal?

When considering 10 years, he envisions a media company containing a YouTube channel or two, a podcast, and a production aspect of assisting other channels. He is nowhere near that yet to step foot into these other categories.