What Defines Hulu

The Original Version

Elisa Schreiber
Jan 24, 2015 · 5 min read

[Note: This is the original version of “What Defines Hulu”, written by the founding team. I did not write this document, I am republishing it with permission. This version existed as the company values document from 2007–2014.]

These are the things that define Hulu.

We are passionate in our opinion that the world has long since exceeded its quota in the mediocrity department.

We believe our professional calling is to deliver quality. And not simply run-of-the-mill, five-star quality. For Hulu, nothing less than brain-spray awesome quality* will do, down to the finest detail. This atypically high quality bar leads us to sweat every pixel, every second of transcode, every customer. We have email conversations at 1:12 a.m. regarding how quickly we can make all of the Mary Tyler Moore Show embed screenshots 16:9 as opposed to 4:3 pillar-boxed. Mediocre companies sleep soundly with vertical black bars present. We are insomniacs in the presence of those waywardly rendered images.

We believe customers will respond to this neurotic focus on quality. We are comfortable knowing that many reasonable people will consider our standards to be too high.

We obsess over our customers. And we have several types of customers. Users. Advertisers. Content partners. Distributors. Each other. Delighting each of these customers is vital to our future.

We believe that everyone on the team deserves to financially participate in the upside of Hulu (if we’re fortunate to create upside as a team).

We go after world-class talent … around the world, in fact. We have attracted some of the best and brightest to our offices in Los Angeles, Beijing, NYC, and Chicago. Our expectations are extremely high and we hold ourselves accountable. We all do the dirty work. No one in the company sees themselves above any task. We’ve all QA’d countless video thumbnails, including the regrettable 1992 season of Tequila & Bonetti.

We believe that Hulu’s trajectory will be a function of the strength of our ideas and the quality of our execution. We believe that neither groundbreaking ideas nor great execution are found exclusively at higher levels of an organization, particularly ours. Most times, it is just the opposite. Out of necessity as much as philosophical preference, Hulu prides itself on being a meritocracy. We bet on talent, tenacity, and quality bars … not previous titles.

We are defined by our consistent bets on talent and potential. Our content acquisition team is run by a business leader from a CRM company, not a media industry veteran. Our PR is orchestrated by a former software product manager, not an agency heavyweight. Our ad platform is being built by a developer who spent the vast majority of his career creating databases, far removed from the world of online ads. And our video players — so key to the Hulu user experience — are written by two fresh graduates in China working at their first jobs out of school.

We are in the business of building and innovating, so our internal focus is to deliver an environment that ideally serves this business of building and innovating. We invest in an open, casual, interactive work environment. We invest in whiteboard wallpaper. We invest in flat, highly talented teams. We invest in Costco snack runs, particularly the M&M trail mix. We see it as all of our jobs to make it as easy as possible for builders to build and for innovators to innovate. In this, we serve each other.

Hulu is defined by its sense of urgency. We believe that the mission we’ve chosen will be achieved some day. However, it is absolutely uncertain whether Hulu will be the one to achieve it. Speed and strength of execution are vital. Our sense of urgency is simply a reflection of our understanding that the area in which we operate is a closing window of opportunity.

We are frugal, and proudly so. We don’t have fancy offices or fancy furniture. Things like Fruity Snacks boxes hold up our monitors; turns out they do as capable a job as more expensive monitor stands. We pride ourselves on the relatively small teams that together form Hulu. We believe that the money we conserve through our frugality allows us to invest in our customers in ways others cannot.

There are a number of things that don’t matter to Hulu. Some of these things include: impressive titles, swanky office furniture, hierarchy, and nice lunches (Quizno’s and the local taco truck are our staples). Though most people profess not to care about these things, we’ve found that many people actually do care about these things. That is fine, but it also means that Hulu would be a very bad match for those same people.

While we take our mission extremely seriously, we don’t take ourselves seriously and, in fact, embrace fun as often as we can find it. Our Ping-Pong table is important to us, as are the new-hire nicknames, taco-eating contests, and Airzookas. Those looking for gravitas — which defines some of the best companies on the planet — will absolutely not find it at Hulu.

We are defined by our humility. We are the same company that at one point was publicly christened by others as Clown Co.

We are abnormally passionate about the subject space in which Hulu operates. To us, the intersection of technology and great content like Family Guy, Arrested Development, and 30 Rock is inherently fun. This is a fortuitous thing, given that we think it would be a shame not to enjoy the adventure immensely. If you’d see this as all just software code to you, then there are a lot of places that you should be other than Hulu.

We realize that our undertaking is both bold and incredibly ambitious. We are aiming to dramatically improve and change the way that media is distributed, discovered, and consumed. This adventure is not for the faint of heart. Achieving our mission will require highly unusual levels of tenacity, along with plenty of good timing and good fortune. The kind of tenacity that enabled two highly talented software developers to write the entire front end of the Hulu beta in less than 85 days.

We are defined by the judgment that Hulu team members possess. In a list of 100 things that Hulu could do, we pride ourselves on having the judgment and courage to say no to 97 and yes to a carefully considered three. And those three things are not typically obvious to many outside the company. One of our first features? To send our users to other sites that many view as competitors. We saw it as a great chance to help users.

These are the things that define Hulu.


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    Elisa Schreiber

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    Partner @GreylockVC. Community lead @AllRaise. Former @Hulu. Organized first @TEDx. This is what a feminist looks like. Views my own.