Adventures in content and commerce: what we’ve learned building and what’s next

Lessons from Unboxed

In a tradition as old as Silicon Valley itself (the HBO show that is) of entrepreneurs reflecting on their startup and blogging about their learnings, here are some insights that we wanted to share from our time building Unboxed.

  • There are more than 3 million total unboxing videos on YouTube, that generate more than 10 billion monthly views.
  • Half of the top 12 most popular YouTube video categories are product related, including the top 2 (Product Reviews and How-tos).
  • 60% of unboxing viewers say unboxing videos impact their purchasing decisions.
  • The top YouTube earner in 2018 was a 7 year old unboxer (Ryan ToysReview) who made $22 million.

[1] Unboxing creators are not yet fully valued.

When a video content creator first starts out, they earn money from whatever default monetization option their chosen video platform offers. For YouTube creators, that’s collecting advertising revenue through the YouTube Partner Program. As they develop a larger audience, creators start signing direct sponsorship deals, which are typically brands paying a creator directly to mention a specific product in their videos. Over time, the sponsorship deals usually end up being more lucrative than the default monetization and often account for the majority of a creator’s earnings. But it’s this one-two punch of default monetization plus sponsorships that sustain video creators.

YouTube video from top tech unboxer Austin Evans

[2] The great unbundling of YouTube hasn’t happened yet.

Nearly a decade ago, VC Andrew Parker published a famous blog post describing the unbundling of Craigslist, whereby startups were carving out specific sections of Craigslist into standalone companies. HomeAway taking on the Craiglists vacation rentals section, Etsy taking on arts and crafts, Indeed taking on the jobs, etc. Whereas Craiglists provided tremendous customer value by aggregating different services, these new startups were providing even greater customer value by specializing their features to create the best user experience for a single service.

[3] While YouTube isn’t yet being unbundled, the media industry is.

One of my favorite YouTube creators is Jake Roper, who is one of the creative minds behind Vsauce. Think of Vsauce as producing new takes on classic Discovery Channel shows like MythBusters, that are filled with science, curiosity, and humor. And the comparisons with the Discovery Channel go beyond just the type of content — like the Discovery Channel, Vsauce is creating a diversified media business. Jake and his Vsauce partners run 4 separate science oriented channels, which collectively have over 20 million subscribers who have viewed their videos more than 2 billion times. In addition to their media properties with its advertising and sponsorship revenue, they also run an ecommerce business called The Curiosity Box that sells educational puzzles, toys, and other merchandise. And here’s the most impressive part: the entire Vsauce team, from onscreen talent to production to distribution to monetization, is only 7 people.



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Eric Feng

Eric Feng


Current: Co-founder of @cymbalxyz, Co-founder of @GoldHouseCo Ventures. Past: @Meta (via Packagd), GP at @KleinerPerkins, and CTO of @Hulu and @Flipboard.