Innovation and Entrepreneurship

225 years of Tar Heels: Jason Kilar

With degrees from Carolina in journalism and business administration, Jason Kilar went on to become a visionary in digital media.

Jason Kilar speaks at commencement.
Jason Kilar gestures during his commencement address at the 2015 Spring Commencement at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

225 Years.Editor’s note: In honor of the University’s 225th anniversary, we will be sharing profiles throughout the academic year of some of the many Tar Heels who have left their heelprint on the campus, their communities, the state, the nation and the world.

If you’ve ever tuned into Hulu to catch up on your favorite television shows, you can thank 1993 Carolina alumnus Jason Kilar for making that possible. Kilar, who majored in journalism and business administration, served as the founding CEO of Hulu from 2007 to 2013.

From a young age, Kilar looked up to Walt Disney, admiring the way he used technology to tell stories. After college, Kilar landed his first job with The Walt Disney Company after he drew himself into a comic strip rather than send in a standard resume.

A few years later, Kilar went back to school, this time to Harvard where he received his MBA in 1997. He was recruited to work for Amazon, which at that time was a small, private company. His friends and family thought he was insane for taking a job there, but the decision paid off. Kilar stayed at Amazon for nine years and eventually reported directly to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

“I took a risk to do something that I passionately believed in, and am very glad I did,” Kilar told graduates at Carolina’s 2015 Spring Commencement, where he was the keynote speaker.

By 2007, Kilar was ready to start something new, and so he jumped into the development of an innovative service called Hulu. Before Hulu launched, the idea of an online video streaming service drew public criticism, but Hulu proved to be incredibly popular. Under Kilar’s leadership, Hulu grew to 700 team members and over $1 billion in revenue in six years. Today, Hulu has over 25 million paying subscribers to its service.

In 2013, Kilar co-founded Vessel, a next-generation online video service that has since been acquired by Verizon. Currently, Kilar serves on the boards of Habitat for Humanity International, Wealthfront and Univision. Kilar also serves on AT&T’s Technical Advisory Council. He also spends time investing in startups, embracing new ideas and taking chances on others the same way others took a chance on him.

During the 2015 Spring Commencement, Kilar left graduates with this advice: “Dream big. Take the risk. Fail. Pick yourself back up again. And always, always remember this: There is no adversity capable of stopping you once the choice to persevere is made.”