Jason Y. Lee, Jubilee Media Founder, Got Billions of Views

Photo via Jason Y Lee | Remix by Cole Mitchell

We’re sitting down with leaders on the business side of the creator economy to get their advice for creators looking to develop their careers.

This week, the Daily Dot spoke with Jason Y. Lee, the Founder and CEO of Jubilee Media. You might recognize Jubilee for their controversial video titles like, “Flat Earthers vs Scientists”, “6 Non-Virgins vs 1 Secret Virgin”, or “Do All Teen Moms Think the Same?”

In an exclusive interview, Lee shared with the Daily Dot his story of building a media company over the past decade from the ground up, why he quit his finance career to create content, what challenges he’s faced along the way, and his insights for aspiring creative entrepreneurs.

Jason Y. Lee never saw himself becoming a content creator.

Growing up, his parents—who are both Korean immigrants and professors—fostered an environment where education was very important. Lee said that because of his upbringing, he used to view his career path as very traditional: Go to a good college, get a good job, get married, retire. 

After finishing up college at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Lee followed the traditional formula he set out for himself and went to work at a management consulting firm in New York City. There, he said that his life turned upside down. 

Only two days into his new job, Lee decided on a whim to make a video singing at a subway stop to raise money for the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Despite being a “terrible singer,” Lee said his video blew up, getting tens of thousands of views and raising thousands of dollars in under a week.

“It certainly was not quality that made it successful. It was the first video I shot, I made it in iMovie,” Lee said, “But I think I tapped into two things. One being current events. People really wanted to help Haiti. And second, I think I really leaned into my community.” 

Inspired by the impact his content made, Lee decided to create a nonprofit called the Jubilee Project, dedicated to raising money and awareness for various causes through content creation. 

Initially, it was just Lee, his brother, and his best friend making Jubilee Project videos on nights and weekends. In 2012, after the Jubilee Project built an audience of over a hundred thousand subscribers, Lee and his team quit their jobs to pursue the non-profit full-time. 

In 2016, on the heels of the divisive election of Donald Trump and spurred by the departure of his brother and best friend from the nonprofit, Lee re-evaluated his project. 

Lee decided he wanted to move away from a nonprofit fundraising mission. Instead, he wanted to build a media company with a mission of “affecting culture and creating a movement for empathy.” Thereafter, Jubilee Media was born.

“I think a huge challenge at the beginning that was really good in the long run was nailing down the why. Why are we doing this?” Lee continued. “Over time we learned that we’re here to promote understanding and create human connection. And if we’re doing something that’s not aligned with that, we have to cut that out.” 

The “why” factor proved to be important as Jubilee competed with other media companies: “When we first started Jubilee, BuzzFeed was making 65 videos a week. I knew that we didn’t have the money or resources to do that. We couldn’t win on quantity, but we could win on quality.” 

Today, Jubilee certainly has quantity covered—it currently has over 8 million subscribers and its content has generated 2 billion views. 

“There is a huge hunger to watch this kind of content. Content that reminds us that we’re not as different as we might think,” Lee said. “Not in a didactic or corny way, but in a way that’s authentic.” 

Building human connection is easier said than done on the internet: “The huge advantage of social media is that something can go viral or be a megaphone. But one of the difficult things about social media is certainly there can be trolls, haters, or folks who aren’t being super positive.”

Jubilee covers many sensitive topics—including sex work, abortion, religion, and politics—and often encourages video participants to share their perspectives on controversial issues. 

“At the end of the day, we’re trying to create content that reminds us of our own humanity. It’s really tough when someone vulnerably shares their identity on our platform and receives hate,” Jason continued, “Something we really share with our cast members, and even our team, is that we’ve got to create mental health and prepare people for whatever might come.”

Jason said that loyal fans, some who have been following the organization all the way back to its Jubilee Project days, have cultivated supportive environments: “That’s something we don’t take lightly. I think it’s really difficult to build the loyalty of a fan, and even more difficult to build a community around fanship.”  

As a part of LinkedIn’s Creator Accelerator Program, Lee is now making an effort to share his journey as a founder. 

“One thing that you struggle with early on as a creator is that it feels like an impossible task. No one is necessarily giving you a blueprint on how to do it… One of the most helpful things is talking to other individuals who are smart, but not like geniuses,” Lee continued, “I’m hoping to now pull back the curtain for other creators.” 

“When you’re trying to climb Mount Everest, it can be really scary,” Lee said, “But really, climbing Everest requires one step at a time. Break down a colossal challenge into bite-sized, tangible steps.” 

Lee continued, “When I was looking up, I was paralyzed, but when I was looking right in front of me it was like, ‘I think I can do these 10 steps.’ You find that the more that you step, the better you get at stepping.” 

“There is no better time than now. It can be such a daunting thing. But one of the true signs of an entrepreneur is someone who is just trying. It doesn’t mean succeeding, it means just trying.” 

Are you a business leader working in the creator economy? Shoot a message to grace.stanley@clarion1822.com for a chance to get featured in an upcoming newsletter. 

Content for Creators.

News, tips, and tricks delivered to your inbox twice a week.

Newsletter Signup

Top Stories