In his role as the head of comedy at YouTube, Ben Relles BA1997 oversees development of new content from YouTube’s top comedy talent.
While he was still a UW senior, Relles started his first company, MarketVision, which focused on direct and online marketing. He ran it with two partners until 2002. “The support and advice of professors in the UW business school turned out to be extremely valuable in helping us incorporate and get our business off the ground,” he says.
In 2007, Relles, who is a 2013 Forward under 40 honoree, decided to embark on a second business venture. Following up on an idea he was passionate about, he invested his own money to start a company in a space he believed was about to explode — online video.
And explode it did. Known as Barely Political, Relles’s online network took off shortly after its debut of the now-famous political satire “I Got a Crush … on Obama” (popularly known as “Obama Girl”). Barely Political has been featured on CNN, NBC, ABC, and other cable news outlets, while the network’s videos have been viewed more than 2.5 billion times, making Barely Political one of YouTube’s most-watched channels.
Since joining the YouTube team in 2011, Relles has empowered a wide variety of film creators on a daily basis. In his previous position as YouTube’s head of programming strategy, he helped aspiring young creators discover ways to maximize their audiences.
Relles also makes it a priority to share his talents through charitable efforts. Using innovative ways of thinking strategically, he advises various nonprofits such as Donors Choose — an organization that provides materials to schools in need — about how to expand their online presence.
“Regardless of where my career takes me, I want to take the values of Madison and the UW along with me, and to hold integrity and compassion for others as my most important personal metrics,” he says.