Media and entertainment innovator Jason Kilar will deliver the Commencement address at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill on May 10, 2015. Kilar, who graduated from Carolina in 1993, is the co-founder and CEO of Vessel, and was previously the founding CEO of Hulu.
“Carolina is honored to have Jason Kilar, a proud alumnus and highly successful entrepreneur, as our Commencement speaker,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “Jason’s innovations have had a significant impact on the way people experience media and entertainment, and his continued accomplishments are an inspiration to all at Carolina who strive to use their talents to do better and do more. Jason’s path is particularly relevant to this year’s graduates, whose generation is among the most entrepreneurial in history. We are fortunate to welcome such an accomplished individual as part of this important celebration.”
Kilar’s career started with an internship at The Walt Disney Company, which led to a job in the strategy and marketing groups of Disney Design and Development after college. After Disney, Kilar continued his education at Harvard Business School, where he received an MBA. In 1997, his final year at Harvard, he was recruited to join Amazon.com.
When he joined Amazon – starting the Monday after his last day of final exams – it was still a relatively small, private company. During his tenure, Kilar was instrumental in introducing a new way of business that focused on the user experience and helped Amazon transform from largely a book retailer to a virtual warehouse that allows consumers to purchase almost anything from seemingly any retailer. His accomplishments included running the company’s North America media products businesses, which included its books, music and video categories, and writing the original business plan for Amazon’s entry into the video business.
In 2007, Kilar signed on as the founding CEO of the groundbreaking online video service Hulu. Under Kilar’s leadership, Hulu quickly grew to become one of the world’s most popular destinations for streaming television and movies. Today, Hulu generates more than $1 billion in annual revenue, with 6 million paying subscribers and millions of visitors who stream its free content each month.
Kilar left Hulu in 2013. Last month, he unveiled his latest venture: Vessel, a next-generation mobile video service that, once again, has the potential to change the way consumers discover and consume video. Vessel will cater to the creators of short-form video by providing a place where their most passionate fans can go to watch their favorites first. In addition to his work with Vessel, Kilar serves on the board of directors at DreamWorks Animation.
“I am humbled by the invitation to speak at Carolina’s 2015 commencement, and honored to accept,” said Kilar. “There are few things in life that approach the beauty of a sunny Sunday in May in Chapel Hill. I look forward to returning this spring to the University that I love, to pause by the Old Well, and most importantly, to proudly celebrate the class of 2015 as they set off to change the world.”
Kilar earned bachelors of arts degrees in business administration and journalism and mass communication at Carolina in 1993 and received the UNC General Alumni Association Distinguished Young Alumni Award in 2010.
Folt chose Kilar in consultation with faculty and staff on the University’s Commencement Speaker Selection Committee. His selection is especially timely because many graduates are likely to have grown up using and benefiting from the technological innovations he has helped introduce. His visit also supports Carolina’s long-standing culture of innovation and entrepreneurship that encourages students and faculty to explore ideas and take risks.
Commencement will be held at 9 a.m. in Kenan Stadium. For more information, visit http://commencement.unc.edu.