Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, thinks of himself as the world’s biggest unknown celebrity.
PewDiePie is a Swedish Youtube creator who specializes in Let’s Play videos, wherein viewers are taken through a playthrough, usually with commentary, of a video game. As of this writing, Kjellberg’s channel is the most-viewed Youtube channel of all time with over 9.3 billion views and is also the most-subscribed channel on YouTube with over 37.7 million fans.
Given his massive fan base, Kjellberg rakes in an astonishing amount of ad revenue — four years after its 2010 inception, his Pewdiepie channel is estimated to have raked in a total of over $16.5 million (before YouTube’s 45% cut) total. Kjellberg made a solid $4 million for himself in 2013 and even more in 2014 with $7 million. These are impressive achievements, but things weren’t always so golden for the millionaire Youtuber. Even today he must defend himself for the millions of dollars he’s earned.
Kjellberg started out as your basic obsessed gamer. “I played so much that every waking thought was dedicated to the game and where I was in it. We thought [gaming friends] we hung out when we were playing online together, but it could not replace reality,” he explained on a recent episode of Swedish podcast “Sommar & Vinter i.”
From his passion sprouted the idea to merge gaming with the world of YouTube, resulting in the creation of the PewDiePie channel in 2010. Positive feedback on his first videos both fueled his desire to keep producing and increased his doubt of his college career.
Kjellberg details in his most recent video (above) the struggle of starting out that he faced then:
“When I started doing Youtube I was in college. I was on a student loan, I couldn’t even afford a proper computer I could record gameplay on, so I was lucky I managed to sell some artwork I made online and that’s how I was able to get started.”
Kjellberg was a student at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, but he felt like he didn’t fit in, he explained in the podcast. He studied industrial economics and technology management, but he knew a career in a corporate business was not the right path for him.
So Kjellberg eventually decided to quit college — after devastating his parents with the news, they forced him to find a job. “I had to get a job, so I took whatever job I could get, which was to work in a hot dog stand,” he explains in his Youtube video.
In the podcast, Kjellberg explained that it was difficult because sometimes his old classmates would stop by and question him, asking, “So … you dropped out of school to sell hotdogs?”
Kjellberg said that it was awkward having to face the pressure of his peers, but he was still able to rationalize his decision to drop out:
“As long as I didn’t have to strive for a future that I didn’t want, well, that was enough for me.”
All the while, Kjellberg continued to create YouTube videos. He explained in his video:
“I was the happiest I was at the time because I was finally, for the first time in many many years, doing what I wanted to do. And the fact that I could make videos was so much more important to me [than having] to spend a few hours a day doing a job that wasn’t that prestigious.”
It wasn’t until his Youtube channel began to pick up traction when he realized that he had truly made the right decision. The moment he got his first Youtube check in the mail was the moment he finally knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
PewDiePie’s channel gained steam rather quickly. By July of 2012, he reached his first million subscribers — by September of the same year, he hit 2 million. In December of 2012, he signed on with production company Maker Studios, eventually becoming their most successful creator. By the next year, PewDie Pie would become Youtube’s most-subscribed channel of all time, and in 2014, the channel became the most-viewed of all time.
From his incredible success came a lot of support as well as backlash for the millions he earned, despite leading charity campaigns over the years for World Wildlife Fund, St. Jude’s Hospital, Charity: Water and Save the Children, raising a total of over $1 million.
The hate messages he’s received resulted in his candid video about money, where he explains:
“Money is the topic I purposely tried to avoid for the five years I’ve been making videos, because I just feel like it’s not important to anyone. I just want to make entertaining videos. Don’t get me wrong, though, I don’t hate money. I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t matter to me, because it matters to everyone.”
But above all the success and money, Kjellberg genuinely seems to believe in the passion of making cool videos which, he mentions, anyone can do.
“I think that’s what cool about YouTube. Anyone can do this. I do work a tremendous amount of work. Ask my girlfriend. And if you worked this hard, you could do it too.”
PewDiePie’s recipe for success: passion, hard-work, determination, and never let haters bring you down — the basic anthem for any and all struggling entrepreneurs.