Mark Rober is a YouTube star, but you wouldn’t know it talking to him. Despite having more than 10 million followers on YouTube, the Sunnyvale resident only recently quit his job in the Special Projects Group with Apple to commit himself full-time to his YouTube channel and a future Discovery Channel show.
“Most people quit their day jobs when they hit 250,000 subscribers. I’m an anomaly in that sense, that I really liked my job. I hung on to it as long as I possibly could,” said Rober. “I was really trying to keep the YouTube thing just as a fun, creative outlet, but last June I realized it’s too much for me to try and do both things so now I just do the YouTube thing full-time.”
Rober is a mechanical engineer who once worked at NASA on projects like the Mars Rover. He moved to Sunnyvale in 2015 to start working on Product Design in Apple’s Special Projects Group. He started his YouTube channel almost a decade ago just for kicks.
“I did a video of my Halloween costume that was an iPad in the front and an iPad in the back. You do a Facetime video chat; you look like you have a hole in your body,” said Rober. “That video went pretty viral; front page of CNN. I was like, this is a cool feeling…I have other ideas; I should try putting them on YouTube. From that time to now, I’ve done one video a month.”
Rober built a following on YouTube and was doing pretty well until a few years ago when someone stole a package from his porch.
“To get revenge I made a [package] that had four phones and tracked it. It opened and it recorded them; sprayed glitter and fart spray,” said Rober.
His channel’s popularity exploded, going from three million followers to more than 10 million. It also caught the attention of late-night television host Jimmy Kimmel.
“It’s cool. I’ve been on Jimmy Kimmel’s show five or six times,” said Rober. “I said, ‘Let me make you a funny thing and we’ll prank one of your friends and we’ll put it on your show.’ He said, ‘Man, my lawyers here suck, but I think you and I should make a TV show together.’…If Jimmy Kimmel asks you to make a TV show with him then you don’t exactly say no.”
Rober and Kimmel have collaborated and the show was recently picked up by the Discovery Channel. Rober says, don’t be surprised if you see him filming somewhere in the Bay Area.
“We’re pranking people who violate social norms,” said Rober. “We’re going to film it at an undisclosed location in Sunnyvale or Cupertino, somewhere around here.”
Rober gives a lot of credit to his wife and his mother. He says his wife keeps him grounded in a good way, while his mother encouraged him from the very beginning.
“I grew up in a home where it was very much nurtured and encouraged to not only do engineering stuff but creative ideas,” said Rober. “It was always a place where something like that could flourish.”
His mother passed away from ALS less than a year before he posted his first YouTube video, but he thinks she would have been proud.
“Regardless of what your beliefs might be about what happens when you die, everyone can agree in situations like this the ripples of her influence will be held for generations because I’m inspiring other people to do cool stuff and maybe someone I inspire will go on to do amazing stuff. That’s kind of cool that her fingerprint is all over what I do,” said Rober.
And with his success, he tries to do good as well. At the end of 2019, Rober worked with fellow influencer MrBeast to raise $21.5 million for the Arbor Day Foundation. Each dollar represents a new tree that will be planted.
“You hear a lot of the negativity that comes with social media and the internet, but it’s cool to be able to flex the muscles in the other way as well and show it can be just as positive,” said Rober.