Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Cheezburger, the internet publisher responsible for LOLcats, FAIL Blog, and other memes, has raised a whopping $30 million in new funding led by the Foundry Group with Madrona Venture Group, Avalon Ventures, and SoftBank Capital participating in the round. Brad Feld of Foundry Group, Greg Gottesman of Madrona Venture Group, and Rich Levandov of Avalon Ventures will be joining Cheezburger’s board of directors. This latest investment brings the startup’s total funding to $32.5 million
Founded in 2007 by former journalist Ben Huh, Cheezburger has grown from a small site to a network of fifty sites that have brought internet memes and tech culture mainstream. Cheezburger’s network of sites has a total user base of 16.5 million people who upload more than 500,000 pictures and videos as well as view 375 million pages and 110 million videos each month.
Humor aside, Cheezburger success can be partly attributed to the fact that Huh is a savvy business man. Huh actually acquired I Can Has Cheezburger? and the FAIL Blog, and steadily built out its network. The company has been profitable since its inception with revenue from three sources—advertising, traditional media publishing including books, and merchandising.
And Huh, who famously offered to buy Reddit from Conde Nast last year, built this humor empire in only three years.
So what does Cheezburger plan to do with all that money? He tells is that the funding will be used to “hire, hire, hire,” hoping to expand the company’s existing staff of 50 employees. Another area Huh is eyeing is international expansion, which Japanese-based Softbank Capital was particularly interested in given its investment.
In terms of actual site expansion, Huh says that he has a hard time imagining that Cheezburger will have hundreds of site but he does think the network will probably expand within the year to just under one hundred sites. In the end, Huh explains, it’s not about the quantity of humor-based sites and memes but about providing a quality experience for visitors on a per site basis.
Of course, the funding will also be put towards infrastructure and technology to mitigate Cheezburger’s millions of users and visitors. Huh plans to launch official iPhone and Android apps, and will be rolling out an improved tools to caption photos.
When asked what his goals are for the future, Huh’s response was simple. “I want Cheezburger to be the ultimate leader and influencer in internet culture,” he explained. “We’ve only reached the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we can do.”