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Sites like I Can Has Cheezburger, Fail Blog, and The Daily What may seem frivolous (because, well, they are), but they’ve just attracted $30 million in venture funding for Cheezburger Network, the company that owns them.
Cheezburger’s flagship site was founded in 2007 as a place for users to post “LOLcats” — pictures of cats with funny text, like the image accompanying this post. Chief executive Ben Huh and his initial investors purchased the I Can Has Cheezburger site and founded the Cheezburger company in September of that year. The Seattle-based startup has been profitable since them, and it now attracts 16.5 million monthly visitors adding up to 375 million pageviews and 110 million video views.
Still, Huh said that without substantial funding, the company has had to think relatively small. The new money will allow Cheezburger to experiment and take more risks, he said. I asked if that means launching or buying more sites (after all, Huh offered to buy popular news aggregator Reddit last year) but he said he’s more interested in hiring engineers to improve the existing sites. For example, he said that it’s time to upgrade the LOLcat image building tool on I Can Has Cheezburger, because it hasn’t been improved in more than a year.
The funding was led by Foundry Group. Avalon Ventures, Madrona Venture Group, and SoftBank Capital also invested. $30 million seems like a lot of money for a blog network, but Huh said the investors aren’t pressuring him to hit a specific revenue target, rather they’re encouraging him to continue building the best company he can. Here’s how he explained his plan for building that company:
The first generation of the Web was about e-commerce and news, it was about information gathering. The second generation is more about expression, and it’s creation-driven. It was really the formation of Internet culture.
Now we see something bigger there that we want to be a part of. How do we get there? I don’t really have the answer. That’s why this money is important to us, to try to experiment, to try to understand the market.