LOLcats creator Cheezburger rakes in $30M

Faith Merino · January 18, 2011 · Short URL:

The misspelled company gets backing from Foundry Group and others

It’s really, really hard to write about Cheezburger because it’s so easy to get sucked into the memes and lose track of time.  The publisher of LOLcats, FAIL blog, and other memes announced Tuesday morning that it has raised $30 million from Foundry Group, Madrona Venture Group, Avalon Ventures, and SoftBank Capital.

Founded in 2007 by reporter turned Web entrepreneur Ben Huh after he purchased LOLcats from two entrepreneurs in Hawaii, Cheezburger has become what many consider to be the locus of Web culture and humor.  With a following of 16.5 million Web users, the memes see more than 500,000 picture and video uploads each month, as well as 375 million page views and 110 million video views each month among the network’s 50 sites.

Interesting factoid that you probably didn’t know about Ben Huh: He’s allergic to cats.

The company has seen some pretty rapid growth, nearly doubling the number of sites in its network from 26 in 2009 to 50 in 2010.  The network, which Huh says was profitable in its first quarter, acquired The Daily What in early 2010, and by June the site had grown 300%.

But the network’s rapid growth has come at a cost: “We’ve grown so large so quickly that people don’t know everything about all of our sites, and we want to make sure that it’s easy to find new content,” said Huh in a recent interview with Xconomy.  “We struggle with discovery, which is that there’s all this great content, but you might not know how to get there. You might not know which site you want to try out. So I think we might actually go through a phase of consolidating into clusters—like these sites make sense together, these sites make sense together. We’ll do that while we continue to experiment with new sites and content.”

The sites haven’t eluded investors.

"I have been a rabid fan of Ben and the Cheezburger team for years. It's incredible what they've built with a small, dedicated team," said Greg Gottesman, managing director of Madrona Venture Group, in a prepared statement. "As an investor, this one is as fun as it gets. We're working with a great team, helping them grow an already massive audience, and testing new and exciting ways to monetize the funniest collection of sites on the Internet."

Cheezburger plans to use the funds to hire more staff and finance its growth and expansion as it continues to acquire more sites.

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