How one man's online pet project netted him a $30m fortune
Wednesday 19 January 2011
It is one of the internet's most surreal success stories: a collection of funny pictures of cats embellished with misspelled slogans, aggregated on a blog called
icanhascheezburger.com. But now it will taken slightly more seriously; its owner has received some $30m in venture capital funding. It is a large sum, but considerably less than the amount the phenomenon – known as "lolcats" – has probably cost businesses across the world in wasted time.
The blog, which takes its bizarre name from a caption attached to a very early "lolcat" starring an obese, short-haired Persian blue, encourages users to upload pictures of cats in compromising situations with accompanying, deliberately misspelt, text. It is the star of a series of around 50 blogs published by Cheezburger, an internet company founded in 2007 by former journalist Ben Huh.
Others include the popular Failblog, an archive of mainly amateur photos and videos in which the subject meets an unfortunate and usually slapstick end. It may sound like nonsense – but as more and more of the workers of the world become chained to desks and computers, time wasting, as Mr Huh knows, is big business, and he takes it seriously.
"I want Cheezburger to be the ultimate leader and influence in internet culture," he said on receiving the investment. The 33-year-old entrepreneur did not start the lolcats phenomenon. Its name is a compound of LOL, the popular online acronym meaning "laugh out loud", and cats. He first became aware of it in 2007 when the blog linked to his own site, a blog on pets, and the directed traffic caused it to crash.
He promptly quit his job, secured financing and cobbled together $10,000 to buy the site from the two Hawaiian bloggers who had set it up.
Now it, and Cheezburger's 50 other blogs, receive around 18,000 humorous submissions a day. But what will Mr Hu do with $30m?
"Hire, hire, hire," he said.
So if you want to get paid for wasting time on the internet all day, you know who to call.
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