Is this adorable kitty worth millions?
Ben Huh has mastered the art of the Internet meme. The former journalist and founder of The Cheezburger Network knows what his audience wants -- online fluff that brings a smile to people's faces, even if for just a few minutes a day. Nothing wrong with that. Now Huh and his growing empire can serve up double portions of LOLcats, cute puppy pictures and other Internet brain candy. The Cheezburger Network has scored $30 million in venture funding, the first institutional round procured by the three-year-old start-up. The investment was spearheaded by Foundry Group. Also participating were SoftBank Capital, Madrona Venture Group and Avalon Ventures. Up until now TCN has gotten by on $2 million in angel funding and its ability to generate revenue through advertising and merchandising. The Cheezburger Network, which, in addition to LOLcats, features sites such as I Has a Hotdog, So Much Pun, Tots and Giggles and Must Have Cute, relies on content -- pictures, videos, clever captions, etc. -- uploaded by its 16.5 million fans. (Who knew there were that many crazy cat ladies in the world?) TCN generates a whopping 375 million page views a month. And, if you ask me, far too much adult baby talk. On a picture of a kitten accompanying the blog post announcing the funding, the caption says, "I has a money. What I do wif it?" How about buying me some anti-gagging medication? In a widdle pwess release, TCN said it "will use the additional capital to hire more employees and fund other marketing and growth initiatives." Great. Now they got me doing it. Where's my $30 million?
Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.