A recent article in The New York Times highlights an entrepreneur’s success starting businesses online. The article profiles Ben Huh, an entrepreneur who took a risk in buying a website filled with funny-captioned goofy cat pictures and managed to turn the purchase into a wildly successful business. In the beginning, the start-up consisted of Huh and his wife, and he purchased the I Can Has Cheezburger website with $10,000 of his own savings and financing he solicited from investors. He has now expanded his “Cheezburger Network” to 53 sites, which attracted a record 16 million unique visitors in May. The company has 40 employees and has not needed additional investment funds.
Huh’s empire began when he saw potential in the “Lolcats” site and took the risk in buying it from two Hawaiian bloggers who started it. He convinced angel investors to back his plan with his savvy business approach. His business thrives on constant evolution and change in order to keep up with the speed of people’s changing tastes for humor online. He and his employees are constantly looking for the latest viral online humor phenomenon, or “memes,” and quickly tailoring a blog to use that humor. If a website doesn’t catch on, they drop it. Huh says they drop at least 20 percent of the blogs they start.
In addition to a blog featuring silly cat pictures, there are blogs dedicated to stupidity (Fail blog) and one with pictures of cute animals (Daily Squee). The sites are created from submissions from the public. Huh says one percent of what’s submitted goes on websites and the rest they make into T-shirts, books, and other merchandise. From sales of merchandise, licensing fees, and advertising, the company will generate a seven-figure sum this year.
Once Just a Site With Funny Cat Pictures, and Now a Web Empire (The New York Times)