Cheezburger — the blog network that brought you I Can Has Cheezburger, the Fail blog, Engrish Funny and many other similar humor-oriented sites — today announced that it has closed a $30-million round of funding from a group of venture capital firms including Foundry Group and SoftBank Capital. The company said it plans to use the funds to build up its staff and grow the network in new directions. Brad Feld of Foundry Group will also be joining the Cheezburger board of directors.
The financing is a hefty validation for the company, which CEO Ben Huh has built into a major media entity after acquiring the original I Can Has Cheezburger website three years ago from the two bloggers who started it. (The site has even branched out into video.) The company, which has grown to more than 40 employees, has not taken any outside investment since that initial round of angel financing. In addition to Foundry Group and Japan’s SoftBank, the latest funding round includes Madrona Venture Group and Avalon Ventures, and representatives from both companies will also be joining the board.
Cheezburger said it currently has 16.5 million unique visitors per month and over 375 million pageviews, and that it plans to become “the largest humor network in the world.” Among the other companies chasing that niche is the Cracked.com network, which is owned by “content farm” Demand Media — a company that has filed to go public in an initial stock offering later this month that could value Demand at over $1.5 billion. In many ways, the Cheezburger network has taken the same “user-generated content” approach to humor that Demand has to other topics, since most of its content comes from others.
Cheezburger’s chief revenue officer talked to the New York Times (s nyt) last year about what has made the network so successful (it has been profitable since the beginning), and he noted that only about one percent of the content that comes into the various hubs the company operates — there are more than 50 of them in all — gets used on the websites. The rest winds up being used for merchandise related to the sites, such as T-shirts, laptop stickers and so on. The company also publishes books and wall calendars that aggregate the LOLcats and other images that appear on its sites.
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