Cheezburger CEO Ben Huh on Surrounding Himself with More Talent, and the Future of the Global Humor Blog Network
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were growing. And, you know, I think the fundamentals of companies are two things: people and money. So you have the most talented people who work well together, and then you have to have the financial foundation to ensure that you can do the things that you want to do. If those two things are in place, I think a company is actually on good solid footing. And with Pearl, she brought both. She can do the HR things because she’s worked with a lot of tech companies before, and she has a solid background in finance. Before we brought her on, I was doing the finance, and it wasn’t getting done in a way that it needed to be done—it wasn’t complying to accounting standards. We had a good sense of what we had, but not an exact sense of where we were. And when we brought her on, I think it was a great kind of sigh of relief for everyone in the company knowing that our financials would be looked at with an unbalanced eye, so we would always be flying clearly. And so that’s what we wanted in a CFO. And she brings in a lot of community contacts as well as a level of professionalism that I like.
X: Speaking of finance, how quickly did Cheezburger and its sites become profitable?
BH: They were actually profitable from the very first quarter. So when we started we were profitable, and that was kind of an interesting position because most startups lose money in order to gain growth, and for us, we had to sacrifice growth by making sure that we were profitable.
X: I know you guys took a hit when the economy crashed, but you came back strong shortly after. How are you doing now, a year later?
BH: We’re doing great. I think the company is on solid financial footing. We’re not turning in huge amounts of profit, but it’s something that makes us feel comfortable while sustaining this level of growth. And we’re reinvesting the vast majority of capital right back into the company.
X: You have over 50 sites already—any plans for more?
BH: We actually do have plans for more, but I think what we’re looking for is how do we increase the value per day? So I think part of the problem is 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. 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.
X: Who is going to head up this phase of consolidation?
BH: We’ll actually go through it as a company together. There’s a product manager whose job it is to work through the process of consolidation and things like that, but you know, the content and the community is too important to be left up to one department. We want to make sure this is a team effort by people in content, as well as business and technology.
X: You keep emphasizing importance of the team, and considering this all started with just you in the beginning and now the Cheezburger network is expanding at a rapid pace, will you be making any other big personnel moves in the near future?
BH: We’re actually currently in the process of recruiting an editorial director who is going to be the head of content.
X: Isn’t that Emily’s role?
BH: It’s actually my role right now. I’m actually the head of content. Emily manages most of our sites. Kristyn Pomranz, who is our managing editor, manages our other set. And then we have another editor whose job it is to launch new websites or rebrand existing … Next Page »