New CFO Pearl Chan on What Drew Her to the Cheezburger Network and Why Humor is for Everyone
If you like to spend your spare time crawling the Internet for pictures of cute animals with silly captions or stories of others’ “fails” (i.e. moments of sheer misfortune caught on camera), odds are you’ve stumbled upon I Can Has Cheezburger. It’s grown into a network of 51 sites that have become the viral ‘it spot’ for online humor. The Seattle-based company has been growing fast—both in page views and employees—since it was founded just three years ago. I met up with Cheezburger CEO Ben Huh earlier this week to chat about the future of the online comedy network and all the new talent the company has been recruiting, including just-hired chief financial officer Pearl Chan.
Chan officially joined the team Wednesday after 18 months working as Cheezburger’s part-time CFO. She brings with her more than 20 years of experience with early stage Seattle tech startups, including Picnik, the hit photo editing service recently acquired by Google. I had the opportunity to chat with Chan on Tuesday about how being a part-time CFO helped her get the job, the company’s secret to monetization, what makes the Cheezburger community so darn special, and how the company is going about becoming “anyone and everyone’s humor network.” Here are some of the highlights from our conversation:
Xconomy: In my interview with Ben, he mentioned that you’ve been working with Cheezburger on a part-time basis for some time now. How did you first get involved with the company, and what was it about Cheezburger that made you want to come on board full-time?
Pearl Chan: The investors at Cheezburger-they are the who’s who as far as angel investors in Seattle…Cheezburger is funded by angel investors as opposed to a traditional venture capital firm. And there were a number of the angel investors that I already knew because I’ve worked with them in other capacities throughout my years in working in Seattle. And when Cheezburger got to a certain size, they needed some more strategic financial help. They [the angel investors] looked around and said, ‘well, who do we know that we could recommend?’ And that’s how my name came up.
At the time I got involved with the company—about a year and a half ago—the company was still fairly early stage. I mean, there were a lot of things that were still yet to be proven, but it was starting to get a lot of buzz and a lot of traction. And it is usually about that time that it’s good to take a look at getting some financial expertise, because prior to that there really wasn’t any internal financial expertise. We had some bookkeeping that was done internally, but not by a certified public accountant or anything.
And I was actually at that time working as a consultant, so I was a part-time CFO. And it’s interesting because there’s quite a need for that in Seattle. We have a very high amount of technology companies. Especially when they’re starting too, instead of funding themselves they take in external money—any kind of external money—from investors. And when you do that it’s important to show your investors and give them comfort that you’re taking good care of their money and doing all the right things with making decisions on how the money is being spent and how it’s being accounted for and that sort of thing. However, most of the companies at that size, they don’t have enough work for a full-time person because they haven’t been able to get big enough to do that. They still need that strategic level of expertise, so a part-time CFO was really ideal. And that’s how I got involved.
The first thing that I did [when she joined Cheezburger part-time] was kind of laid a lot of foundation groundwork on basic block-and-tackle financial stuff. But we had immediately—because the company got so much traction so quickly—we immediately went into some financial strategy-type … Next Page »