Cheezburger Hits the Big Apple, Zaarly’s Big Debut, Sizing Up the Talent Crunch & More in the Seattle-area Tech Roundup

3/29/11Follow @curtwoodward

The Cheezburger Network‘s bid to dominate meme-dom took another leap forward this week with the acquisition of Know Your Meme, a site that attempts to trace the histories of passed-around bits of Internet pop culture that are the fodder for Cheezburger’s humor sites. But the purchase of Know Your Meme, said to be in the seven figures, is significant for more than adding context to a moment of funny: The acquisition also plants the Cheezburger flag in New York.

Founder and CEO Ben Huh told us the Seattle-based company definitely plans to add more staff to the “Cheezburger East” offices in Manhattan. This was the first big buy we’ve seen Huh make since Cheezburger landed $30 million in investment backing earlier this year, and it appears the guy behind the weird cat photos means business. Other big news from the past week or so in Seattle-area technology business:

RealNetworks (NASDAQ: RNWK) CEO Bob Kimball resigned abruptly on Monday, with no specific reason identified. Kimball was a veteran of the Seattle online media company, which hung around through the dot-com bust and has spent the past year or so trying to slim down and remake itself. Most of the heavy lifting on that score fell to Kimball, who took over the chief executive’s chair from Real founder and chairman Rob Glaser early last year. Kimball said just a few weeks ago that Real had reached the end of its restructuring phase and was preparing to move forward—that restructuring included shedding a good number of jobs and spinning off the Rhapsody music joint venture. At this point, it looks like either Kimball, the company, or both decided that it was a good time to make a switch. Glaser has said he’s not coming back as CEO.

—I dove into the Seattle-area market for tech jobs, and folks who watch that scene closely are ringing alarm bells about the ability of this region to sustain the growth needed to keep companies staffed. It’s particularly worth paying attention to since the college system doesn’t have the capacity to supply people as fast as companies like Microsoft and Amazon need them, which naturally leads to some poaching of the big boys’ talent. This is not necessarily a new dynamic, but it is becoming more amplified as more Silicon Valley companies move northward to satisfy their own hiring needs beyond the Bay Area. Stuck in the middle are smaller companies, particularly those that have made it past the early startup phase and are pushing toward a second round of growth and evolution.

—I had fun sitting down with Seattle startup lawyer Eric Koester for a debrief on the seemingly overnight debut of Zaarly, a kind of reverse-auction service that allows people to tap into mobile networks to supply goods, services, or close to anything else legal that they’d like to pay for (there is a ban on … Next Page »

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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