10 Questions with Ben Huh
Ben Huh is the CEO and founder of Cheezburger. He’s a former journalist turned dot com entrepreneur who has a knack for nailing the zeitgeist and has been credited with bringing Internet memes to the mainstream and popularizing Internet culture. The success of Cheezburger is attributed to Ben’s knowledge of memes, viral content, and crowd sourcing.
Describe the business model you used for the I Can Has Cheezburger site. How do you identify the next great site to add to the Cheezburger network?
Cheezburger is one of the largest online humor publishers in the world where millions of people come every month to get their 5-minutes of happiness. We have more than 60 popular humor and meme sites such as I Can Has Cheezburger?, FAIL Blog, Know Your Meme, Memebase, and The Daily What.
We’re interested in stuff that is funny, has longevity, and has the ability to gain new audiences. So it can’t be too niche. For example, our original site I Can Has Cheezburger is relatively old in the world of internet memes but it continues to have a vibrant community because it is broad enough to evolve, yet has a strong focus.
What was the beginning like when you launched I Can Has Cheezburger?
When we purchased I Can Has Cheezburger, the traffic continued to increase, which was when we realized that it was more about humor rather than just cats.
What is your most successful career decision? How did it help you?
After college, I started my own company which unfortunately became a failed venture, left me $40K in debt, and with the feeling of having let down my family and friends. The invaluable lesson that I learned from this experience was that the practice of failure is necessary and that never giving up is really the mark of an entrepreneur. I believe that if you can get up over and over again after being knocked down and teach others to do the same, that you can become a person of character with strong moral values and a center that can’t be shaken. With this lesson under my belt, I decided to start Cheezburger in 2007.
How would you define your personal communication style via social networks? Has honesty ever been a problem for you?
It’s important to be open and honest, even if it makes you look bad. And I’ve certainly been more open beyond my comfort zone in public. I think it’s made me a better person and has given me a truer perspective in the world.
Describe your vehement stance against SOPA and PIPA. What is your idea of an anti-piracy law that does not restrict free speech and encourages innovation? How can the public get involved in the continued stance against censorship of the internet?
I believe that the solution to piracy is not in more laws and treating customers as criminals, but in providing an easier and faster service to products.
I would like the public to continue to take action when they see corporations chipping away at our liberties.
You recently tweeted “Jeremy Lin’s success is dispelling stereotypes as well as reinforcing them” – can you explain what you mean by that? Any Knicks games in your near future?
No Knicks games yet. I find it humorous that Jeremy Lin graduated from Harvard because he couldn’t get a scholarship elsewhere. It made it sound like he settled for Harvard, reinforcing the model-minority stereotype about Asian-Americans.
What topics will you address in this year’s MarketMix conference?
I’ll describe it as “Marketing is about matchmaking. Social media is not a gold rush.”
Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs in this climate?
Keep trying new ideas. Getting back up from a failure is 99% of the battle.
What are your business plans for the future?
Our sole focus is on giving people their “5 minutes of happiness everyday”. With that in mind, we’ll continue to evolve and test ideas to understand what users want from Cheezburger.
What do you love about Seattle?
There are some amazing people here. I think the rare combination of city and nature draws in really diverse and talented people.
Follow Ben on Twitter here.