Image-Sharing Site Imgur Raises $40 Million, Ups Product Development

Get ready to see more memes and goofy photos popping up online. Popular image-sharing platform Imgur on Thursday announced securing $40 million in a first-round funding led by Andreessen Horowitz. The company said it will use the funding to accelerate its internal growth and product development, and continue to expand its community worldwide.
 
Started in 2009 by founder and CEO Alan Schaaf while still a junior at Ohio University, the company says it has since grown to 130 million unique users globally each month. According to comScore, the site has a U.S. audience of almost 16 million -- up 38% in the last year.

In an interview, Schaaf said the 13-person company will be looking in particular to hire for key roles in engineering, sales, HR, marketing and finance. He estimates that Imgur will likely triple headcount this year as a result. While he declined to provide revenue figures, Schaaf said the startup is already profitable and did not actually need to raise capital after bootstrapping to date. 

“The decision to partner up with [Andreessen Horowitz] and raise money was because we want to make sure we move even faster, to build better products, and have a larger, experienced team around us to ensure that Imgur becomes a staple of the Internet,” he said.

After initially gaining traction as an image-hosting service for social-news sites such as Reddit, Imgur established its own community two years ago by launching a gallery where users can upload photos directly for public view, post comments, create memes and vote on content.

Top gallery images or memes can turn up elsewhere on the Web, on sites like Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post.
 
Late last year, it added a new chat system that allows its growing number of users to send and receive messages in real-time, helping to make it more and more like a social network. Imgur generates revenue primarily from advertising, but also by selling premium subscriptions and merchandise.
 
In terms of ad options, Imgur offers sponsored images, native units that appear on the home page in three different formats, and can be shared and voted on like other content. Standard display units including a medium rectangle, and a skyscraper ad are also available.

But don't expect to see a flood of new ad placements post-funding.“We want to focus on making ads more effective rather having more of them,” said Schaaf. “We're also focused on working with brands that want to work with us, that are willing to be creative and thoughtful, and create quality content.”

Imgur counts Paramount, Rockstar Games, Virgin Mobile, and Pepsi's Brisk, among its advertisers.
 
The company's mobile presence includes several iOS and Android apps that have helped mobile grow to 40% its traffic overall. Most recently, it rolled out the MemeGen app for iOS that lets iPhone users create memes using pop culture templates or images from the phone’s camera, accessible via the app.
 
In connection with its investment, Andreessen Horowitz general partner Lars Dalgaard will take a seat on the Imgur board. Along with the venture firm, Reddit contributed to the round.
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