The real reason Google hired the founder of one of the internet's most controversial websites

4chan Chris pooleBilly Farrell Agency via Brew PR4chan founder Chris Poole

When Chris Poole, the founder of controversial online forum 4Chan, announced his plan to join Google in March, it looked as if he was going to work on the Google+ social network.

After all, Google confirmed at the time that Poole was working under Bradley Horowitz, VP of Google Photos and Streams, the two products that Plus is based on.

One Google engineer even publicly promised that Plus wouldn’t become a “den of infamy” with Poole on board.

But Business Insider has learned that Google actually hired the young founder to assist Horowitz on a different project: Google’s new in-house startup incubator, Area 120.

The division, first revealed by The Information in April, is a formalized version of Google’s famous “20% time,” meant to carve out time for entrepreneurial-minded employees to create ambitious projects inside the company. Accepted Googlers will
get several months and access to company resources to work on their projects.

Although Horowitz and Google’s corporate development exec, Don Harrison, are spearheading the incubator, they’re keeping up their other respective duties, whereas Poole will be working on 120 full-time, the company confirmed to Business Insider.

We’ve heard that Area 120 received “hundreds” of applications that its aims to winnow down to a handful of worthy business ideas by the fall.

4chan4chanPoole posted these stats when he stepped down as 4chan administrator in 2015

Poole, 27, has plenty of experience from his own roller-coaster career as a startup founder to lend to 120’s mission.

He launched 4chan at 15 as a forum for sharing anime, but it swelled into the internet’s “greatest factory of memes and mayhem,” spawning subsets of digital culture like LOLcats and the hacktivist group Anonymous alike.

It ultimately gained a reputation for NSFW content and high-level pranks (for example, users infamously trolled Google’s trending search list with swastikas and, more recently, spread thousands of leaked nude celebrity photos).

The site brought in enough money to sustain itself, but not to make Poole rich. Meanwhile, he raised about $3 million in 2011 for an image message board startup called Canvas that eventually pivoted into DrawQuest, an app that gave users daily illustration prompts. In 2014, Poole wrote a frank blog post declaring that although DrawQuest had built a vibrant community of artists, it couldn’t figure out a way to make money and would shut down.

Poole stepped down as 4chan’s sole administrator in January 2015, and ultimately sold the site last September.

When he joined Google, Poole wrote on his blog he was impressed by the company’s passionate employees and commitment to tackling big problems:

“I can’t wait to contribute my own experience from a dozen years of building online communities, and to begin the next chapter of my career at such an incredible company.”

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