Ben Huh, the creator of LOLCats and CEO of the entertainment company Cheezburger, has had a couple of tough years.
Cheezburger has been around since 2007. In 2011, the company raised $US30 million from venture capitalists.
But a combination of bad decisions and bad luck almost drove the company under.
That’s because Cheezburger went on a crazy hiring spree and lost sight of their goals, said Huh in a self-reflective Medium post on Thursday.
The company was hiring so fast in 2011, Huh writes, that it was too busy to actually build and ship products.
By 2012, Huh recognised Cheezburger had problems.
“We moved all our sites onto our own platform, but users hated it,” he said. “The disagreements with my team escalated. My top executives were either fired or pushed out.”
Then it got blindsided by the shift from desktop to mobile, causing Huh to lay off a third of his employees last year.
To get Cheezburger turned around, Huh hired Amber Dunn as the company’s chief revenue officer.
Dunn worked with Huh to create a new business model for Cheezburger, but neither could escape the elephant in the room: Dunn’s terminal ovarian cancer.
For a moment, things seemed to be ok.
“We kicked off 2013 with high expectations,” said Huh. “We were back in investment mode, but this time with a plan.”
Not long after Huh was regaining hope for his company, Dunn’s cancer took a turn for the worse.
She passed away within months.
“To this day, I often wonder if I am responsible for shortening her life,” said Huh.
By the point the LOLCats creator feared he had lost objectivity and could no longer lead Cheezburger to success.
But instead of shutting down the company, Huh hired a CEO coach, embraced his failures publically, and vowed to move on.
“I felt that learning to persevere and righting my wrongs was the least I could to do for my investors and employees,” he said.
After raising more cash and hiring new leaders, Huh geared up for Cheezburger 3.0. He also cofounded Circa, a mobile news app.
It’s too early to tell if Cheezburger is out of the woods for good, but he is hoping that a revamped iPhone app, released today, will be the company’s ticket back to relevance.
You can read Huh’s whole post over on Medium.