There aren’t very many bootstrapped startups that can claim the kind of stats that the popular image-sharing service Imgur, which won the Best Bootstrapped Crunchies award last year, can claim. Last month, it served up over 3.6 billion pageviews and 56 million unique visitors per month. When the company won its Crunchie last year, it had just hit 1 billion pageviews per month and was still run by a team of just three people. Since then, Imgur has hired four more engineers and is still adding to its team.
We caught up with founder Alan Schaaf and COO Matt Strader earlier this week to talk about the company’s evolution over the last year. When Schaaf launched the site from his dorm room in Ohio with a post on Reddit in 2009, he said he wanted to create “an image hosting service that doesn’t suck.” That clearly worked. Today, the site gets over 255 million visits per month and the average user spends 11:30 minutes on the site and sees 14 pages per visit, Imgur tells us.
If you’ve ever been to Reddit, chances are you are familiar with Imgur. Virtually every time you see a picture or animated GIF of a cat, dog, hedgehog (or a cat snuggling with a hedgehog), monkey or whatever other meme is currently popular on the site, it’s most likely hosted by Imgur. But while Reddit remains a huge driver of Imgur’s growth over the last year, the company’s vision is quite a bit larger than being Reddit’s favorite image host.
Schaaf told me that a good chunk of the service’s growth was due to Reddit growing quite a bit last year, too, but 40 percent of all pageviews now come from direct visitors to the site. Schaaf and Strader attribute this to the launch of Imgur’s gallery feature in October.
In the long run, Imgur wants to become a destination site that’s synonymous with image-based memes and viral images, just like YouTube has become the go-to place for videos. Looking ahead, this means Imgur will likely develop its own meme and animated GIF generators, for example, as the service starts adding more content-creation tools to its lineup.
As Schaaf noted in our interview, the company has gone through an interesting transition since its launch. In the early days, people would create images, upload them to the site (which hosts them on Amazon S3) and then share them on Reddit and other social networking sites. Soon, that process could look very different, with many users creating the images on Imgur, storing them there and getting lots of viral traffic from within the site itself.
Imgur is also on track to release its own official mobile app later this month. While there are quite a few apps on the market today that use Imgur’s recently launched API, the company only offered a mobile website so far.
While Imgur is obviously profitable thanks to the ads that run on the site, the team is also looking into how it can open up new avenues to generate revenue. The company ran a number of image-based campaigns for movies like “The Dictator” over the last year, but while there are plenty of feel-good images of baby hippos on the site, the overall nature of most of the content that’s being shared on Imgur obviously doesn’t make the site a good fit for a wide range of brands.
One thing Imgur hasn’t done over the last year, however, and isn’t likely to do anytime soon, is take any outside investments. As Strader noted in our conversation, Imgur is profitable and the company doesn’t want to take money just to take it. It’s clear that being independent is a source of pride for Schaaf and Strader. Given that they have manged to scale the company this far, chances are they won’t need any outside investments anytime soon.
The Crunchies are the hottest ticket in town come January 31st, so please join us.
The 6th Annual Crunchies Awards
Thursday, January 31, 2013
Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall
201 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, CA
7:30pm – midnight – Awards Ceremony and After Party
A night of celebration with festive attire.
Tickets are on sale here. Be sure to act fast!
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