Even if you’re not a regular Chive visitor (or, to use the parlance of the site, a Chiver or a Chivette) you may be familiar with one of the site’s publicity stunts from wayyyyy back in 2010, the girl who quit her job with a memorable series of dry erase board messages. (The “HOPA dry erase girl” turned out to be a hired actress — in other words, the whole thing was a clever hoax.)
Leo and John Resig, the brothers who founded and run the company, told me that the site has grown to 40 million monthly visits across desktop and mobile. The smartphone app has been downloaded 12 million times, with 40 percent of those downloads turning into daily active users. And the average user spends 209 minutes per month in the app.
Thanks to a combination of funny photo galleries, scantily clad women, and random other stuff from the Internet, theChive has developed a pretty distinctive style — BusinessWeek memorably described it as “smut with a smile.”
TheBomb seems to be a similar grab bag of content, just with videos (curated from YouTube and elsewhere) instead of photos — for example, the most recent video when I loaded up the front page just now was this dog begging for tips, while the most popular one from the “laugh” section was, um, a “compilation of drunk girls that might throw up on your lawn.”
The goal, Leo Resig told me, is to create a “one-stop destination for viral videos.” He admitted that it’s “not an original idea,” but he argued that theChive has the advantage of knowing “what’s good.” Plus, it’s developing an algorithmic system for identifying the videos that visitors will like.
It might seem like the Resigs are well on their way to establishing a whole network of sites in this vein — theChive, theBomb, theThis, theThat. And indeed, there’s also theBerry (a viral photo site aimed at women) and theChivery (an e-commerce site). Plus, the company is experimenting video production — in Leo’s words, “We’re dabbling in a comedy series.”
However, Leo told me that he isn’t eager to expand further, at least not right away: “We don’t want to pull focus from theChive — that’s our bread and butter.”
“There’s no reason to get too cute with it right now,” John added. “We’re not trying to be the next Gawker. We’ve got a grand slam already.”
When I interviewed the Resig brothers, we spent a lot more time talking about the business side of theChive than the content. I will say, however, that they both seem cheerfully self-aware and unapologetic about what they do. For example, in my very first conversation Leo two years ago, he seemed perfectly to describe theChive’s “Pinterest for men” site Tapiture as “a shitshow.” (Since then, Tapiture has spun out as an independent company, and it seems to be aiming for a less bro-y audience.)
That attitude is evident on the sites themselves — theChive’s tagline is “probably the best site in the world,” and while theBomb’s is “probably the best videos in the world.”
At the same time, the Resigs sound sincere and passionate about the community they’ve built, especially since they’ve been able to direct a lot of that energy towards charity. And while they’re open about the fact that they relocated from Los Angeles to Austin last year in order to avoid taxes, they’re proud that most of their 50 employees were willing follow them. (The headcount is now 88.)
Another point of pride — the fact that they’ve built the business without outside funding (aside from a $150,000 loan in 2009 that has been paid back). Through a combination of ads and e-commerce, the company grew revenue from $5 million in 2011 to more than $60 million last year, and the brothers say it’s on-track to make more than $80 million this year. And they say it’s been cash-flow positive that whole time, with margins of around 40 percent.
In a follow-up email, John told me:
I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished given that we don’t have the Fort Knox of cash reserves at our disposal. We value every dollar that comes into theCHIVE and we reallocate it back into the company with precision. We are the anti-burn internet company. The silly attitude behind ‘the burn’ you hear about these days is equal to throwing spaghetti at the wall without getting it wet first.