The Story Of How 9gag Turned A Side Project Into A Huge Startup
9gag is a startup based in Hong Kong and Silicon Valley, started by a student at Hong Kong University named Ray Chan. Nobody, including Ray Chan himself expected 9gag to reach 2 billion page views. What started off as a side project for Ray and his team became one of the biggest content discovery/sharing website. Was it luck or did Ray and his team hit the startup scene at the correct time?
Ray himself never clarified on what “Gag” meant, but since 9gag’s debut, people have been using it as a placeholder word for pictures or memes. 9gag is a website that is known for creative memes. A lot of people see 4chan, another imageboard, as their main competitor. Some of the 4chan fans claim that 9gag stole pictures from 4chan. Other claims include people saying that the staffs were stealing pictures from reddit and other places like funnyjunk. Also other people claimed that 9gag was using fake users and tweaking fake post views.
9Gag was a side project. Originally the team was just creating websites for fun. Ray and his team created many websites and had many ideas. Their main focus was an entertainment site that was “more serious” than 9gag. While they were working on that project, they noticed that people in Hong Kong were using either MSN (messanger) or email to share photos. He thought that was too much of a hassle to wait and transfer things like that. This was before Facebook and other top microblogging platforms existed. As of today, Facebook is still extremely popular in Hong Kong. Ray and his team created a simple version of 9gag that allowed people to share photos. Later on when he started seeing traffic numbers roll in, he began adding more and more features such as the keyboard features. The startup currently makes most of it’s money from Google’s ad networks.
9GAG participated in the Y Combinator startup accelerator program in summer 2012. Shortly after, the startup received seed money of 2.8 million dollars and announced the release of the iOS version shortly after.
Ray says that now he has a solid team and will be looking to continue to build more products for 9gag. Not long ago, 9gag added a TV feature to the website where people could share youtube videos like you would with photos. The biggest question is whether or not 9gag will make it to another funding round?