How to Jump Into the Deep End of Change

I’m leaving Cheezburger, Inc., the company I started.

Emily and I. 8 years after starting our company.

Dear Friends and Fans of Cheezburger,

After 8 incredible years, I am stepping down from being CEO of Cheezburger today.

I will remain a Board member. Cheezburger’s President and COO, Scott Moore will step in to the CEO role with my full support. Scott has proven to be a skilled operator and a steadfast leader. He has taught me a lot about being strategic, decisive, and positive. He has taught me that I have much to learn, and I am grateful for his dedication to Cheezburger. I will miss working with him daily.

I recommended this change to our Board as we continue to get closer to profitability. We have been preparing for this transition for the last few months and I have learned that our investors are truly exceptional people as they have repeatedly demonstrated their helpfulness. I am thankful for their support during this change.

First Cheezburger staff photo from early 2008.

Emily and I have sprinted a marathon for the past 8-years. We became Internet Famous before there was Internet Famous, thanks to all of our users. I could not have guessed how starting a company and buying a lolcat website called I Can Has Cheezburger? in 2007 would change our lives and our small corner of the world. With I Can Has, FAIL Blog, Know Your Meme, Memebase, and with a list of memes, viral content, and sites too long to list, we continue to surprise and delight the Internet. And in turn, the communities that made all of this possible have brought us joy and our users have created deep, lasting connections with each other. Emily and I are grateful to be a part of your stories.

Cheezburger gave rise to a new category of content, a new industry of global reach, and as some would call it: the downfall of civilization. I say, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ bring it on, because it looks like a lot of fun. We have made a dent in the universe together and Cheezburger will continue to do so without me. This company has taught me that I have talents and skills beyond what I could imagine and I want to continue that journey.

A person’s character is shaped from his or her circumstances and our circumstances have been extraordinary. I am grateful for our luck. Who else can say they had this much fun running a start up through the Great Recession? I have tasted many victories and humbling moments, sometimes in the same day.

I will miss our creative bat-shit insane ideas that end up working. I will miss the dedication and craftsmanship of our technical and product teams. I will miss staying up impatiently all night waiting for something, anything to go live. I will miss the random hysterical laughter in the office. I may or may not miss the finer points of what constitutes a visible nipple, but I will miss the discussions about the artistic merit of photobombs, and I will also miss telling a co-worker to tell an advertiser to fuck off, but not really going through with it. I will miss all of you who are and were a part of our motley crew who built an impossible dream.

I have many regrets but I learned that, just like fear, regrets have no place in life. I have learned that the greatest triumphs of our lives are disguised by their difficulty, so we should celebrate our difficulties as well as our wins.

Cheezburger’s Mission Statement in Emoji. And me staring at an awesome poster of Mt. Mememore.

It’s hard for me to think of the days before I started Cheezburger, Inc. (née Pet Holdings). I hope I have matured as a leader, learned new skills, and have given my best in the worst, the best, and the most mundane of times. Many talented people have walked into our offices, and I have been wowed by their passion and the vigor with which they have applied their full talents to make our mission come true:

To Make the World Happy for a Few Moments Everyday.

My belief in that mission is unwavering. And Cheezburger will continue to work towards that mission under a new CEO.

There will always be a hole in my heart for this team, for this community, and for why we do what we do. There will always be a hole in my heart to wake up every morning to conquer the day’s challenges with a team that believes passionately in the same purpose. My experience with my fellow Cheezburgers has taught me to be deeply human — something we need more in life and in business.

The time has come for Emily and I to go on another unscripted adventure, without a reality TV crew. The ceaseless march of time is a wonderful gift — a gift that reminds us that we have no one to be accountable to but the longing in our hearts and to those we love near and far. If you are lucky to have friends who help you face reality with honesty, as we do, you’ll find that you are loved by many, life is temporary, and the only barrier to happiness is your own fear and guilt.

Just last month, another chapter in my life came to an end with the closure of Circa. There are many ways to interpret the timing of life’s moments, but the one I choose is to be thankful that I received an opportunity to neatly wrap up this stage of my work. Now it is time for me to create pause and be mindful of what I will do, who I am, and to write about lessons learned that may be helpful to all of us.

Cats. Cats. Everywhere. Don’t they know I’m allergic to cats?

Emily and I do not fear change. Being dragged by certain change is but a slow death, so we will lead ourselves into the deep end. We’ve been there, and that deep end is a surprising and wondrous place. Sometimes, it’s filled with cat allergens and a day full of eye-clawing misery. Sometimes, it’s life-changing treasure we haven’t yet learned to value. Sometimes, it’s seeing the beauty of your wife/co-worker/pain-in-my-ass in her wisdom, creativity, and ass-kicking skills. Emily continues to surprise me even after 14 years together. We will dive again into that deep end holding hands, knowing that everything will be OK, and we will find ourselves reinvented.

An adventure is a journey that redefines a life where that defining moment cannot be forecast. Being CEO and Founder of Cheezburger, Inc. has been a true adventure and one that has helped me grow into the person I am today. I cannot thank you enough for being a part of this adventure.

After we leave this office with smiles on our faces, tears in our eyes, and love in our hearts, I can be followed @benhuh, Instagram, and Facebook.

Sincerely,

Ben Huh
Founder, Board Member
Cheezburger, Inc.

Emily and I, starting off on our first adventure together.

P.S.: Thanks for being curious, but I will not be responding to public comments or press requests about our departure. Scott Moore can be reached for comment about Cheezburger. Emily and I plan on spending the next many months traveling, writing, reflecting, and connecting with friends before starting something new.

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