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Cheezburger Network: Cat Photo Empire

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While media’s biggest name cast about for a viable digital strategy, some of the biggest venture capitalists are betting there’s a gold mine out there in cat photos with cute messages written on them.

The Cheezburger Network, which publishes the leading site dedicated to the Internet meme lolcats, closed a $30 million round of funding. Zynga investor Foundry Group led the round, which also included Madrona Venture Group, Avalon Ventures and Softbank Capital Group.

The Web publisher, which previously raised $2.25 million, is using the money to ramp up its attempt to build what chief revenue officer Todd Sawicki believes is “a media company for the digital age” with its collection of offbeat humor sites.

“We think we stumbled on a model that we think is the future of what digital media looks like,” he said.

The funding will go to building out the company’s staff, infrastructure and marketing, Sawicki said.

Cheezeburger is organized around four main properties: I Can Has Cheezburger; Failblog; Memebase; and The Daily What. The sites have dozens of spinoffs, such as Failbook, which is dedicated to mishaps on Facebook. The common thread for the Internet culture sites is that they look to deliver “five minutes of happiness”—and funny posts visitors are likely to share to their friends.

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