What’s a meme worth? Likely more than you’d think.
Doing Things Media, an Atlanta-founded company that owns many of the most popular Instagram meme accounts like @ShitHeadSteve, @FourTwenty and @DoggosDoingThings, has taken in a $21.5 million Series A. The round was led by Volition Capital, a Boston VC firm that has backed companies like Chewy.com, the pets e-retailer.
Doing Things Media is profitable and brought in more than $10 million in revenue last year from a mix of sponsored ads and e-commerce, mostly apparel and other items bearing the meme accounts’ brands. The five-year-old company hadn’t intended to take any outside capital but thought Volition’s experience backing Chewy.com would benefit a determination to grow its own e-commerce operation. “When they hit us up, we were like, ‘Yeah, okay, let’s hear them out,’” Hailey says. “Our goal is to keep growth that’s sustainable.”
Memes are everywhere online: silly, viral content commenting on pop culture often through nothing more than recycled joke images. But it’s been hard to gauge how well a company might monetize them. Or how valuable such a company would be. In 2020, Warner Music reportedly spent $85 million on IMGN Media, which owns things like the Instagram account @Daquan. Given what Warner paid for IMGN and the new influx of Series A cash, it’s reasonable to assume Doing Things received a valuation that neared $100 million in this latest funding round.
Doing Things weathered the pandemic downturn in marketing dollars by pitching advertisers like Bud Light, T-Mobile and Netflix on its young, loyal audience. It has approximately 20 meme accounts on Instagram, a collection of brands with over 40 million followers.
“Companies like Doing Things have already done the hardest part: They’ve created unique content, they’ve amassed massive audiences, and their audiences are very engaged,” says Larry Cheng, a founding partner at Volition. “We think there’s plenty of room to create new brands and expand to new categories and also to extend to different distribution channels.”
That’s complicated language to mean Doing Things will do things like increase its web series, TV show-type videos uploaded mostly to YouTube. YouTube offers a lucrative ad-revenue sharing program, where a clip with, say, 20 million views might earn $100,000 in advertising dollars. Snap hosts series like these, too, though the economics are less attractive. It’s also possible to place a series’ bonus content behind a subscription paywall like the one Patreon offers.
These series are harder to pull off than publishing funny dog videos. Doing Things already had a bonafide hit with its web show All Gas No Breaks, but the comedically breakneck examination of America’s stranger corners—Proud Boys, Burning Man, porn stars—ended last spring amid a contract dispute with its host, 23-year-old Andrew Callaghan.
A new series will be called Business Breakdown. In it, host Graeme Barrett will try to delineate how a company operates, examaning “peculiar businesses being like, ‘How do you make money?’” Hailey says. “Maybe a waste disposal planet, where he’ll see if there’s any money in poop.” For an extra-special episode, Barrett might try some self-examination and review the meme business.