Alan Schaaf

Alan Schaaf

Founder and CEO of imgur

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON January 28, 2016

Discussion

Alan Schaaf
Alan Schaaf@mrgrim151 · Founder & CEO @ Imgur
Hey Product Hunt, I'm Alan Schaaf, Founder and CEO of Imgur. I'm a huge fan of Product Hunt, and delighted to be here -- please ask me anything!
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Welcome, Alan! Super impressed with what you and the team have built at Imgur. At what point did you realize Imgur was a big deal?
Alan Schaaf
Alan Schaaf@mrgrim151 · Founder & CEO @ Imgur
@rrhoover I thought it was pretty awesome when I could quit my part time job in a tech call center to work on Imgur full time. That was a big milestone for me and blew my mind.
Corley
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
@mrgrim151 @rrhoover ok this might be my favorite question + reply EVER! 👍👍👍
Martin
Martin@martinveramiami · Navy Veteran discovering your cool site.
@mrgrim151 @rrhoover Are you planning a trip to Miami or the South Florida area? What are some of your favorite books, movies and TV shows? Thanks for doing a AMA.
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
Asking the important questions: GIF is pronounced: "jif", like the peanut butter or "gif", like gift?
Alan Schaaf
Alan Schaaf@mrgrim151 · Founder & CEO @ Imgur
@andrewmettinger I feel like I relate to the creator of the gif format, seeing how people mispronounce Imgur (Image-er) all the time. So I go with what he says, which is jif. He made the thing after all, it should be his decision.
jeff h white
jeff h white@jefhwite · Content Lead, Big Monocle
@andrewmettinger Wait, so is it im-age-er or im-gur?
Tyson Ferguson
Tyson Ferguson@whattheferguson · Co-Founder, Chief Product Officer @ Clyp
@jefhwite @andrewmettinger It's pronounced IMAGE-ER. But we're also fond of this pronunciation: https://clyp.it/gwf1iyf4
Jordan Patapoff
Jordan Patapoff@jpatapoff · Co-Founder, Clyp
Hey Alan! What's the biggest technical challenge Imgur has faced as it scaled into one of the most trafficked websites on the Internet?
Alan Schaaf
Alan Schaaf@mrgrim151 · Founder & CEO @ Imgur
@jpatapoff Hey Jordan! MySQL has been a real pain to scale, so we've been on a mission the last few years to slowly break things apart and move them to HBase and other tech. We need help there honestly, so if you know any DevOps people, let me know?
Tyson Ferguson
Tyson Ferguson@whattheferguson · Co-Founder, Chief Product Officer @ Clyp
Hey Alan, thanks for dropping by! If you weren't working on Imgur, what would you be doing?
Alan Schaaf
Alan Schaaf@mrgrim151 · Founder & CEO @ Imgur
@whattheferguson I have a strange passion for DevOps and scaling, so I think I'd be doing that. There's something about troubleshooting, fixing, and optimizing things that I really like.
Martyn O'Neill
Martyn O'Neill@martynmage · Specialised Machining Post Developer
Mobile apps are fantastic. But when it comes to the main desktop site what do you feel is the greatest achievement/ upgrade made to imgur in the last 12 months? What do you think will be the greatest change coming in 2016? What would you like to see the site doing in the year 2020?
Alan Schaaf
Alan Schaaf@mrgrim151 · Founder & CEO @ Imgur
@martynmage In the past year we streamlined the Imgur desktop experience so everything is more consistent - from the pages to the uploading process and lots of things in between. The summation of all of those small changes has resulted in a major improvement in overall user experience. We also built out the notification platform a lot so that you can stay up to date with what's happening in the community. 2016 is all about building the team, and so I think the biggest change is going to be more people working at Imgur! We’re 65 today and that’s such a change from the small team of <20 in 2014. I couldn’t be more excited at what everyone is working on too. We have billions of images to play with and when you ship code at Imgur, it instantly impacts our massive user base of 150 million users around the world. By 2020, I'd just like us to continue to fulfill our mission of surfacing the worlds most entertaining content, and continuing to allow you to share and express yourself through images.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
What apps do you use all the time? (Apart from Imgur 😜)
Alan Schaaf
Alan Schaaf@mrgrim151 · Founder & CEO @ Imgur
@ems_hodge I do use Imgur a lot :) But I also like Snapchat, Feedly (I like old school RSS), and a bunch of note taking apps like Evernote and Keep. Also whatever I find on Product Hunt usually.
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
After years of bootstrapping Imgur, you raised $40MM from A16Z in 2014. Besides the money, what did A16Z bring to the table in terms of operational improvements, growth, network/relationships, long-term vision for Imgur, etc?
Alan Schaaf
Alan Schaaf@mrgrim151 · Founder & CEO @ Imgur
@tomstocklein A16Z has been really awesome. When I raised I didn't just need dumb money, I needed mentors, partnerships, help with hiring, marketing, etc. They were able to bring all of that. They have a whole staff of over 100 people who's job it is to help you with whatever you need and get you to move faster. A random example is when we were hiring our first HR person. They were able to connect me with HR leaders to help me calibrate on the position and exactly what we needed, and then when it came down to it, they helped me put together the compensation package. That's a small example that just makes things so much easier.
Martin
Martin@martinveramiami · Navy Veteran discovering your cool site.
@mrgrim151 @tomstocklein Was it Toby talking about his passion for HR. https://www.youtube.com/watch?fe...
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
Images is an ever-growing competitive space. What is Imgur looking at in order to stay ahead of the game?
Kate
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
Who are some of the people who have made the largest impact on your life? (Stories, please!)
Vinay Mimani
Vinay Mimani@wiredmau5 · Founder : trbble
Hi Alan! Long time imgurian here! I have two questions for you: 1. What are some of the tips you can share to build a stronger community? How did you go about doing that initially? 2. Were you ever bothered about the slew of other sites with the same concept? And if yes, can you list some early strives you made to stay differentiated? Thank you for your time!
Alan Schaaf
Alan Schaaf@mrgrim151 · Founder & CEO @ Imgur
@wiredmau5 1) Always listen and empathize with your users. You're building the product for them after all -- not for yourself. More than that though, it takes communication with your community and they should feel that you really are building the product with their best interests in mind. 2) Not really. I focused on what I was doing more than what they were doing. As soon as you focus on what other people are doing then you start following them. When you're following them, you're always behind them.
Vinay Mimani
Vinay Mimani@wiredmau5 · Founder : trbble
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What are some of your favorite pictures on Imgur right now?
Alan Schaaf
Alan Schaaf@mrgrim151 · Founder & CEO @ Imgur
@tomstocklein Right now I really love this guy's story: http://imgur.com/gallery/7Lsjz
neeharika sinha
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
Hello Alan! Would love to know what growth strategies really worked for Imgur in its initial days?
Adam Marx
Adam Marx@adammarx13 · Freelance writer/editor and music addict
Images are a big form of media. What other types of media (music, video, publishing, etc.) are you most excited watching right now in terms of evolution?
Ryan Rauh
Ryan Rauh@rauhryan · Founder & Creator of HuBoard
Hey Alan! What would say has been your "most expensive" mistake? Or a funner way to phase it, Describe the most expensive imgur production bug
Alan Schaaf
Alan Schaaf@mrgrim151 · Founder & CEO @ Imgur
@rauhryan I can't recall a production bug that really hurt our pocket book, but most of the expensive mistakes are around building things for too long without getting user feedback. By the time you launch, it's too hard to go back and fix things that your users hate because they weren't involved enough in the process from the beginning.
Dhananjay Yadav
Dhananjay Yadav@dhananjay_yadav · Growth Hacking and Performance Marketing
Where do you see imgur, 5 years from now ? Also, like Gif's, do you oversee any newer engaging formats taking to social media in coming years ?
Alan Schaaf
Alan Schaaf@mrgrim151 · Founder & CEO @ Imgur
@dhananjay_yadav Our long term vision is to lift the world’s spirits for a few minutes every day. I think we are doing a really good job of that so far, but we have a long way to go to reach the whole world. So in five years, I see Imgur as being ubiquitous on mobile -- the app you turn daily when you need a laugh or simply want to be entertained for a few moments. Regarding your second question - I'm particularly watching visual formats. Gifs, images, videos. Not sure about new formats, but I think gifs will continue to grow as a powerful communication tool and entertainment format.
Martin
Martin@martinveramiami · Navy Veteran discovering your cool site.
@dhananjay_yadav If I was a betting man 2021.
Martin
Martin@martinveramiami · Navy Veteran discovering your cool site.
@mrgrim151 @dhananjay_yadav What are your thoughts on Mobile payment? It's a big business in Africa. Around 18 million people use their mobile phones to pay for a wide range of services and goods. The Kenyan service M-Pesa is now expanding to Europe. https://www.youtube.com/watch?fe...
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced at the very beginning of Imgur? How did you overcome them?
Alan Schaaf
Alan Schaaf@mrgrim151 · Founder & CEO @ Imgur
@ems_hodge At the very beginning, it was really tough for me to transition from programmer to manager. That transition is hard, but there was way around it. You built up a code base that you love dearly and now other people are inside of it messing things up. You just have to get over it and realize that it's your job to create an environment where they can be successful. The shift goes from focusing on your code to focusing on your developers who are writing the code.
Julian Hicks
Julian Hicks@julian_hicks · bloguers.net
Are you brave enough to browse usersub? x)
Kristofer Woods
Kristofer Woods@kristofer_woods · Development Coordinator
Hi Alan, It's clear there is a divide amongst your users with regards to censorship of content. How did you and your team decide what content to allow and permit on the gallery and what not too. What were the reasonings behind your decisions? Is there anything others could learn from you through your experience with your community?
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
If you were 22 today what would you work on?
Alan Schaaf
Alan Schaaf@mrgrim151 · Founder & CEO @ Imgur
@bentossell I'd definitely be doing something with the Internet and technology. That's where my passion is, so I'd probably be creating some weird tool that solved some weird Internet problem and seeing what people thought of it.
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
Which social media uses imgur the most? Obvious answer seems to be Reddit. If so, who are the next biggest users?
Alan Schaaf
Alan Schaaf@mrgrim151 · Founder & CEO @ Imgur
@andrewmettinger Imgur posts are spread all over the Internet. Some big users aside from the obvious top social channels are twitch, specific forums (like forum.bodybuilding.com), and Wikia.
Kevin
Kevin@kevinayuque
How did you came up with the idea of imgur when there were already similar services like TinyPic or Photobucket?
Alan Schaaf
Alan Schaaf@mrgrim151 · Founder & CEO @ Imgur
@kevinayuque Actually I thought Imgur was pretty different from those services. Instead of focusing on uploading, I focused on sharing, which is what people actually want to do. When they come to Imgur their intent is not to upload an image, it's to share that image. All the other services focused on uploading, image management, thumbnails, etc, while I focused on what people actually wanted to do with their image -- share it.
Alok Jariwala
Alok Jariwala@aaspire · Product Manager, Mobile
Hi Alan, What is your recommendation for 1st time entrepreneur who start part time build the product, go to market, identifying product market fit & they are in phase of identifying if the idea can turn in business. They are usually in dilemma should they keep going or stop or try to change product vision based on feedback.
Martin
Martin@martinveramiami · Navy Veteran discovering your cool site.
@aaspire Keep on fighting the good fight.
Brandon Carte
Brandon Carte@brandoncarte · Reviewer at Purch
Hey man! We both went to Ohio University and I interviewed you for the Post once or twice; it's great seeing you on PH! I use imgur everyday so thanks for making such an awesome product. My question for you is who do you look up to and who are some mentors that have helped you along the way?
Zach Cmiel
Zach Cmiel@zach_cmiel · CEO, PoKoBros
What would your one most important piece advice be to first time entrepreneurs??
Alan Schaaf
Alan Schaaf@mrgrim151 · Founder & CEO @ Imgur
@zach_cmiel Startups fail for two reasons. Either you run out of money, or the founder gives up. Sometimes you can't fully control whether you run out of money, but giving up is up to you. So don't give up and just keep going.
Martin
Martin@martinveramiami · Navy Veteran discovering your cool site.
@zach_cmiel UpVote Party Lives Matters.
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
Are you considering additional categories or filters for Imgur? Are you currently working on any major new features?
Alan Schaaf
Alan Schaaf@mrgrim151 · Founder & CEO @ Imgur
@tomstocklein We are constantly working on new features. We released the apps as MVPs early least year and have iterating on them ever since. In fact, "everything is an iteration" is one of our core values, and that means we release small and build up over time. Specifically, people have been asking for "favorites folders" for years, so that's one exciting thing that we're working on.
Kate
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
I've read your team's post about your growth (and totally loved it). I was wondering what was your favorite part of each stage was?
Adam Marx
Adam Marx@adammarx13 · Freelance writer/editor and music addict
Hey Alan, thanks for taking some time today! :) What are some of the ways you want to see Imgur become more social in the future?
Jeff Umbro
Jeff Umbro@jeffumbro · CEO of The podglomerate
Hey @mrgrim151 - I saw you asking Adrien Chen and Farhad Manjoo a question at SXSW a few years ago after a panel on Reddit trolls. I have a video of it somewhere, but you were upset that they had been highlighting all of the worst things on the site and none of the best. Is this something you've run into with imgur?
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
If you get founders asking for your advice (I'm sure you do!). What are your favourite questions to ask them?
Santiago Boselli
Santiago Boselli@sanbsll · Dev, futurist & self growth addict.
Hey Alan, beatiful work on imgur and congrats on seizing the opportunity. What would you say has been the biggest difficulty imgur has faced so far?
David Lux
David Lux@itsdavelux · Founder at mindfunnel.co | thriverr.co
Hi Alan, thank you for being here! When did you decide to quit bootstrapping? Was it an intentional decision or a smooth transition?
Alan Schaaf
Alan Schaaf@mrgrim151 · Founder & CEO @ Imgur
@itsdavelux We decided to raise because after a while you need more than just money. You need a network, partnerships, hiring help, marketing help, PR expertise, etc. A16Z has all of those, and allowed us to move much faster by leveraging the teams they've already built.
Aamer Jomaa
Aamer Jomaa@aamerjomaa · Co-founder @ Boosted Jobs
Hi Alan! Thanks for joining us on Product Hunt. I'm a longtime Imgur user. Given the popularity of Imgur, I'm sure you have to deal with a lot of DMCA requests on a daily basis. Boring question, but how do you manage DMCA requests at scale?
Alan Schaaf
Alan Schaaf@mrgrim151 · Founder & CEO @ Imgur
@aamerjomaa DMCA's aren't as big of a problem for us as you're probably thinking, and we might only get a handful a day. However, we have a great moderation and community team that is on top of them and can take them down with a click of a button.