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Imgur-at-Crunchies

(L-R): imgur.com team members Matt Strader, BS ’99, MBA ’11; and Alan Schaaf, BSCS ’10; with Schaaf’s sister, Sarah, BSC ’08; and Crunchies Awards representatives

Photo courtesy of: imgur.com

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Alumnus' company receives national tech award


Ohio University alumnus Alan Schaaf's startup company imgur.com has won national recognition at the 5th annual Crunchies Awards in San Francisco, winning a first-place award before the eyes of some major technology companies.

Imgur.com (pronounced "imager") beat out other startups like GitHub, Instapaper, Onesheet and Tap Tap Tap (Camera+) as "best bootstrapped startup" at the awards ceremony Jan. 31 sponsored by technology-focused websites TechCrunch, VentureBeat and GigaOM.

"It was incredibly exciting to be receiving an award in front of the entire tech industry including the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter," said Schaaf, who graduated from the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology with a degree in computer science in 2010.

Schaaf also said the Crunchies Awards provided his expanding company with exciting networking opportunities. "We passed out a lot of business cards and met a lot of interesting companies," he said.

The image hosting site began as a side project for Schaaf during his undergraduate days at Ohio University and now receives upwards of 1 billion page views per month.

According to alexa.com, Imgur is currently the 35th most-visited site in the United States.

Part of Imgur's success lies in the way it caters to an audience that is often ignored. For social news sites like Reddit and Digg, there's a high demand for "images," rather than photos.

"I like to think of an image as different from a photo," said Schaaf. "You would put your photos on places like Facebook or Flickr, but if you just have an image – which can be like a screenshot, a meme, something you hacked together in PhotoShop – you need a place for those too. We want to be that place."

Schaaf, who started the company at OHIO's Innovation Center, moved the organization to San Francisco in 2011. He now says he's also looking to hire seven new employees.

Brian Kassouf, a Russ College senior from Pickerington, Ohio, who is interning with imgur.com, hopes to join the team.

"Being at Imgur has taught me so much, both in my studies of computer science and my understanding of how startups work," Kassouf said. "It's been amazing to learn how high traffic websites are run."

Schaaf's college project-turned popular image sharing site has around 13 million images uploaded and 15.5 billion image views every month, and it doesn't seem to be slowing down at any point soon.

David Juedes, chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a former professor of Schaaf's, says he's amazed that imgur.com can handle a billion page views a month.

"For computer science students, this is a great case study about what you need to do to make your software scalable," he said. "It's great to see one of our computer science alumni succeed so well, and so soon."