GIFs are big business for Edmonton's Gfycat start-up

An Edmonton start-up that has built its business on the silent looping videos of the Internet is about to expand its online empire. Gfycat (pronounced "Jiffy Cat") has raised $10 million to turn its already popular site into a revenue-generating platform.

'People don't care about technical format, they just care about the magic that happens'

An Edmonton start-up that has built its business on the silent looping videos of the Internet, is about to expand its online empire.

Gfycat (pronounced "Jiffy Cat") has raised $10 million to turn its already popular site into a revenue-generating platform.

It turns out that GIFs — short, often hilarious videos clips that populate social media streams the world over — are big business.

The company has amassed 75 million monthly active users, who watch a staggering 1.5 billion user-generated GIFs and clips each month on its website. 

"A GIF really distills a moment from a video down to the essence of what you want to see," said Dan McEleney, the company's co-founder.

"The GIF is the perfect vehicle for that … it's friction-free consumption of all these cool little moments."

The company intends to use its funding to expand its user base, generate revenue, and develop more content creation tools for mobile users.

"Mobile is the future," McEleney said in a Thursday morning interview on CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"So we're expanding the … mobile presence, but we're also expanding the number of people on our team to be able to do these type of features."

 

The videos created and shared on the company's site are not technically GIFS, but videos converted into a short shareable format. The difference allows for better quality and faster delivery.

"It frees it up," said  McEleney.

"It's 10 times faster than a GIF. It has millions more colours than a GIF would have, and that really opens up the worlds of GIFs to the mobile phone, and allows you not to waste your data."

Fellow co-founder Jeff Harris said there's no need to get caught up in the technicalities. He believes the popularity of GIFs is more about their ability to keep viewers captivated in a social media world of short attention spans.

"At the end of the day, people don't care about technical format, they just care about the magic that happens," Harris said. "They just want to see this funny little cat video."

"If someone sends you a YouTube link when you're standing in the grocery store, chances are you're going to look at that when you get home.

"If someone sends you a GIF, you're going to look at right there … It fits into people's lives better and I think there is a lot more we can do to explore that."

 

So what ingredients make for the perfect, most popular GIF?

One of their most viewed videos is a vertigo-inducing aerial shot of a waterfall in Peru, which has amassed more than 7 million views.

But beyond stunning landscapes, McEleney says animals are a big draw.

Kittens and puppies are heavy-hitters, followed by video-gaming clips, movie scenes and impressive athletic moments like home-runs, touchdowns and near-misses.

But, after all, it's the Internet and anything goes.

"The moments that delight are the ones that really interest us the most," said McEleney.

"And if it interests us, chances are it's going to interest other people and probably rack up the views. "