15 things to know about JibJab as L

15 things to know about JibJab as L.A. start-up turns 15

As JibJab celebrates its 15th bday Wednesday, the Los Angeles media company with a humorous edge is showcasing that it can keep up on the latest trends.

JibJab has risen from two brothers in a lil’ Brooklyn office mastering email marketing to now eighty employees in Venice taking on animated GIFs, Santa Claus and “Sesame Street.” Here’s a look at fifteen highlights from one of LA’s oldest venture capital-backed start-ups, which says it’s profitable.

1. JibJab reached national prominence in two thousand four by lampooning presidential candidates George W. Thicket and John F. Kerry in an animation set to “This Land Is Your Land.” The movie was seen millions of times in the very first few days, becoming one of the very first viral hits of the broadband age.

Two. Then-ABC News anchor Peter Jennings named JibJab cofounders Gregg and Evan Spiridellis as “People of the Year” at the end of 2004.

Trio. The company still makes a comical year-in-review movie annually. But the politically themed movies — even when they became hits — cost more to produce than they brought in from advertising on the Web. And after YouTube made it effortless for fans to distribute copies online, licensing deals dried up.

It’s been fifteen years, and I’ve got hundreds of Santa Clauses working for me. Life couldn’t be better. — Gregg Spiridellis, ‘CEO man’ at JibJab

Four. The brothers originally created the company because Gregg suggested to Evan, a filmmaker, that they attempt to see how the Web could improve distribution of movies.

Five. JibJab’s mission centered on and remains producing premium original content that people pay for.

6. Gregg Spiridellis, who holds the title of "CEO boy," shifted the company to selling e-cards, including ones that people could jazz up with funny photos of themselves. The former Wall Street banker realized it was a good idea after reading SEC filings to see how much e-cards brought in for card maker American Greetings (more than $60 million a year before the company went private last year). “We realized we can re-innovate what it means to send a digital card and we did raise the bar,” Spiridellis said.

7. People pay $Eighteen a year for unlimited access to JibJab’s advertising-free e-cards and send about four to five a year on average.

8. After the JibJab brothers had children, they launched a line of educational apps called StoryBots when they realized “Sesame Street” wasn’t cutting it on mobile devices, according to Gregg Spiridellis.

9. Last month, JibJab paid an undisclosed sum of cash to buy a company that sells families a movie talk with Santa Claus during the holidays. “It’s been fifteen years, and I’ve got hundreds of Santa Clauses working for me,” Gregg said. “Life couldn’t be better.”

Ten. Expect JibJab to shove HelloSanta into fresh holidays — talks with the Easter Bunny, for example. As Gregg described it, HelloSanta is simply “Uber for performers” or a “technology that enables a distributed network of people to tell stories.”

11. A fresh venture, announced Wednesday, seeks to make JibJab more than a seasonal presence in the lives of teenagers and adults. Called JibJab Messages, it’s an iPhone app that has more than seven hundred popular animations, from cats to “Power Rangers” clips, that can be personalized and shipped off via text message, Twitter, Facebook or other social media apps. The app turns the animations into movies to make them display on Facebook.

12. Whether JibJab can amass another base of subscribers remains to be seen. While people in Asia have shown a preparedness to pay for digital stickers and animated smiley faces, Americans have yet to embrace them. JibJab sells unlimited access for ninety nine cents a month or ten animations in a 99-cent pack.

13. The ultimate objective for JibJab is to become a globally known studio for the 21st century, Gregg Spiridellis said. The team wants to be more nimble than the major studios, but match their production value. He boasts that JibJab is already persuading top animation and design graduates to work for him instead of Pixar or DreamWorks.

14. JibJab received about $Eighteen million in venture capital funding through 2009. Now that it’s cash-flow positive, one of JibJab’s next major investments could be adding content specific to international users.

15. JibJab plans to budge into a larger office in Marina del Rey in December. “There’s more ambition,” Gregg Spiridellis said, adding that there were no plans to exit start-up mode anytime soon.

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