Cheezburger Network’s Big Bite Easily Leads January’s Seattle-Area Venture Deals Roundup

Cheezburger Network’s decision to finally take some venture money was 2011’s first big deal for Seattle-area tech companies, and it easily dominated the roughly $55 million raised in 15 equity-based financing transactions recorded in January, according to data compiled by CB Insights FundingFlash.

Ben Huh and his team over on Queen Anne have a growing kingdom of humor sites led by I Can Has Cheezburger?, the wickedly simple cat-photo captioning community that has spawned its own hilariously bizarre subculture.

The investors were some big names: Foundry Group, Madrona Venture Group, Avalon Ventures, and SoftBank Capital. Cheezburger, founded in September 2007, had previously only raised $2.25 million, primarily from Seattle-area angel investors.

Even though he says the network now attracts about 16.5 million unique visitors a month, Huh was remarkably forthcoming about the fears come along with the company’s recent growth.

“I’m afraid of being caught napping,” he said in an interview with Xconomy. “This is our market to lose.”

Also making a good showing was a company we haven’t written anything about, as far as I can tell: Thrift Recycling Management of Lakewood, WA which resells books and other used consumer goods online. It raised $8.5 million from QuestMark Partners in a growth equity deal, according to CB Insights’ data.

January’s third-biggest deal was for Corensic, a software startup out of the University of Washington that helps companies debug software on multi-core processors. Dow Jones VentureWire reported the $4.5 million financing was led by Madrona Venture Group and WRF Capital.

Madrona showed up once again—this time with former Expedia CEO Rich Barton—in the $2.5 million Series A financing for Decide, a stealthy startup that says it’s going to bring “unprecedented levels of transparency to electronics shopping.” Decide’s website says it was founded by UW computer science professor Oren Etzioni (a venture partner at Madrona) and four students.

For the rest of the January deals data, see this table. I’m sure we’ll be following some of these companies here at Xconomy in the months ahead.

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