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The strange media company behind Gen-Z social feeds that could be worth millions.


Justin JinChanda Bhatia

In 2023, he who rules the ‘For You Page’, it seems, rules the world – or at least the world online.

Daily screen use has shot up among teens (13 to 18) from seven hours and 22 minutes to eight hours and 39 minutes, according to a Common Sense Media survey. As the 2010s saw arbitrary image macros and Impact font get stomped by white squares captioned with Helvetica Neue, the decade also witnessed the meme-ification of everything and everyone in pop culture and politics. Suddenly, the measure of an event’s cultural importance hinged on the number of memes it made. In some cases, they went from being a reflection of culture to the driving force behind it. Back in 2020, Michael Bloomberg wanted to look cool among his Democratic presidential contenders by flooding memes on some of Instagram’s biggest accounts. There’s big business behind internet memes, and they don’t take a lot to kickstart.

Justin Jin hasn’t pitched a company on Shark Tank. He hasn’t attended Harvard, or any college yet for that matter. Starting out, he had tooth fairy money. And yet, the 16-year-old CEO from Vancouver, Canada, built a fast-growing media startup that hits the eyes of hundreds of millions and pulls in a quarter-million US dollars. Jin says Poybo Media is also profitable.

“As far as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur,” he explains. “I’m not that organized. I thrive on [a work schedule] where I can make my own time.” That flexibility is inherently important to Poybo’s traffic. “Being a digital publisher means being a digital consumer,” Jin claims. “What goes viral shifts by the minute. I’ve got to catch up all the time.”

Because of their videos’ archetypes’ ubiquity throughout Western teen culture and their dull innocuousness, the impact of their memes stems from a jolt of recognition we all get when someone shares a spot-on description of something – or someone – that we’d stopped actively analyzing. Suddenly realizing how easy it is to break down a type of person you’ve taken for granted – like a suburban Boomer teacher or white bro-y classmate – can result in a sort of contact high.

The issue is, Poybo tends to target males with English as their first language, ignoring slices of the internet-going population. Jin wants to change that. “It’s essential that we’re more than just online humor for guys,” he mentioned in an interview with LA Weekly. “We want to be the one-stop shop for everyone’s entertainment.” So, they want to launch women-focused brands led by female executives next year. They also want to go global. “We’ve begun to see growing numbers in India,” he told USA Today. Luckily, Poybo’s animal-themed accounts appeal to a wider cross section of people. Dog content is usually humorous, hardly ever controversial, and almost always cute.

But this only seems appropriate, as Poybo Media’s mission is to harness its knowledge of the Gen Z mindset and habits to create advertising and branding that resonate with young consumers: content that goes viral, creates followers, and makes people stop and think or laugh, rather than scroll right by. “It’s the complete opposite of the traditional commercials like those from the Super Bowl, where it’s overly produced,” says Jin.

The Poybo name itself has become a verbal battle-cry of sorts signaling that something in one’s life, bad or good, will probably be shared for the rest of the world – or at least, for now, the Americas – to see. They have a diversified business with four distinct revenue streams: brand partnerships, consumer products, subscription, and platform (like passive Meta/YouTube revenue from videos). They may have over 4,000,000 followers and counting, many of whom include news outlets, politicians, over-active and ‘wutless’ sports Instagram accounts, and the Memphis Grizzlies, but they are still learning and their process is still evolving. That much is clear. But if you want to build a new kind of comedy empire, this kind of self-aware risk taking is a great place to start.

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