- Billy Farrell Agency via Brew PR
When Chris Poole, the founder of the controversial online forum 4Chan, announced in March his plan to join Google, it looked as if he was going to work on the social network Google+.
One Google engineer even publicly promised that Plus wouldn’t become a “den of infamy” with Poole on board.
But Business Insider has learned that Google actually hired the young founder to assist Horowitz on a different project: Google’s new in-house startup incubator, Area 120.
The division, first revealed in April by The Information, is a formalized version of Google’s famous “20% time,” meant to carve out time for entrepreneurial-minded employees to create ambitious projects inside the company. Accepted Googlers will get several months and access to company resources to work on their projects.
Although Horowitz and Google’s corporate development exec, Don Harrison, are spearheading the incubator, they’re keeping up their other respective duties, whereas Poole will be working on Area 120 full time, the company confirmed with Business Insider.
We’ve heard that Area 120 received “hundreds” of applications that its aims to winnow down to a handful of worthy business ideas by the fall.
Poole, 27, has plenty of experience from his own roller-coaster career as a startup founder to lend to Area 120’s mission.
He launched 4chan at 15 as a forum for sharing anime, but it swelled into the internet’s “greatest factory of memes and mayhem,” spawning subsets of digital culture like LOLcats and the hacktivist group Anonymous.
It ultimately gained a reputation for NSFW content and high-level pranks. (For example, users infamously trolled Google’s trending search list with swastikas and, more recently, spread thousands of leaked nude celebrity photos.)
Throughout, Poole has defended the value of internet anonymity while also dealing with death threats from 4chan users who are upset with his decision to ban certain content or topics. 4chan brought in enough money to sustain itself, but not enough to make Poole rich.
Meanwhile, he raised about $3 million in 2011 for an image message board startup called Canvas that eventually pivoted into DrawQuest, an app that gave users daily illustration prompts. In 2014, Poole wrote a frank blog post declaring that although DrawQuest had built a vibrant community of artists, it couldn’t figure out a way to make money and would shut down.
Poole stepped down as 4chan’s sole administrator in January 2015 and ultimately sold the site last September.
When he joined Google, Poole wrote on his blog he was impressed by the company’s passionate employees and commitment to tackling big problems:
“I can’t wait to contribute my own experience from a dozen years of building online communities, and to begin the next chapter of my career at such an incredible company,” he wrote.