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Ben Huh - Startupday 2015
Cheezburger founder Ben Huh at GeekWire Startup Day 2015.

Ben Huh, the Seattle entrepreneur who became famous with his Cheezburger Network of comedy websites, is now San Francisco based and he’s taking on a decidedly more serious challenge.

Y Combinator, the powerful Silicon Valley startup incubator, announced Tuesday that Huh is joining the YC Research team and its New Cities project, aimed at studying and building better cities.

Huh announced this past July that he was leaving Seattle after a decade and that he was looking forward, along with his wife Emily, to starting a new chapter in San Francisco. “I don’t know what I will do next. I do not know if I can contribute to progress. But I can try.”

He told GeekWire at the time that his next project would “probably be tech” and that he was “still looking for high-growth opportunities.” But he added that he did not want to go do what other people are doing. “Hopefully I’ll find a new niche.”

But in a new blog post on Tuesday morning, Huh wrote that after coming to the Bay Area with the intention of building a new company, 31 days and many meetings later, he failed to find something he loved.

And then one meeting changed everything:

I met up with Y Combinator partner Adora Cheung with a few ideas to help her project. An hour later, I walked out with my heart overflowing with hope and my mind filled with ideas. Unfortunately, I’m still an idealist.

For the next 6-months, I am joining Y Combinator Research’s New Cities project as an Explorer. My goal? Create an open, repeatable system for rapid cityforming that maximize human potential. It is a vastness and complex challenge  —  and one that makes me so happy that I want to tap dance to work. Like any other epic journey, we’ll start small and learn fast: Everything we learn, we will be publishing online.

Huh, who spent a year traveling the world and visiting 37 countries after he left Cheezburger, said he’s done complaining about cities.

“I want to be a part of a solution. I want cities for the poor and the rich, the locals and the transplants, the freaks and the geeks, and the young and old.”

Huh said that joining New Cities was the biggest challenge he could find, but admits that many will say it’s impossible and they will wonder “why a guy known for cat pictures and memes is running a project to build the cities of the future.”

“I’m here not only to prove them wrong, but to include the naysayers in the future of improving our cities. We’ll kill skepticism with inclusion.”

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