With more than 11 million followers, Daquan is on par with Instagram meme stalwarts like The Fat Jew and Fuck Jerry. The account’s posts have spread far and fast, and have attracted famous followers including Justin Bieber, Drake, the Weeknd, Kendall Jenner, and Kevin Hart. Its homespun memes—mostly Twitter screenshots about sports, pop culture, childhood nostalgia, family life, and other #relatable content—feel like something a teenager might make in his bedroom, which was, for a while, not that far off: The account’s proprietor is an anonymous 20-year-old Canadian who started it four years ago on a whim.
And until recently, he mostly ran the page alone. “In regards to content, I do everything by myself,” he told the Observer in 2017. But over the past year, as Daquan has scaled, a new kind of superstructure has arisen around it, with a Manhattan office; an ever-growing staff of businesspeople managing big marketing campaigns, brand integrations, and expansion efforts; and a team of meme makers supplying it with content. The kid in his bedroom is now the editor in chief of a small publishing outfit, reviewing, editing, and approving all memes that go out on the page, and the project he started while bored in class is very big business.
Behind Daquan’s success are Barak Shragai and Dor Mizrahi, a pair of Israeli tech entrepreneurs who, in 2013, began to notice comedy influencers were dominating social platforms and bet big on Instagram. By 2015, they founded comedy.com with a $1.5 million seed round and moved to Los Angeles—specifically, 1600 Vine Street, conveniently also home to some of the platform’s biggest stars. Comedy.com grew to encompass a network of about 50 creators, and Shragai and Mizrahi developed proprietary technology to identify trending content and promising influencers on social media. Daquan stood out from the beginning. Getting in touch with him, however, was difficult.