Online image-sharing community Imgur is set to launch an image-based native advertising business in early 2015.

Native advertising is among the key areas of investment for the company, alongside mobile apps and expanded offerings for customers thanks to $40 million in funding from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz in April 2014.

The San Francisco-based company has reported success with a subtle roll-out of native ad testing on its site, showing engagement rates of up to 12% in recent campaigns.

“We’ve collaborated with brands in a range of different industries and proven that the model works,” said Imgur COO Matt Strader.

Huge Opportunity

Imgur also announced today the appointment of Steve Patrizi, former head of partner marketing at Pinterest.

Patrizi, who launched Pinterest’s native ad products in addition to holding roles at Microsoft, The Wall Street Journal and LinkedIn, remarked on the growing influence of Imgur and the opportunities it could provide for advertisers.

“There’s a huge opportunity here for marketers to connect with the people sharing and exploring the web’s best visual content.

“We want to help advertisers connect with this group in the right way, so we’re going to invest in the people and products to help them be as successful as possible.”

Launched in 2009 as a basic image-sharing service, Imgur has since seen a large influx in traffic following the launch of its community-curated “Gallery” in 2011 – the company’s Reddit- inspired homepage – and its meme generator iOS app.

Imgur currently boasts over 150 million users and receives more than 60 billion views a month, in which millions of images are uploaded, commented and voted on.