David Karp's Founder Story

I enjoyed watching this short (~5min) video of Tumblr founder David Karp on Founder Stories.

Chris got David to talk about how he came up for the idea for Tumblr. There's this part about 1:40 in where David talks about going from designing his tumblog to designing Tumblr. That's the aha moment. So great that they captured that.

I also like the part about 2:30 in where David talks about how the readers of the first tumblogs (which were mostly hacks) really wanted their own tumblogs and when Tumblr launched they could finally have them without having to do the hard work of hacking one together. That's the two step super distribution model. Get the power users to adopt something and then the people who follow the power users will adopt it too.


Comments (Archived):

  1. andyswan

    If I build it for me, I might as well build it for you.

    1. fredwilson


    2. Matt A. Myers

      Everything I’m developing are things I will use on a daily and weekly basis. 🙂

    3. ShanaC

      Is there a situation where I could just build for you and not build for me?

  2. Harry DeMott

    I really like the last comment about how nobody is proud of their Facebook identity.I’ve thought that for quite some time. Facebook is the king of aggregating a lot of stuff – but may not be the best an any one specific thing.It would be hard to argue that the thousands(?) of AVC posts do more to define you Fred than whatever I could find on your Facebook page. Add in your Tumblr, Twitter stream etc… and you really get the measure of a person.Facebook is a shortcut – and not always a great one.

    1. fredwilson

      the fact that my kids all have tumblogs (in spite of me being an investor)is basically proof of that statement

    2. awaldstein

      The comments about identity and personalizing creative expression are the most pertinent to me and why I like Tumblr.You are a small biz that wants to chronicle the production of your product, like wine or cheese or vegetables or whatever. This is a perfect choice.You are hiring and want to understand the personality of the person you are hiring. Facebook doesn’t do it. Twitter really not either. Tumblr gives a sense of a person over time. Does a lot to create a shareable identity.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        Isn’t that true of blogs in general, whether they are on WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, or another platform?

        1. awaldstein

          Yes but….just because this is true of the platform capability doesn’t necessarily mean that its broadly adopted.Doing a full format WP blog is hard and requires honest, consistent, thematic work. When I look across my networks the percent of people that actually do this is very very small.But everyone has a FB page and this does very little to create identity or dynamic connection either within or without of your close networks.Tumblr for myself and many others does just that. Enables self expression and identity creation in a natural easy way that establishes an online identity.Really was an eyeopener for me to look across what–500 FB friends, 100 LinkedIn Profiles, Twitter followers and the like and see how few remarkably had identities that i could really plumb.

        2. kidmercury

          yes, it is. i actually find tumblr to be less expressive than a standalone blog. standalone is maximium creative expression IMHO, though it does come at the expense of ease of use. classic example is right here at fredland: where do you get a better idea of fred, avc.com or fredwilson.vc (his tumblog)? at least for me, the answer is definitely here, but this requires a greater commitment from fred. understanding someone does require that they put effort into expressing themselves.though i like tumblr, think it fills a void, and always root for individuals who have dropped out of the indoctrination system (aka school).

          1. awaldstein

            I think they are complements in many ways.I find myself following a bunch of folks in both places as it rounds out the person behind the thoughts.

    3. ShanaC

      Partially, I still know a ton of people where facebook is the way they communicate. Other than that, yes, what you do in the open matters more. Higher stakes, so people care more.

  3. bojanbabic

    we all need is to listen to the kids and follow their creativity.

  4. Dan Epstein

    Great explanation from David at the beginning about why he started Tumblr, and how it’s different from other blogging sites. I also like how he sums up Tumblr: “limitless creative expression.”

  5. Aba

    yes we can

  6. Conrad Ross Schulman

    Tumblr is such a big hit because its design and ui scheme matches its purpose as a software application.Tumblrs purpose is to easily post and share “creative expression”. Tumblrs design and ui scheme is extraordinarily creative and unique!Have you seen those huge buttons?? And so few of them! What a design!All the tumblr users are simply following in Mr. Karps footsteps.Creativity is contagious.When the first one posts, they all follow!

  7. William Mougayar

    Tumblr is the ultimate form of blogging expression. The way it interweaves other tumblr accounts into yours is one of its most unique and interesting features that I like the most.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      I’m going to have to learn more about that. I get its ease of use, but Blogger has that too. Maybe it’s the ‘interweaving’ you mention that’s the differentiating factor.

      1. fredwilson

        tumblr is a social net because of the dashbaord experienceblogger doesn’t really have that

      2. William Mougayar

        Sure. Just follow other Tumblr accounts/user and you’ll see their stuff appear as a mashup, so you’re reading your friends tumblrs into yours.

      3. Andrew Greene

        the dashboard rocks, and it will get better. see tumblr.com/explore

  8. Dave W Baldwin

    One of the best statements was regarding his not looking to compete with FB and/or Twitter. Produce something with its own legs and go with it.

  9. abhic

    I quote David as soon as I have to talk about startup ninjas who are high school dropouts (edu sys – another comment for another day), whenever I get the chance. I play around with 4-5 properties on Tumblr, at the same time I can’t imagine having more than one ‘blog’.His statement – “The question is can we get to wild profitability with features that enhance the community” – is the ultimate goal for us post-web2.0 startup folks. Their Dashboard is highly undervalued and underrated (and underperforming, but we live with it).Its a simple idea demonstrated by an excellent implementation.

  10. paramendra

    Great story. Tumblr has left Blogger and WordPress in the dust. It is malleable. It can be a full form blog too.

    1. Aaron Klein

      I have to disagree.There are a lot of features that make Tumblr not “malleable” enough to run my blog.But I love sharing and reblogging things on Tumblr and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

      1. ShanaC

        Me too. I would never put art or interesting links up in my blog. But I often do so in my tumblr.

  11. Guest

    Hi Fred, we are developing a cool online app that can revolutionize the way we buy things. I was wondering how I can pitch you the idea e.g. via video conference or at your “boutique” in NY. I am sure you would love it :-)Apologize for taking this route but we are already in negotiation with other investors and your VC seems to be the most appropriate for this business model.

  12. Rick

    Obviously the growth numbers speak for themselves, but I don’t quite get it. It’s the same mentality as the people who say they need an iPad for sitting in bed and browsing or watching a movie, a 11″ macbook air for light typing, short travel, a 15″ macbook pro for more heavy duty work, video editing, and an iMac for the full on desktop experience.I don’t understand where Tumblr fits into it all, but there is a herd of people whom it apparently works for between twitter, wordpress, movable type, etc.Still, their site and interface does look pretty cool.

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  14. Guest

    will tumblr kill off blogging or make blogging a more niche tool

    1. RJ Johnston

      both are niche tools

  15. Mike

    Blog idea suggestion from yesterday’s post. What are Investors’ responsibilities to their LP’s, the company shareholders, the creditors and employees when a company is running out of cash but still has hope for a liquidity event or new investor? How close to the edge do you go?

    1. fredwilson

      The law requires the board to start acting in the best interests of thecreditors once the company becomes insolvent

    2. fredwilson

      The law requires the board to start acting in the best interests of thecreditors once the company becomes insolvent

  16. David Noël

    I had the chance to meet David and speak with him a few times when in NYC and he’s as passionate about the product in 1:1 conversations as he is in this video. I’ve said before that I’m a huge fan of both the product and the team.