May 20, 2013

Tumblr's CEO built empire on creativity

The Associated Press

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"It was mostly about figuring out how to make computers do the things that I wanted to see them do," he said.

Though he was enrolled at The Bronx High School of Science, a prestigious New York City public school, attending the school required him to make the long commute to the city's northernmost borough every day. And he found himself wanting more freedom to explore the digital world on his own.

So his parents let him drop out. Instead, Karp embarked on a homeschooling regimen with the help of several tutors, learned to speak Japanese and pursued his digital interests with abandon.

"He needed the time in the day in order to create," said Ackerman, who divorced when her son was a teenager. "And that's what he is. He's a creator."

As popular as Tumblr has become, the service remains unprofitable. And the company has had its share of stumbles.

Advertising has been a missing ingredient because Tumblr, like many online services in their early stages, focused on building a loyal audience before turning its attention to making money. That's why the Yahoo deal is so pivotal for Karp and his small team of creative thinkers.

For now, though, they're basking in the glow of joining forces with an Internet behemoth. As for Karp's mother, she was positively giddy at the prospect of meeting Mayer on Monday night.

"I'll get to talk her ear off about how wonderful David is," Ackerman said. "That's what moms do."


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