- Our Story|
- Faculty and staff|
- Public Relations|
Tumblr Founder David Karp delivered the annual Turpin Lecture at the School of Mass Communications on Tuesday evening, kicking off Mass Communications Month on campus. Karp captured his VCU audience with a personal overview on his career, from dropping out of high school at age 15 to founding Tumblr at 19 and the rapid growth and multimillion dollar investments of venture capital in recent months.
By Samra Khawaja and Manhatten Royal
“We’ve had so much luck finding those talented people to kind of match all those criteria across the board here,” Karp said. “We’re so grateful to set up a hub here.” Located close to the VCU campus, many students who have graduated from here now work for the company.
“I feel very honored to have been a VCU alumna and now to be working for Tumblr. It’s great to show up to this event to see so many people support what we’re doing,” said Tumblr employee Kristin Vamenta. Other former VCU students working for Tumblr also include Renee Perron, Catherine Leth and Tess Shebaylo
“We are trying to hire a real diversity of people,” said Karp. The diverse talent Richmond offers helps Tumblr to manage the community support for its international expansion and to serve international users who speak different languages.
While Tumblr’s headquarters are located in New York, the community support service is located in the Old Manchester District, just south of downtown Richmond. Currently, the Richmond office has 30 employees, many of which came to the event at VCU on Tuesday to hear their 25-year-old boss lay out the vision for the company.
“Today we have about a dozen languages we offer native language support for. Right now all of that served from Richmond,” Karp said. “You e-mail Tumblr in Japanese asking for help with a bookmarklet, you get a response usually within minutes in Japanese from a native Japanese in Richmond, Virginia.”
“We wanted to round out the background experience of people on our team, so that we get more people who’ve seen more things to help us through all the stuff I haven’t seen yet or the other Tumblr’s haven’t seen yet,” Karp said.
Chris Mohney, editor-in- chief at Tumblr, said events like the Turpin Lecture give Karp a chance to interact with Tumblr enthusiasts. Since many of the Tumblr users are young people, this type of interaction is most valuable to Karp. The Turpin Lecture is held to honor former VCU professor Bill Turpin. This year, VCU Professor Marcus Messner and Marc LaFountain, who heads Tumblr’s Richmond office, invited Karp to fly down from New York. 200 students, faculty and media professionals came to listen to Karp.
“Most people anticipate his Q&A and I think he does too, because there’s certainly value in giving this long perspective on the company,” Mohney said. Karp’s personable attitude got the crowd’s attention throughout the event and as he wrapped up the evening, he said his favorite feature on Tumblr was having the ability to look at things from another person’s eyes.
For Karp, the creative end of Tumblr feeds him energy and excitement to build his “technology hub,” but when the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) bills threatened the expressive website earlier this year, Karp saw the website getting a lot of attention.
It was Karp’s novel idea to build Tumblr that led him to become a nominee for TIME magazine’s Most Influential People. Yet Karp doesn’t believe he deserves to be on that list.
“There are a lot of stupid lucky things that got me from one step to another,” Karp said. At the same time, Karp admits that he has had great mentors to guide him through his success and is privileged to be doing what he is doing.
“Getting to build things that hundreds of millions of people are using is incredible and is something that we do not take for granted,” Karp said.
Please also read the following stories on the event with Tumblr Founder David Karp:
“Tumblr founder builds expansion on Richmond’s diverse tech talents” (CBS 6, with photo slideshow and video interviews)
“Tumblr founder is committed to Richmond office” (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
“From High School Dropout to Entrepreneur” (VCU News)
“Tumblr founder visits VCU for Mass Comm. month” (Commonwealth Times)
An earlier version of this story was published by the authors on WTVR.com. Samra Khawaja and Manhatten Royal are journalism students at the School of Mass Communications.
Please also view the following Storify, produced by Adjunct Professor Robert Holland: