Tumblr founder visits VCU for Mass Comm. month

Mechelle Hankerson

News Editor

25-year-old Tumblr founder David Karp dropped out of high school in 2002 and now runs one of the most popular international blogging sites. Karp delivered the Turpin Lecture on Media Management for the beginning of VCU's Mass Comm. Month. Photo by Amber-Lynn Taber.


David Karp was 17 years old when

he began his own development firm,

Davidville. Throughout the course of

two years, Karp began thinking about

blogging and how to create a blog that

worked for him.

Karp said the two-year process was

a “largely accidental evolution” that

created a site for him to use a personal

blogging platform.

Tumblr, the site that came from

Karp’s self-described “selfish” development

process, now hosts more than 50

million blogs with more than 20 billion

posts since Karp founded the site in


Karp visited VCU Monday night to

deliver the Turpin Lecture on Media

Management to kick off the School of

Mass Communications’ Mass Comm.


Karp discussed the evolution of the

popular site and how it went from being

his way of creating a blogging platform

that fit his needs to one of the most

popular platforms on the internet, gen erating

more than 600 posts a second.

In 2011, Tumblr opened its second

office in Richmond and has drawn on

VCU to help staff its 30-person support


According to Karp, Tumblr’s support

team (run strictly out of Richmond’s office)

has the fastest response time of any

comparable site, which includes sites

like LinkedIn and Facebook.

VCU alumnae, Renee Perron, class of

2010 and Tess Shebaylo, class of 2004,

are both support managers at the local

Tumblr office. They said Tumblr’s goal is

always to best serve its users.

“I think we can echo what David said

about designing for himself and blogging

for himself, asking what kind of

features do I want to see, what kind of

features do I want to use … (and) keeping

Tumblr very pure,” Shebaylo said.

Before Karp opened an office in

Richmond, he had Richmond local

Mark LaFontaine working with him

remotely. Logistically, Karp said it made

sense to open the support office where

LaFontaine was already doing the work,

but Richmond also fit the many criteria

for being an operational part of the

Tumblr family.

“We needed to recruit people who

not only understand social media and

this generation of tools but also really

understand the technology, ” Karp said.

“(We also wanted) very sympathetic

humans who can appreciate the nuance

of community issues and make really

smart tactful decisions in very complicated


Tumblr support also hosts about a

dozen different languages that allow

international users to get responses

in their native language. According

to Karp, all support correspondence,

regardless of what language it is, comes

from the Richmond office.

“We just had so much luck finding a

town full of people who match all that

criteria across the board (in Richmond),”

Karp said.

Shebaylo said Richmond’s thriving

creative community also made it a good

fit for the constantly evolving microblogging


“Richmond has always been full of innovators,

and I’d love to see it get back

to that … (especially) in social media,”

she said.

While Karp discussed how Tumblr is

constantly changing (he said developers

will be focusing on cleaning up corporate

pages on the site), he said the site

just reached a milestone: It officially has

100 employees and has new teams working

in Berlin and Brazil.

VCU’s Mass Comm month continues

on April 12, with a celebration of the

25th anniversary of the Virginia Communications

Hall of Fame.

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