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High School Dropout To Tech Titan

Maia Samuel
Off the Cuff

David Karp built his first business at 11 years old. It wasn’t a lemonade stand.

Instead, he designed websites for his clients, years before he could drive or legally drink in a bar with them. Then in 2007, at 21, Karp founded Tumblr, the blogging platform and social networking website. Tumblr now hosts more than 85 million blogs, which in turn receive more than 18 billion page views per month.

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Being a boy wonder in business has its challenges though, as he said during an “Off The Cuff” interview. “Just the idea that literally this 13-year-old kid was asking for a contract…sending out an invoice and jumping on the phone …it terrified me. There were moments where I would have my dad call and pretend to be me because I knew I sounded like a kid on the phone.”

Like many famous tech titans, Karp dropped out of school to build his business. But in his case, it was high school. He was home-schooled at 15, then skipped college altogether. His mother, a science teacher and his father, a Manhattan-based composer supported his decision.

“I was faced with this really interesting opportunity to … just jump into the exact kind of stuff that I wanted to do and … sort of staying in school and trying to extract as much knowledge... it didn’t really make as much sense,” he said.

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That said Karp doesn’t rule out going to college in the future and said he would never advise anyone to drop out.

While social networking is his business, Karp says he’s careful about what he broadcasts to the blogosphere. As he said on “Off The Cuff”, “There is definitely stuff that happens to me in my real life that I don’t want to put out there.”