NEW YORK – As a teenager, Tumblr CEO David Karp would canvass the streets of New York City’s Upper West Side, offering to build websites for local businesses. After his freshman year of high school, the precocious, computer-savvy kid decided to drop out altogether to devote more time to his passion for technology.
A few years later, Karp built Tumblr – the wildly popular blogging forum – from his tiny childhood bedroom, hunched over his laptop with bags of Tostitos. And on Saturday, the 26-year-old technology wunderkind returned home to inform his mother that, in a game-changing transaction, Yahoo was buying Tumblr for $1.1 billion.
There were a few tears and lots of hugs, and a lot of excitement, said his mother, Barbara Ackerman. This is something that he built – it’s his baby – and it’s emotional.
The deal was a transcendent moment for Karp, who created one of the world’s busiest websites. It boasts 75 million daily posts and a user base that’s loyal, young and hip. While Facebook has morphed into a mainstream social network where grandparents talk golf, Tumblr is still that little corner of the Internet where the cool kids hang out.
Yahoo said Monday that Karp will remain in control of the service in an effort to retain the same irreverence, wit and commitment to empower creators.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer showered praise on her new employee, saying Karp possesses a rare combination of computer programming prowess and a sense of aesthetics.
He will be one the legends of his generation in terms of an entrepreneur who has really changed the way people express themselves, Mayer 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.
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.
Just shy of his 18th birthday, Karp lived in Japan for several months alone, running technology for the parenting site UrbanBaby. Then he moved back in with his mother, dabbling in various digital startups for several years before alighting on the idea of creating his own blogging platform.
David would come running through the apartment saying, Mom! Mom! There’s this and this and this!’ Ackerman said. And I didn’t know what the heck he was talking about. Because it was a whole other language.