Tumblr Founder David Karp Talks ‘Building Tools For Creativity’ At SXSW


26-year-old Tumblr founder and CEO, David Karp, took the stage at SXSW interactive yesterday for a Fireside Chat to discuss “building tools for creativity.” The chat primarily focused on Tumblr’s history and the role it has played in allowing new media content creators to share and curate content for the web.

When asked about how Tumblr got started, Karp said that he started it in 2005 as a simple tool he built for himself. Karp explained that he had tried other tools but became frustrated by their limitations.

The Tumblr founder went on to say that he realized most blogs were designed for writers. Karp explained that he tried other blogging formats that were available at the time (WordPress, Blogger, etc.), but never felt as if any were the right fit for him because the emphasis was always on writing and he wanted to focus on multimedia content.

With Tumblr, he consolidated all the content into one place very easily, which became a tool to help people easily express themselves and act as a representation of their online identity.

When asked about the site’s phenomenal growth, Karp reflected back and modestly admitted that he had no intention or idea it would rise to such popularity. He figured a few friends might enjoy the tool, so he posted the first version, and within a month Tumblr had hundreds of thousands of users


Karp attributes much of the site’s success to that early community which “rose to the occasion and created blogs that didn’t look like any other blogs.”

This engagement convinced him that he should nurture it and continue to iterate on the platform. What he saw and sought to nurture was the use of Tumblr as a tool for curation, which in itself can be a creative process. For Karp, Tumblr facilitates two key behaviors: social behavior to share and human behavior to curate (what to wear, posting of photos, etc.).

Karp explains:

“Many of us are not the creators, but they’re [the creators] creative and compel us and pass on to us as colors and words we use to express ourselves.”

The founder spoke about his belief that one of the things that makes Tumblr so unique is its vibrant community. For a long time in early versions, comments were lacking, but Karp felt like YouTube comments were horrible and that design influences how people interact and what they say.


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