David Karp sold his business (Tumblr) for $1.1 billion to Yahoo in May 2013. That is an amazing chapter in a great success story. The bigger question is this: What can we as entrepreneurs learn from David Karp’s success?
If you investigate the way he works, the central theme seems to be doing things very differently than most people. Here are some valuable business lessons from his story we can all learn from.
Lesson #1: Just get started. David started as an intern working for an animation producer when he was only 14 years old. He worked for Fred Seibert who had a company called Federator Networks. David wanted to work there to learn how to about engineering and programming. He went from part time intern to full time employee. David ended up building a new website for Mr. Seibert’s new company, called Next New Networks. Lesson: Sometimes we all wait too long until things are ready, or perfect. We think we need certain certifications or a certain level of experience. Karp seems to do the opposite- just do it and learn as you go. What is it you are waiting for to have permission to do? Maybe you should stop making excuses and just go and do it.
Lesson #2: Be Adventurous. At the age of 17, David moved to Japan because he wanted to learn more about technology. Because he was too young to sign a legal rental agreement he rented it from the U.S., and paid his rent all in advance, so they wouldn’t know how young he was. He also studied Japanese for several months before he moved so he could speak the language. While in Japan, he started working for a US based company. He didn’t tell them that he was 17 or that he was in Japan. Lesson: How many people at the tender age of 17 would be willing to move themselves across the world alone just to learn something new in their field? So are you willing to be adventurous? Are you willing to take risks? What risks if you took them, could make a huge difference in your business?
Lesson #3: Be observant and fascinated. David was always very observant and fascinated by the world around him. He was fascinated that a new word was being used in technology- called a “tumblelog.” This was a shorter version of blogging known as “short form blogging”. He expected that at some point someone would start some sort of platform for the new form of blogging, but no one did. He decided to build one himself. That became the company Tumblr, which he eventually sold for 1.1 billion. Lesson: Do you observe and watch what is going on around you and the hot new trends? Years ago, Blockbuster ignored the idea of Netflix and streaming video, and it cost them their business. Do you look for new ideas and opportunities? Maybe your company could be the next big thing.
Lesson #4: Maybe you don’t have to follow the rules– David Karp was always non- conformist. He dropped out of school at 14 (with his Mom’s support). He was home schooled so he could concentrate on his passion- programming and writing code. After his technology company was successful, he decided not to follow the expected path of technology companies and move to Silicon Valley. Instead, he stayed in New York. In his view it was best for his company not to be in Silicon Valley. Lesson: What are the rules you think you must follow that maybe, just maybe you don’t have to? Maybe it a matter of changing your mindset. What if you zigged when everyone else was zagging?
Those are some remarkable ideas you can learn from a 26-year-old billionaire. The big question is, what will you do now?