For the past several weeks, there’s been a lot of talk about a large new round of funding that the social startup Tumblr was raising. That culminated today with a report in Fortune with numbers on the round. We had been hearing very similar numbers — around $25 million on a $100 million pre-money evaluation — but it turns out those numbers were likely low, we had heard from sources close to the funding.
But while the numbers are still a bit up in the air, we do know that as Fortune and Business Insider reported earlier, Sequoia Capital is leading this new round. And we’ve heard that previous investors Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures are on board once again. Further, like Business Insider, we’re hearing that Sequoia’s Roelof Botha will join Tumblr’s Board as a part of this investment, which will likely close in the next couple of weeks.
We spoke with Tumblr founder David Karp earlier today, and while he declined to comment on any of the funding news, he did offer up some other details about the company, and where they’re heading.
First of all, Tumblr just opened a new office in New York City. For the past several months they were working at capacity at their old office, with a team of 12. But with the new space that Karp says is roughly four times as big, they’ve already expanded to 16 people now. And they’ll be at 20 employees before the end of the year, Karp says.
Given the growth Tumblr is seeing, it’s pretty incredible that they’ve been able to keep up with only a team of 12, but Karp admits that it has been a challenge. And they’re now putting the focus on ramping up hiring to make sure they can keep pace. He expects they’ll be at 30 employees by early next year, most of them engineers, essentially tripling the size of the company in just a few short months.
If you’re wondering how they’re paying for this hiring spree, see: above.
Karp notes that he worked really hard to keep the team small up until this point, to keep everyone focused, but says that they now have so many directions that they want to go in, that they need more people. One of those is a new Director of Product, Derek Gottfrid, who they nabbed from The New York Times, as we first reported last week.
Another new hire is Rich Tong, a co-founder of Weardrobe, which sold to Like.com in late 2009. Tong is Tumblr’s first specialized community director, leading the fashion community. This is a key area of focus for Tumblr going forward as this community makes up a full 16 percent of Tumblr’s most popular sites, Karp says.
He notes that in the next few months, a huge focus for Tumblr will be how to better cater to the creative communities they’ve attracted. Fashion, film, photography, these are all hugely important to the platform, he says. Karp believes that focusing on them will help separate them from that other social network, Facebook, which has not done a good job of handling these specialized communities so far. In fact, Karp considers Facebook to be “arguably hostile” towards them.
Tumblr wants to be “the best place in the world for the best creative communities,” Karp says. He wouldn’t give any specifics about what they’re thinking about doing here, just that it’s a key area of focus.
Karp declined to disclose any sort of revenue numbers, but does say that they’re making a good amount just from the theme community alone. Tumblr currently sells customized themes, created by the community, at a variety of prices. They split the revenues with the theme creators at an “App Store-like split”, but it is a tiered system. The more expensive the theme, the more generous the split is, he says.
When the new money comes in, you can probably expect Tumblr to continue to focus on scaling and the product short term, rather than any big money-making schemes, is what I’m hearing. You know, the Twitter model.
[photo: flickr/David Karp]
Tumblr is a re-envisioning of tumblelogging, a subset of blogging that uses quick, mixed-media posts. The service hopes to do for the tumblelog what services like LiveJournal and Blogger did for the blog. The difference is that its extreme simplicity will make luring users a far easier task than acquiring users for traditional weblogging. Anytime a user sees something interesting online, they can click a quick “Share on Tumblr” bookmarklet that then tumbles the snippet directly. The result is...
Tumblr founder David Karp was born and raised in New York City, attending the Bronx High School Science before dropping out at age 15. An internship at Frederator Studios led to a gig leading product at UrbanBaby. When CNET acquired the company in 2005, Karp started his own development agency, Davidville. In 2007 his team launched Tumblr, now the home and platform for more than 100 million creators. As a top 15 US network, Tumblr serves an audience of...
Sequoia Capital is a venture capital firm founded by Don Valentine in 1972. The Wall Street Journal has called Sequoia Capital “one of the highest-caliber venture firms” and noted that it is “one of Silicon Valley’s most influential venture-capital firms”. It invests between $100,000 and $1 million in seed stage, between $1 million and $10 million in early stage, and between $10 million and $100 million in growth stage. The firm has offices in the U.S., China, India and...
Roelof Botha is a partner at Sequoia Capital, and works with a broad range of companies. Some democratize technology access (Square, Eventbrite, Unity, Nimbula); some create global user communities (YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram); and others disrupt markets through innovative business models (Evernote, Weebly, Xoom). Roelof also sits on the boards of Aliph, Mahalo, and TokBox. Roelof is a champion of consumer Web plays and considers himself as “just another consumer.” Roelof led the initial financing of YouTube on behalf...