What millionaires dropped out of high school

Tumblr founder: The start-up millionaire with no high school diploma

David Karp is 26 years old. And recently a quarter of a billion dollars richer. This is how high his share in the sale of the Tumblr blog platform he founded to Yahoo should be. The deal placed him in an elite circle of start-up millionaires who made their fortune before their 30th birthday.

Home schooling instead of Harvard

Until then, however, his life path did not lead him through elite universities such as Harvard, where Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, for example, had started his ascent. On the contrary, Karp doesn't even have a high school diploma. Sometimes "to blame" for it: His mother, Barbara Ackermann.

At 14, Karp was bored with classes at the Bronx High School of Science. He spent most of his free time in front of his computer screen. But instead of releasing him from the same and sending him out into the fresh air, his mother decided on a completely different path.

"During the day he was in school and then all night in front of the computer," Ackermann tells the New York Times. "It soon became clear that David needed more freedom to live his passion. And they were computers, everything that had to do with computers." With her sanctuary, Karp finally left school and was taught at home from then on.

Polarizing whiz kid

In the following years he developed into a busy web entrepreneur and participated in several start-ups. "When I first met David, he was 20 and wore sneakers and jeans," said Spark Capital venture capitalist Bijan Sabet, who was one of Tumblr's early investors. "But I knew he was one of the few entrepreneurs who grew with the web, came up with an idea and could put it into practice themselves."

Karp polarized too. He was admired for his programming skills and web design, and for his now party-intensive lifestyle and blog posts about his private life, he once again earned the name "Fameball" on Gawker - a derogatory term for people who are accused of being obsessed.

From school dropout to tech visionary

After leaving school, he first moved to Next New Network, a web video company run by MTV's first creative director, Fred Seibert. Karp's mother made the contact. If he was only there a few days a week at first, after finishing his regular school career he was in the office every day and quickly became an indispensable employee.

One day Seibert hired him to build a new website for the company. Two weeks later, his protégé informed him that he had not done that. Instead, Karp pulled a PlayStation Portable out of his pocket, held it under Seibert's nose and told him that his idea, "so 2000", was out of date. Because Apple would soon release an iPod with video functionality and that is the way in which people would consume such content in the future.

Next New Networks was among the first video products available on iTunes at the end of the day and was later acquired by Google for $ 50 million.

Bumpy Tumblr start

Karp then worked for various small tech companies in New York and switched from there to a start-up in Tokyo. After his return, he would become chief technology officer for the parenting platform "UrbanBaby", which was taken over by CNet in 2006. That brought him several hundred thousand dollars, which he promptly invested in his own company "Davidville". Their first project was a simple blog platform: Tumblr. Seibert also invested in the platform and is still on the company's supervisory board to this day.

However, Tumblr's birth was not entirely free of complications. Inexperienced in managing a company and firmly convinced that many companies are too big for their own needs, he sometimes had problems interviewing job prospects at the beginning. But Karp matured together with the web service, which has now been used millions of times, says its PR manager Mark Coatney. Even though his role as CEO has been questioned more than once.

"I'm definitely an introvert"

Karp now lives with his girlfriend and a dog in a $ 1.6 million loft in Brooklyn. He's not currently planning to leave New York or Yahoo; his lifestyle has changed again and the young tech icon is a bit more withdrawn. He might want to catch up on his college degree at some point.

In an interview last year he said that he likes to come to the office early so that he can work alone for a while. "I feel most productive and challenged when I can bury myself in code or a project, or tinker with a design. I'm definitely an introvert." (red, derStandard.at, May 21, 2013)