In conversation with David Karp, CEO & Founder of Tumblr

David Karp, CEO of Tumblr with his new iPad Mini

David Karp is the co-founder and chief executive officer of New York City-based social sharing platform, Tumblr. He was speaking speakers at our second RoadMap conference held earlier this month, where he discussed the future of his company, creativity and sharing with my colleague Mathew Ingram.

I remember meeting Karp days before he launched and it was amazing to hear that Tumblr now has 120 people. It is clocking 20 billion page views a month, has about 80.8 million blogs and over 35.7 billion total posts and gets about 165 million unique visitors every month. In between various on-stage duties, I got a chance to catch up with David and here are some notes from our conversation, mostly scribbled on my scratch pad.

Tumblr’s role in the social ecosystem

If you look at Facebook (s fb), Pinterest and Twitter, you can see they are all focused on helping you find things. Instagram, YouTube (s goog) and Tumblr are about helping people create things. So far, there has been a lot of emphasis on a social web that allows you to find and share things. With the new mobile hardware platforms and an app-driven creative open system, it means that we are going to see a lot more focus on platforms that help you create.

Big web companies – Facebook, Twitter, and Google are not going to put a lot of emphasis on creating. Tumblr is helping discover creators like One Direction. Just like YouTube helped create Justin Beiber.

Instagram shows you how to create good photos and share them. It is not really publishing. Tumblr is not about publishers, but it is more about creators. Classic blogging has roots in publishing.

Tumblr’s Mobile Challenge

Like pretty much every web company, the big question we wrestle with is that as mobile hardware becomes more powerful, we are forced to think about the future of websites. It is pretty clear they are less important on mobile platforms. Tumblr is focusing on mobile apps. One of the things we know is that nearly 75 percent of traffic on Tumblr is to our dashboard. So it is a top priority to make that experience beautiful on Tumblr.

[Tumblr recently upgraded its iOS app with a simplified and an elegant interface that makes it easy for folks to create from their phones. The company will continue to develop  mobile apps for multiple mobile platforms. – Ed.]

On iPad Mini

I am over laptops and the posture that comes with them. I am coding a lot less, so I use my computers a lot less. I still want to simplify even further and carry just one device. So, I want to try the iPad Mini with cellular antenna as my only device and as a phone replacement, and use Skype and/or Google Voice instead.

On his role at the company & how it has changed

I have great investors and great mentors and four years ago I listened to them a lot, because it was all new to me. I feel more confident four years later. I have not committed any code for a year, and instead I focus on giving feedback to the team in a constructive way. My role has changed from being a product director to chief motivator. I try and keep the team focused on positive things.

Most important lesson learnt

One of the big lessons I have learned as a Founder and/or CEO is that you can’t waffle or not be focused, because it weakens productivity. It defocuses the team, because they take cues from you. I have gotten better at focusing and staying on target.

Here’s Karp in conversation with Mathew Ingram at RoadMap: