Wednesday, January 23, 2013

High school dropout pursues passions and becomes a multimillionaire

David Karp began learning HTML at 11 and soon after was designing websites for local businesses. Unlike Nick Perez who spent years being drugged and tortured in a school that didn’t understand his particular passion, Karp attended high school for one year before dropping out.  This allowed him to focus on doing projects that enabled him to pursue his passions. 

He also knew this would be a good way to impress colleges. As was popular in America prior to the days of compulsory schooling and the infantalization of youth, Karp worked on projects he loved, found mentors, and began apprenticing in areas that aligned with his passion. Ironically, Karp didn’t need to impress colleges since after taking ownership of his learning he realized he didn’t need school for success.  

Karp began interning at age 14 for animation producer Fred Seibert because he was fascinated with the work of Frederator's computer engineers. He also began taking Japanese classes at the Japan Society and saw a math tutor, with whom he worked on writing software for winning at blackjack and poker. When entrepreneur John Maloney sought technical help with UrbanBaby, an online parenting forum, a Frederator employee recommended Karp for the job. Karp took on the job at age 17 and received equity in the company.  He left after it was sold to CNET and used the money from the sale of his shares to start his own software consultancy company. 

At the time he was hoping a blogging platform would introduce a tumblelogging platform (short-form blogs). No one had so in between projects he launched Tumblr which currently hosts over 87 million blogs and helps him reap in a pretty penny affording him the ability to live in a $1.6 million loft in New York City.  

Imagine what could be if more people had the guts to break from the status quo, learn in the world with mentors and from apprenticeships and then spend those years when brains are ripe with energy and creative talent to bring their passions to life.  


  1. Hi Lisa: What is your source for saying "As was popular in America prior to the days of compulsory schooling and the infantalization of youth, Karp worked on projects he loved, found mentors, and began apprenticing in areas that aligned with his passion"? I was always under the impression that prior to compulsory schooling child labor (factories, farms) was the norm, along with apprenticeship (not necessarily aligned with the apprentice's area of passion, but out of economic necessity). Thanks.

    1. A current project I am working on is an eBook called "The Uncomfortable History of Schooling in America." It is there that I have this information with all sorts of sources. The entire eBook will be published for free on my blog as a part of a series.

      As far as child labor...
      Yes, we like to scare society into believing that there are two options. What we have, or god forbid!, child labor. Yes, child labor is wrong, but it is not the ugly result of life w/out school.

      There were many successful people in our country's past who were neither forced to go to school nor forced to do child labor.

  2. That's a great story, but I can come up with at least 20 stories like that from kids who stayed in school and thrived in the atmosphere of public schooling. My point is that public education has its place and is a great way for the majority to explore learning. There are some, however, who are very intelligent but don't fit into the education system provided. Whether or not a student is in a public school or self-educates, they can be a success. The path to the education may differ, but the product is the same --- if you work hard to learn, you will be successful.

    1. While certainly there are some that thrive in a culture of high stakes drill, kill, and bubblefill, that does not mean it is what is best for success in life. Additionally, we have an institution where 1/3 dropout and the most common words to describe the experience is boring and irrelevant. I hardly call this success.

      The point of this post however, is that school is no place for a young person with a deep passion. It should not be the case that in order for a young person to pursue their passions and develop their talents, they must leave school. Schools should be places that foster this type of growth and development.