Tech Titans Not So Proud of Dropping Out of School

A friend of mine asked me to counsel her grandson who doesn’t want to go to college. Instead, he would rather start his new Internet company that is going to focus on healthcare. He really has a good idea but I can’t spell it out. I signed a confidentiality agreement.

The 17-year-old has been talking about this since he was 13. He managed to write a business plan and convince enough angel investors to chip in a total of around $500,000. He is raring to go.

His parents have agreed to let him skip college for a year, but they are convinced that he will never finish his higher education. The grandfather said there is a lot of tension with graduation coming up, and he hates visiting his children and grandchildren while this is still unresolved.

I am meeting with the grandson soon. The date has not been set. I am not afraid of the conversation because I just want to give him my personal experience and that of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and now David Karp. Karp is the founder of Tumblr who just sold his company to Yahoo for $1.1 billion dollars last Friday.

Coincidentally, I am came across a Forbes video interview that asked Karp if he was glad he dropped out of Bronx High School of Science to follow his dream. His answer is profound. I encourage you to watch the video to hear what Karp has to say. First of all, he is very articulate, poised, eloquent, and super cute. All the more reason to listen to his wisdom and be ready to answer any young person who may ask you for advice.

Karp’s answer is pretty much similar to those of the other names I mentioned above. I heard their answers many times over the years. File this for good measure.

If you Google Tumblr or Yahoo you can read all about the acquisition. Every media outlet covered it. Tumblr brings 50 billion blog posts (with 75 million more arriving each day) to Yahoo’s media network and search experiences. Tumblr has more than 300 million monthly unique visitors and 120,000 signups every day. The blogging and social media site is one of the fastest-growing media networks in the world, seeing 900 posts per second and 24 billion minutes spent on its site each month. More than half of Tumblr’s total users are using the mobile app and do an average of seven sessions per day. Its tremendous popularity and engagement among creators, curators, and audiences of all ages brings a significant new community of users to the Yahoo network.

The combination of Tumblr plus Yahoo is expected to grow Yahoo’s audience by 50 percent to more than a billion monthly visitors, and to grow traffic by approximately 20 percent.

I guess that is worth $1.1 billion.

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Isn’t David Karp a cutie?

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I Am A Digital Voyeur

I spent the afternoon yesterday visiting two Internet centric companies in the Gramercy Park, Flatiron districts of Manhattan. I had no idea that Business Insider and Tumblr were steps away from my office on 21st and Broadway. Yes, I should have known, considering my company has been located in the area for a year and a half. I have been so busy working that I never considered canvassing the neighborhood. I knew that when we moved across the street from the Flatiron building we were in the heart of the NYC digital world. That is why I became intrigued by an email I received a few weeks earlier, asking if I wanted to participate in an open house program called Walkabout NYC.

The email said that “Walkabout NYC is a celebration of the technology and entrepreneurial culture in New York City. On Friday May 18, 2012, tech companies behind some of our favorite products will host a citywide open house. Stop by and check out their workspaces, see how they work, and meet the people leading the technology movement in NYC. This is about meeting new people, seeing awesome office spaces, learning about how people work, and having fun. The companies are thrilled to have you visit, and we hope you have a great day exploring!”

Walkabout NYC was founded by Danny Wen and Shawn Liu of Harvest HQ, a time tracking and billing company in SoHo servicing thousands of customers around the world, from freelancers to small businesses to departments within Fortune 500 companies. Danny and Shawn have always enjoyed taking tours of creative and entrepreneurial workspaces. No matter what size, they found that the spaces always fostered inspirational energy. Today, Harvest HQ has become a gathering point where the founders invite others to visit their workspace and share their tools of the trade. Walkabout is also expanding internationally. Voxel, an Internap Company, started a Walkabout in Singapore. The philosophy is the same, inspire people in the local technology community of Singapore to explore the spaces, culture and unique energy of digital companies.

We never had anything like this when I was in the earlier stages of my career. I guess the local Chambers of Commerce had the same premise by gathering businesses to meet each other. Walkabout NYC was different because you got to visit a lot of companies in one afternoon. Most of the people in the hosting companies were busy working, so the visitors actually got to see a true business day. I am still stunned that I spotted Henry Blodget, CEO and Editor-In-Chief of Business Insider, sitting right in the middle of the news room (in my days they called it a city room) typing away. I had just seen him on a TV news show with Eliot Spitzer, the former NY State Attorney General. Both of them were commenting on the recent financial troubles at JP Morgan Chase. Before they started the report, Henry said something like “Nice to be with you under different circumstances” and then got right in to the topic. I thought Henry was referring to the downfall of Spitzer’s political career a few years ago due to his womanizing. If you Google Henry Blodget you will see it was an entirely different situation.

Look closely. Henry Blodget on the right typing away

Henry is someone to be admired. He is a great role model as to how to reinvent yourself and always be of significance. I loved that he was immersed in whatever he was writing and didn’t even know there was a room filled with visitors. Someone from BI confirmed that the workspace he was sitting in was his office. He has two computer screens, one where he sits, the other where he stands. I have never seen anyone stand and write but apparently he does. My friend Adrian Rice from Steelcase should pitch him on their workspace treadmill, which is now a big favorite for those who want to get some exercise while they work.

I was so enamored when I saw Henry working away, I couldn’t wait to get back to the office to write my blog and handle several of the hundreds of tasks I have to do for my PR clients every day. The list is always endless. We all need to be motivated as often as possible. I can’t wait for the next Walkabout NYC.