A look back at the early days of Tumblr

Tumblr is getting a fair amount of attention these days.

During the past year, the growth has been quite significant. Last week Erick over at TechCrunch wrote about the growth and posted this graph. 

It’s amazing and a pleasure having a front row seat to watch this team in action. 

Fred wrote a post about this years Tumblr growth and as usual its a great one. Go read it if you haven’t already.  

I think it’s also important to take a look at the early days of Tumblr when the service was growing but not a crazy non-linear way at all. 

I’m on a plane right now so I don’t have a chart of those early days with me but just take a look at the above chart from Oct 2009 to March 2010. It’s will give you an idea of what I’m talking about. 

Together with USV, we co-led the first seed investment in the company in the fall of 2007. Here’s David’s post at the time announcing the initial investment along with some product improvements. (I love reading early startup posts about new features at the time. It’s such a thrill).

During the first 12-15 months following the investment we saw user growth for sure. But it wasn’t a significant steep curve by any measure. I believe we had something like 450k registered users by the end of 2008. That’s impressive considering it was just David and Marco but it wasn’t earth shattering.

I think there are a number of lessons worth sharing when I look back on those days.

-Burn rate. David raised $750k initially and it lasted about 18months.

-Iterate. David and Marco did everything during that first year. They fixed bugs, experimented, added new things and kept true to their principles of simplicity, design and ease of use.

-Patience. Patience by the team and the investors. Not every company has the YouTube hockey stick. In fact most don’t as things are rarely up and to right. It’s important to look at the metrics, pay attention to the early users/community, look at the engagement and combine all that with your gut and confidence in the team.

-Mobile. Tumblr didn’t have a great mobile experience in the early days. It really wasn’t a mobile product. They didn’t have their own iphone app and the iPhone itself was EDGE only back then. How different things are today!

-Believe. David always had the belief that he could build Tumblr the company and the product into something special. And so did we.