Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Tumblr Falls Into a Really Big Pile of Money

Tumblr, the super-hot blogging service, has finished up a very, very big funding round that’s going to put the company’s value well above $100 million.

Fortune.com’s Dan Primack reports that Sequoia is leading a round that will add “between $25 million and $30 million” in funding at a valuation “in the ballpark of $135 million.”

Someone familiar with the transaction tells me that Primack’s numbers are “not a bad guess.” And it’s possible the numbers will end up somewhere higher than his report. Another source tells me that the round will end up bringing in between $20 million and $30 million, at a pre-money valuation of $120 million. That would put Tumblr’s value at $140 million or more.

In any case, it’s a lot of money. And as wise Om Malik says, “Investors are never the story.” (Except when they are. And what’s really relevant here is that at these prices, the list of potential Tumblr acquirers gets much smaller: Google, sure. Facebook, perhaps. Yahoo, theoretically, etc.)

The real story for Tumblr remains the one we’ve asked every other time the company has raised money ($4.5 million in 2008; $5 million earlier this year): How’s it going to make money? Founder David Karp has offered several different ideas in the past, but as far as I can tell, none of them have really taken off (the fact that big publishers like Newsweek now maintain Tumblr sites, which are free to set up, does not constitute a business).

Best I can tell, the real appeal for Tumblr is its go-go growth, and the fact that it’s doing it on a very light footprint. But don’t take my word for it: Ask Spark Capital’s Bijan Sabet and Union Square Ventures’ Fred Wilson, who have been the primary investors in the company to date and who both wrote glowingly about the company in recent days.

Presumably, the company’s pitch to investors went something like this: “Look at our hockey stick! Hockey sticks like this only come around a few times a lifetime–perhaps you’ve heard of Twitter?” That is: Buy now, and we’ll figure out money later.

And it looks like it worked.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work