A Q&A with Tumblr Guru (and former Richmonder) Marc LaFountain

Rhudy & Co. recently sat down with former Tumblr Vice President of Support Marc LaFountain to discuss the rise of the social media powerhouse, how Marc has played a role, and his vision for the future.

In Part 1, learn about how Marc went from raving fan to Tumblr employee and its transition and growth in Richmond.

Marc LaFountain Q. Tell me about your history with Tumblr and how you became part of its team.

A. Tumblr was created in February 2007. I started using it in April of that year. I was one of the first 19,000 users of Tumblr.

At the time, it was just two guys working up in Manhattan. David Karp, the founder, and Marco Arment was the other one, and he was kind of the lead developer and PGO of Tumblr.

I reached out to them, probably in early Q4 of 2007 to kind of gently say “Hey, looking at what I’m seeing in the community; it really looks like most people don’t feel like their support emails are being responded to.” I said, “You know I get it you are two guys and have to design everything, code everything, test everything, keep the site up, fundraise, do media relations, it just went on and on and on. I’m sure you don’t really have the time to be doing tech support. I have kind of the help desk and IT background, and I’m one of your earlier and more passionate users. I’d really love to help you out with this even if it’s on a part-time consulting basis.”

And so, to my surprise, David Karp read that email and responded to me right away. He decided that in December of 2007 I would start working for Tumblr as a part-time consultant doing support work.

Q. What led to the continued growth and the big expansion in Richmond a few years ago?

A. I went full time in April 2008 and probably a year or so after that it had gotten too big for me full time. So we decided that we needed a second person to do support, and since I was Richmond based, it made sense for that person to be in Richmond.

I am a Richmond fan. If you look at the universities we have in and around Richmond and if you look at the Fortune 500 companies that are either based in this area or have significant presence in this area, you just have a crazy variety of people and skills here.

I had already worked in IT capacities at Capital One, for example, so some of our earlier support hires in Richmond were people that I had worked with or had at least heard of. At Capital One a lot of those people knew others they had worked with, and so a lot of it was kind of leveraging our own social networks to hire people that we knew would be good for these roles.

Q. Are you in charge of all the support in Richmond or how does that work?

A. I was the vice president of support, so I had two managers and then a bunch of folks under them who do tech support in Richmond. Then, I had a trust and safety manager and he manages six folks that deal with the abuse issues on Tumblr.

I ran the support group until October of this year. My wife got an amazing job in Switzerland, so we have now moved there. Now, I consult for Tumblr part time. With my departure, the managers who were reporting to me have been promoted to director roles and given additional responsibilities.

Q. How big is Tumblr?

We have about 106 employees and 80 million blogs in our community.

Next week, catch part 2 of our interview with Marc LaFountain to learn more about how Tumblr is handling the mobile movement and some tips on how you can best use the platform.