Tumblr’s Roadmap Heads Straight for the Creative Community

Tumblr founder David Karp showed up yesterday to christen his company’s new office in Richmond, Virginia.

At the opening celebration, the popular blogging platform’s founder spoke extensively about the startup’s plans for the future — plans that definitely set it apart from the product-focused startup scene on the West Coast and plans that will make the most of the company’s recent $30 million round of funding.

In an interview with local writer Johnny Hugel, Karp said that community — a huge part of Tumblr’s success so far — would play a larger role than product in the near future.

He’s even making community management, especially in creative communities such as fashion and film, a central goal for Tumblr.

“You look in fashion, creative writing, photography, music, so many of these creative circles,” said Karp, “and we have these really substantial communities that now live on Tumblr.

Tumblr has, in the past, put on events like concerts and film festivals around those groups. “They did wonderful things for the communities… resonated through the industries and brought attention to all of the stuff that was happening on Tumblr,” Karp continued.

“So that’s something that we want to get better at doing this next year… I imagine that by the end of this year, that’ll end up being maybe be half of our team.”

One new hire who will be working extensively in events and community is Rich Tong, Tumblr’s fashion director. We’re not aware of any other startup outside of the fashion world that has a fashion director; but we suppose that’s the point: Tumblr doesn’t see itself as being outside the fashion world or any other creative community.

Tong founded Weardrobe, a social fashion site that was acquired by Google mid-2010. In addition to being a good product guy with an entrepreneurial bent, Karp says, “He also has the fashion vocabulary, so unlike everybody else at Tumblr, he can go into that community and say, ‘Well, why do you use Tumblr? What could we be doing better? What’s the most interesting stuff that’s going on right now, and where do we find it?’”

Karp said he expects to make as many as 70 new hires before the end of 2011 — a move that would more than triple the startup’s current staff.

As far as product goes, Karp says engineers are still focused on creating the best experience possible. Soon, he said, “directories are getting a major overhaul.” In keeping with the company’s focus on community, Karp also expects to release some custom tools around film festivals and major fashion events.

We’ve also have a shiny new iPad app to look forward to, and mobile apps will also continue to be a focus of the company, whose mobile dev team all reside in Richmond and will be holding court at the new offices.

Can a strong focus on the creative communities help Tumblr continue to compete against forces like WordPress and Posterous? This NYC-based startup’s approach to community is quite different from what we’ve seen in other corners of the world, but for this product and this platform’s users, it just might work.

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