Alexis Ohanian

Alexis Ohanian21 posts

Alexis Ohanian is an American entrepreneur. He co-founded Reddit with Steve Huffman.

Jun 2005

Founded, funded by Y Combinator

Reddit is founded by Huffman and Ohanian both 22-year-old graduates of the University of Virginia. In first year they had rooms across the hall from each other, and became friends through video games.

Huffman wanted to make a phone system to order subs while he was pumping gas at a local gas stand. Ohanian calls a lawyer and they formed a company called RedBrick Solutions, because Charlottesville is full of red brick buildings. In the spring of their senior year they go to Boston to see a presentation by Graham at Harvard called “How to start a start-up”. They were able to get Graham to meet them for drinks at a local bar where they pitched their phone idea. A few days later, Graham tells them to apply for his new investment fund, Y Combinator. The students travel to Boston to pitch, but are rejected. On the way back to Charlottesville Graham calls them to say he wants them to come up with another idea — a web app. They decide to match the mechanism of Delicious with the content of Slashdot to build “the front page to the web”.

Y Combinator gives them $12,000 and they move to Boston in early June, 2005. After a few weeks the site is not ready when Graham links to it from an essay, giving it site 1000 hits. Reddit was the first Y Combinator launch, taking a total of $100,000. To make the site appear popular they populate it with fake posts.

How Reddit Began (feat. Founders Steve Huffman & Alexis Ohanian) | Wizard

31 Oct, 2006

Reddit bought by Condé Nast

Acquisition

Condé Nast Publications acquires Reddit for a reported $20 million. All four Reddit employees relocate from Boston to Wired’s San Francisco office and become part of Wired Digital, which the company bought three months previously. Conde Naste:

Our goal will be to build Reddit as an independent company by collaborating with Wired through the integration of its core technology, and by offering partnerships to allow other companies to do the same.

At this time the site has 70,000 daily unique visitors and approximately 700,000 or so page views.

Indicates $10M-$20M price range for Reddit

Ohanian keeps the exact amount a secret, but appears to confirm the price range.

People ask how much it was for, but I haven’t even told my girlfriend. I tell her, ‘You can Google it, and you’ll find it was between $10 million and $20 million.’

1 Jan, 2007

Swartz leaves Reddit

Swartz is asked to resign from his position at Wired Digital after this boss Chris Anderson is unhappy about him taking too much vacation:

I was unhappy working in an office and didn’t hide it. So I’d come in late and set up lots of off-site meetings and stuff. And my boss wasn’t really thrilled about that.

One of the places I went to in Europe was the Chaos Computer Conference. And while I was there my friend Quinn Norton took my photo for one of her articles and it was featured on wired.com’s front page. “Heh,” I joked. “I bet the first time my boss finds out where I am is when he sees my photo on the front page of his own website.”

Ironically, Swartz boss did not see the photo on Wired’s front page – he saw the reference to the photo that Swartz’s put on his blog.

In a 2007 speech, Swartz described himself as being ‘miserable’ after moving to San Francisco when his company was purchased by the publishing giant Conde Nast.

I couldn’t stand San Francisco. I couldn’t stand office life. ‘I took a long Christmas vacation. I got sick. I thought of suicide. I ran from the police. And when I got back on Monday morning, I was asked to resign.

2008

Starts Breadpig

Ohanian founds Breadpig. Breadpig publishes books featuring some of the most popular webcomics in the world (like XKCD and SMBC), and produces other geeky novelties like Awesomesauce and LOLmagnetz. The non-sustainable profits are donated to worthy causes.

Breadpig donates profits to organizations and individuals that make the world less sucky. We spend the rest of our time discovering and promoting fascinating technology, hacks, and ideas from all over the world that inspire and impress us.

4 Jun, 2009

Mixergy interview

Interview

Ohanian talks about how Y Combinator helped shape the idea for Reddit in the early stages:

We approached Y Combinator … with an idea that would transform the way you order food, specifically using a cell phone to do so.  They didn’t really like the idea.  They liked us, but they hated the idea.

They still didn’t have a firm idea, but sat down with Graham and talked about a site that would filter the most interesting web content.

…it was in that conversation with Paul where we developed this idea for creating a way to find out what’s new online.

The idea morphed into the final product:

All the actual mechanics of how that would work, basically happened in the next few weeks, while Steve [Huffman] and I were in a crap apartment, in Bedford, Massachusetts, playing a lot of Warcraft.

2010

YC Founders at Work: Reddit

Interview

Livingston interviews Ohanian about the early days of Reddit. Livingston asks about the “Chicken and egg” problem of building a community with no initial users:

This is one that I have no hesitation in saying, but it always stirs up a lot of controversy. Steve [Huffman] built a really simple system for admins, that is Steve and me, so that when we submitted a link also let us type in a user name. It let us easily and efficiently create lots of fake users. And we were able to browbeat a few of our friends to build up comments. But the rest of our friends and family could not be begged or bribed enough to do it really consistently. The only option we had to resort to was to fake it. But we didn’t have to do it for too long because Paul [Graham] did us a big favor  by [profiling us] us in an early essay.

It was at some point about three or four weeks into it that neither Steve or I had to submit or vote on anything, and the site just worked…We could spend the day just lurking on Reddit, that is just using it like the vast majority of people do and not actually generate content. That was huge. That was when we realized, maybe we haven’t wasted this summer and we had a legitimate community.

6 Sep, 2011

Splits from Condé Nast

Reddit splits from Condé Nast, and now operates as a subsidiary of Condé Nast’s parent company, Advance Publications. Ohanian return to the board. At this time the site serves 1.5 billion page views per month.

30 May, 2012

Inc. interview

Interview

Ohanian tells the magazine about his conversation with Graham after Y Combinator rejected his initial pitch:

The next morning, on the train back to Virginia, hung over, somewhere in the middle of Connecticut, I get a call from Paul. He says, “I’m sorry, we made a mistake. We don’t like your idea, but we like you guys.” We got off the train, and I was able to sweet-talk the Amtrak lady into not charging us to turn around. In our conversation, Paul said, “You guys need to build the front page of the Internet.” That was all Paul, and that became Reddit. We built Reddit in three weeks.

The buyout also happened partly by chance:

The acquisition by Condé Nast basically started with a Halloween party, where we met a reporter who introduced me to a freelancer for Wired who told her boss about us. That editor’s husband was the biz-dev guy at Condé Nast. He worked on a licensing deal with us, and everything worked great. So we started talking money. Founders are supposed to be not at all interested in selling. But there is a price at which a founder can’t help being interested.

19 Jun, 2012

Site built with hundreds of fake accounts

In a video for Udacity, Huffman and Ohanian reveal that they used fake accounts to populate the site in its earliest days. Huffman:

You would go to Reddit in the early days, the first couple of months and there’d be tons of… fake users

Through those fake accounts, Huffman and Ohanian submitted high-quality content — the type of articles they wanted to read. This “set the tone” for the site as whole, Huffman says and, at the same time, made it look populated.

26 Jun, 2012

Make Something People Love

ohanianebookOhanian publishes an Ebook which includes his thoughts on the growth of Reddit and Hipmunk:

And this marvelous community of communities owes its existence to a massive advertising budget of…$500. To date that is the sum total of money that has been spent advertising reddit. Five hundred dollars, and every dollar of it spent on stickers. Yes, stickers: the soundest investment I ever made. I used to travel around the country a lot (thank you, Chinatown bus), and everywhere I went I took stickers with me. I put them on signs, poles, and even other advertisements.

4 Mar, 2014

‘You are a rounding error’

Ohanian tells how, when he first started Reddit, he was invited to Yahoo by one of their executives who laughed at him and described Reddit’s traffic as a “rounding error”.

Haters Gonna Hate: How reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian Deals with Critics (on UberFacts)

8 Oct, 2014

Confirms $6.1m Series A

Product Hunt confirms the round led by Andreessen Horowitz and including A16Z and Ohanian. Hoover says he’s been in touch with Ohanian since before he joined Y Combinator:

Garry Tan introduced me [to Ohanian] and we Skyped for an hour. He immediately got what we were building and provided me with advice on how he built the community in the early days of Reddit

23 Jun, 2015

10th birthday

Makes Statement

The site celebrates its 10th birthday in a blog post that contains statistics about the site’s growth over the years.

Wow. Here we are, ten years later.

  • 190,227,552 posts
  • 1,715,454,785 comments
  • 16,063,942,290 upvotes
  • 36,136,190 user accounts

Together we’ve donated over $1.8 million to Extra Life, Haiti, teachers, and Nepal. We donated another $827,659.49—10% of our 2014 ad revenue—to the top 10 charities of your choice. You’ve also donated a huge amount that we can’t begin to track through individual subreddit campaigns and spontaneous events like this.

You guys really are amazing. Thank you for making the last 10 years of Reddit amazing too. Here’s to the next 10 years.

2 Jul, 2015

Will ‘triage’ AMA requests

Makes Statement

Ohanian makes an announcement in regards to Taylor’s removal.

We don’t talk about specific employees, but I do want you to know that I’m here to triage AMA requests in the interim. All AMA inquiries go to [email protected] where we have a team in place…I posted this on [a mod sub] but I’m reposting here:

We get that losing Victoria has a significant impact on the way you manage your community. I’d really like to understand how we can help solve these problems, because I know r/IAMA thrived before her and will thrive after…We’re prepared to help coordinate and schedule AMAs. I’ve got the inbound coming through my inbox right now and many of the people who come on to do AMAs are excited to do them without assistance (most recently, the noteworthy Channing Tatum AMA).

This is met with harsh criticism and has a total comment score of under -2500.

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