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.
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.
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.