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Today, he helps run it — bringing 11 years of reflection and experience working, writing and building to the role. During his and Huffman's absence, very little at Reddit changed, giving them the chance to essentially pick up where they left off as older, more seasoned entrepreneurs. This makes Ohanian a useful case study. He's simultaneously a very archetypal founder and very much so not. As one of Y Combinator 's earliest investments, he was put through the gospel paces of building a company — launching an MVP, testing with users, finding product-market fit, iterating, etc.SEE VIDEO BY TOPIC: Men Share The Worst Phrases In Women's Dating Profiles - AskReddit
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Reddit Is Begging This Woman for Concealer Tips, Thanks to Her Wild Before-and-After Photo
Today, he helps run it — bringing 11 years of reflection and experience working, writing and building to the role. During his and Huffman's absence, very little at Reddit changed, giving them the chance to essentially pick up where they left off as older, more seasoned entrepreneurs. This makes Ohanian a useful case study.
He's simultaneously a very archetypal founder and very much so not. As one of Y Combinator 's earliest investments, he was put through the gospel paces of building a company — launching an MVP, testing with users, finding product-market fit, iterating, etc. But after the sale, he went his own way — volunteering abroad, pitching in to launch travel site Hipmunk , and investing at both YC and his own fund, Initialized Capital. In the process he saw and advised a lot of companies — sharpening his abilities to pattern match and spot success.
In this exclusive interview, he leverages what he learned on his long stint away from Reddit to advise other early founders, who — much like 's Ohanian — have found themselves trying to make a dent on the industry against long odds. So, without further ado, here are the 12 vital don'ts he says changed his company and career. This sounds squishy and basic and Ohanian knows it , but he puts a different spin on it. But none of this is helpful, he says. Early on, he had this mindset shifted for him.
Yes, he cared about the company. Yes, it was the central pillar of his young life, and he wanted to make his investors proud. But he found himself more often fueled by his mom, who arrived in the U. Even in in Boston, being a startup founder meant being part of a distinct social set.
Months into starting the company, Ohanian and Huffman already received an onslaught of invites to meetups, conferences, dinners, and events. It seemed like he almost had two jobs: building Reddit and maintaining a demanding semi-professional network of friends and colleagues.
Be judicious about what merits your time:. Will there be people there who are valuable for you to meet for precise reasons? Will there be people there who you feel a real connection with or who you want to support? And employees throughout the startup ranks shirk away from admitting fault or mistake in case it impacts performance reviews. But this leaves a lot of people who could do better work and feel better about it if only they felt comfortable sharing their true feelings with someone.
And the sheer volume of it means that the things that we remember and the people that make a real impact on us, are the ones we feel are true.
Increasingly, this will change what we buy and where we work. For leaders, being a real, whole, relatable human being, is a core strength and a competitive advantage. Make sure you remind the people you work with often that this is all they have to try to do.
Choose mentors, investors, advisors, who have broad vantage points and long histories of watching companies rise and fall. One scheme she both suggested and supported was faking a press tour in New York. It sounded intimidating, and like it would require a lot of planning, so he balked. Then just go sit at a cafe and chat with the people who show up.
If your chances of success are slim, you might as well put yourself out there and not invest too much time. Just do it. To his surprise, a few reporters took him up on the offer, though no one ended up writing.
And he probably would have cut conversations off early. The editor promptly went to her husband, who happened to be the head of business development at Conde Nast.
I was open to just having a good conversation and a good pastry — and being that open made a material impact on my career. This sounds like conflicting advice, but there should be an arc. This is an important phase because almost everything you get offered or any opportunities that come your way will come through another person who has met you somewhere along the line and thought you were alright , says Ohanian.
And doing well feels awesome. One of the most damaging byproducts of saying yes for too long is the oppressive sense you should be doing better. You get gripped with the need to grow as fast or faster, to hire more or better, to build features your users may not need or want — just because someone else is.
By not trying to be something else in the early days, or chasing after what other successful communities like Facebook or MySpace were doing, it retained its character and the loyalty of millions. Of course Reddit is inextricable from the concept of community. But having marinated for years on what makes community work and grow and succeed, Ohanian strongly believes that its a pillar for nearly all companies being built today. This is a mistake.
And the tools to build this connection are storytelling and community. Every consumer-facing company these days needs to hire storytellers and community organizers to help them crack this code. According to him, the best communities have a full-time dedicated resource acting, essentially, like the host of a never-ending party.
One of their most important applications is guiding what new products or features get built and shipped. Resources are always scarce, and there are always many competing priorities. So, to get a new product built, you should show how it aligns with values that are already generating amazing customer stories. This is how Reddit decided to build its new user profiles. For years, the site has elevated content based on its quality and relevance to the community.
We want to give people the chance to form better connections and eventually their own following with that type of audience across subreddits. This was a controversial concept when it first came up. He might navigate the real world as the mostly unknown Hector Janse van Rensburg, but on Reddit, the name shittywatercolour carries celebrity status. He would have never dreamed of making art anyone would care about, much less buy. This is the type of dream Ohanian wants to make possible for more users with Reddit's new profiles.
They had to visualize how this new feature was going to be consistent with our values, and the example made it tangible.
Ohanian went a step further and flew van Rensburg to San Francisco to spend time with the team both in the office, as well as socially. I wanted the team to understand just how much Reddit has affected his life and how much this feature would help him and countless others like him find their voice on Reddit. We held an internal AMA with him and the company; brought him to meetings; walked him through the vision; solicited his feedback; and even got him to illustrate one of our meeting rooms.
Talking to your users — empathizing with them — is something you should never outgrow. Ohanian and Huffman have been partners for a long time. They met on their first day of college, and their prior collaborations were mostly in World of Warcraft. By the time they started the company, they were fast friends — which, in the startup world, can be dangerous. While they remain close colleagues and friends, Ohanian wishes he would have thought through how their communication would evolve beforehand.
How would they constructively approach a problem if you happened to disagree with them? How have they handled strong disagreements in the past? Once you start working together, set the expectation that you will still respect and like them as a person regardless of how assertively you counter them down the road.
This goes hand in hand with not being perfect and striving to do better. So many of the skills and traits you need to succeed as a founder can and will naturally be strengthened with time, practice and experience. Cultivating constructive relationships with your co-founder and others is one of those muscles. The best way to evolve faster as a leader is to be systematic about identifying your strengths and areas for growth, and then thinking about how to proactively work out those muscles.
Now, if he has something to do, he emails himself immediately. And then he works hard to remain focused long enough to power through the other items that need to get done that day. Photography by Michael George. First Round Review. Tweet Share Post Save. Join us. Twitter Facebook LinkedIn.
The Don’ts That Turned Alexis Ohanian into the Leader He Is Today
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