Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian: the internet will make you more awesome

If you’ve never heard of Alexis Ohanian, where have you been? Seriously though, you know the company he started, Reddit.

The ‘social news’ community that people dismissed as a ‘digg knockoff’ (incorrectly) has 80 million unique monthly visitors worldwide. Or, as Alexis put it, “a third of Twitter or ten New York Cities.”

Domestically, it beats CNN and the New York Times, according to Quantcast.

Celebrities, book authors, even President Obama are hosting Ask Me Anything threads to reach that massive audience.

Alexis founded Reddit with Steve Huffman in 2005. Just 18 months later they sold it to Condé Nast. Neither Alexis nor Steve have said for how much, but I understand it to be in the $30-40 million range.

When we sat down in New York, he told me how they got started as college seniors. A Spring Break trip to Boston to hear Paul Graham speak landed them a meeting. And they applied to be in the inaugural YCombinator class.

Their application for My Mobile Menu, or MMM (get it? ‘mmmmmmm… ‘), was rejected. At the time the most advanced mobile phone was a Treo, and Graham said it was too soon (smart cat that PG). But he called them back in and offered a spot if they were willing to start from scratch.

“The zeitgeist of the time was social bookmarking through sites like Delicious.” But, Alexis said, “it was only a zeitgeist for reference material, not for what was new.”

“We needed to be something else, that was a place where people could go to find the more ephemeral news of the day. And that’s how we got started with Reddit.”

Keep in mind, this was not the YC of today. Facebook was just over a year old and Twitter didn’t exist yet. And YC was based in…. wait for it… Boston.

“The Demo Day, which today is one of the most contested in the world,” Alexis said, “had like 12 of Paul’s rich friends who were like, ‘what the f*ck are we doing here?’ ”

Read the rest of this post at LinkedIn.

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