On the evening of Wednesday, January 29th, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian graced a Lillis’ lecture hall that was filled to the brim with students eager to hear his bits of advice. Ohanian is currently touring 77 universities in the US and Canada promoting his new book Without Their Permission.
“Ideas alone are worthless, but doing something with them is what matters in life,” said the charismatic and witty Ohanian. In fact, this served as the central theme for the Reddit mastermind’s talk. He explained his early fascination with the Internet and all of the possibilities that stemmed out of Internet access that inspired him. The first of which, was browsing message boards online and feeling the rush of excitement when people responded well to an idea of his.
Flash forward years later and Ohanian became intensely passionate about a project he proposed to Y Combinator, a company that funds new and exciting ideas. After the company failed to feel the same passion as Ohanian did for his recent proposal, he was lucky enough to get a second chance. This is where Reddit developed.
Ohanian’s humorous anecdotal talk segued into making the best out of a situation by turning a negative into a positive. He explained his excitement over a meeting with Yahoo only a few months after the arrival of Reddit, and his disappointment when they stated that, “[He] was a rounding error” for only having a few thousand hits on his website. Rather than feel down about this discouraging statement from an illustrious search engine, Ohanian used it as fuel to motivate him to prove Yahoo, and any other disbelievers, wrong. He did just that, as Reddit has over 100 million visitors.
Continuing in his inspirational spiel, Ohanian cited Zach Anner, a comedian with cerebral palsy, as a role model for striving to attain one’s goals. Anner is interviewed in Without Their Permission and overcame obstacles to reach the level of success he once had only dreamed. To solidify this point, Ohanian praised the Internet as a resource for all to engage in to promote their ideas, as Anner and Ohanian both utilized the Internet to create their brands.
In Ohanian’s world, the Internet is a platform where people can easily spread ideas through social media and start-up companies like Kickstarter. In fact, he wants the Internet to be great and produce better material. In Ohanian’s eyes the Internet is where “more and more people get the chance to be great.”
This struck a chord with audience members who were thrilled to see the face behind Reddit in the flesh. UO sophomore Jamie Erway says he is “addicted to Reddit” and could not wait to hear him speak. Fellow UO student Zach Speltz left the talk feeling “inspired and optimistic about what’s out there.”
If one thing is for sure, it is that Reddit and the Internet are allowing the newest generation to change the world.