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Distinguished Lecture Series brings Reddit co-founder to UNT

Distinguished Lecture Series brings Reddit co-founder to UNT

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian shows a "sad cat" photo to students and guests during UNT's Distinguished Lecture Series. Reddit is currently the fourth most trafficked website in the United States. Rachel Walters

Distinguished Lecture Series brings Reddit co-founder to UNT
October 27
08:00 2017

Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of the website Reddit, spoke about his career as an entrepreneur on behalf of UNT’s Distinguished Lecture Series in the university’s auditorium Wednesday evening.

Reddit is a social news aggregate and discussion board with numerous channels and online communities for people to become a part of.

The 34-year-old co-founded Reddit in 2005 with his friend from college, Steve Huffman, who now serves as the company’s sole CEO. The two attended the University of Virginia and originally pitched an idea for a website called MyMobileMenu, or MMM, to startup accelerator Y Combinator. The pitch was declined, but Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham encouraged the duo to come up with another idea.

Enter Reddit.

“It’s because of the internet that we even started,” Ohanian said. “It’s because the world is not flat that the world wide web exists. [That’s how] we were able to compete on the global stage and actually win.”

Ohanian talked about the struggles of striving for perfection early on in the process of creating Reddit.

“So many founders get caught up over perfection because we were trained to worry about our grade when we submit the test, or submit the paper,” Ohanian said. “Entrepreneurship is like that paper that you get to submit infinity number of times, which is both horrifying and wonderful.”

Ohanian spent time talking about the nature of social media sites in the last decade and people’s online facades.

“As humans, what we really connect on are the things that are underneath the surface [things] beneath the crust that take time,” Ohanian said. “So much of what we’ve seen in the age of social in the last 10 years is incredibly superficial. It’s people taking pictures, perfect photos of their soup to make their friends jealous.”

Ohanian said he thinks Reddit is distinct from other social media platforms in the way it allows users to interact.

“It’s not the level of real connection I think we as humans need, and that’s the reason why 300 million people use Reddit every month,” Ohanian said.  “Because it’s not a connection to your best or most perfect or filtered self. It’s a connection to your true self.”

Ohanian is the author of the bestselling 2013 book: “Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed.” He is also engaged to professional tennis player Serena Williams, with whom he has a daughter.

The event’s audience consisted of UNT students, faculty members and Denton community members.

Computer science senior Guthrie Schoolar said Ohanian’s insight and experience were reassuring to hear as he plans to graduate in the spring.

“He’s a really introspective guy and kind of peering into his life [and seeing] how he started where most students here are now…and then ultimately seeing him fail and then make something better was just really cool to hear,” Schoolar said. “As a programmer myself, [I know] I can make as many things as I want until something sticks.”

Community member Charles Kunene said he identified with Ohanian and that he hit on important aspects of entrepreneurship.

“I’m a start-up founder, and one of the biggest things I learned for myself is that it is hard and part of it is about making something that actually has value and that’s what really gets you over the hump,” Kunene said. “Nothing makes him special, you just have to have the idea and then execute it.”

Ohanian said college students should take advantage of their time and experiences.

“You’re surrounded by people who are also hungry, who are also curious, who probably have different backgrounds and experiences,” Ohanian said. “Take advantage of that, you might find your partner, you might find your co-founder, but either way, you’re going to find a lot of new experiences here during this time.”

Featured Image: Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian shows a “sad cat” photo to students and guests during UNT’s Distinguished Lecture Series. Reddit is currently the fourth most trafficked website in the United States. Rachel Walters

About Author

Sean Riedel

Sean Riedel

Sean Riedel was the news editor at the North Texas Daily from August 2018 to May 2019, and previously served as a staff writer from June 2017 to August 2018.

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