Alexis Ohanian is an American internet entrepreneur, activist, and investor. He is best known as the co-founder of the popular social news website ‘Reddit.’ He is often referred to as the “start-up guy.” He had initially thought of becoming a lawyer, but his destiny changed when he visited Cambridge with his friend Steve Huffman to attend Paul Graham’s lecture on “How to Start a Start-up.” His first venture was to try and sell the idea of an online food-delivery app. However, it was an idea that already existed back then and did not gain any sponsors for Alexis. He then came up with the idea of ’Reddit,’ a social news and media aggregator where registered members could submit content. The idea was accepted as a start-up by ‘Y Combinator’ and was a tremendous success. It was later sold to the media company ‘Condé Nast’ for a colossal sum of money. He has established various start-ups and has also published the book ‘Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed’ that ranked number four on ‘The Wall Street Journal’s best sellers list for hardcore business. He is married to tennis star Serena Williams and has a daughter named Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. He is an established entrepreneur and philanthropist who has gained the respect of his peers in the business arena.
Childhood & Early Life
Alexis Kerry Ohanian was born on April 24, 1983, in Brooklyn, New York City, US, to Anke and Chris Ohanian. His mother was born in Germany, and his father was of Armenian descent.
He graduated from ‘Howard High School’ in Ellicott City, Maryland, where he was a bright student and was chosen to give the graduation student address of his class in 2001. He joined the ‘University of Virginia,’ where he met Steve Huffman and completed a degree in commerce and history in 2005. He worked as a waiter at ‘Pizza Hut’ during his initial days after graduation and then contemplated becoming a lawyer.
His destiny changed when he visited Cambridge with Huffman to attend a lecture by Paul Graham on “How to Start a Start-up.”
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His first venture with his friend Steve Huffman was to sell the idea of ‘MyMobileMenu’ to the seed accelerating company ‘Y Combinator’ in 2005. The company liked the idea but suggested the duo to come up with something more novel for them to fund.
They then came up with the idea of ‘reddit.com.’ It was to be a social news and media aggregator where registered members could submit content. The name originated from the phrase “read it.”
‘Reddit’ was accepted as a start-up by ‘Y Combinator’ in 2005 and was sold to the mass media company ‘Condé Nast’ in 2006 for an undisclosed sum between 10 and 20 million dollars. He continued to work closely with ‘Reddit’ as a co-founder with Huffiman and remained a member of the board of directors. He also entered several new ventures at the same time.
He launched ‘Breadpig’ in 2007. The company produces “geeky” products. The products are then sold and the earnings are donated to charity. The company was set up by him and is now running on its own steam, without his day-to-day involvement.
In 2010, he spent three months in Armenia, working in microfinance with the non-profit organization ‘Kiva’ to lend money to small entrepreneurs and students in over 80 countries via the internet. The project aimed to help people overcome poverty and become self-reliant. He also launched a company called ‘Das Kapital Capital’ to focus on start-up investments, consultancy, and advice.
‘Reddit’ became an independent company in 2015 under his leadership and guidance. He ran the company till February 2018 and then shifted his focus to investing. He was instrumental in the launch of the third ‘Initialized Capital’ fund with Garry Tan that made seed investments in start-ups such as ‘Instacart,’ ‘Opendoor,’ ‘Zenefits’ and ‘Cruise.’
He published the book ‘Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed’ in October 2013. The book was ranked number four on ‘The Wall Street Journal’s best sellers list for hardcore business.
Awards & Achievements
He was named one of the “30 Under 30” figures in the technology industry by ‘Forbes’ in both 2011 and 2012.
In 2013, he was featured as a champion of innovation in the 20th anniversary issue of the magazine ‘Wired.’
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In 2015, he was named one of ‘Crain’s “40 Under 40” businessmen.
In 2016, the magazine ‘Fast Company’ named him one of the “Most Creative People in Business.”
Alexis went through a stressful time during the beginning of his career when his girlfriend fell from the fifth story of a building and slipped into a coma. His mother was diagnosed with an inoperable tumor during the same period. However, he recovered from his trauma and continued to do well in life.
He was a great fan of tennis star Serena Williams and got engaged to her in December 2016, after dating her for 15 months. Their daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., was born in September 2017. The couple got married in November 2017 in New Orleans.
In 2009, he spoke about Mister Splashy Pants, a humpback whale in the South Pacific Ocean, at a ‘TED’ event. The whale is being tracked to raise awareness about the threat to whales due to indiscriminate fishing by the Japanese.
He was nominated as an “Ambassador to the East” by ‘Y Combinator’ and has interacted with various companies in the capacity of an advisor.
He personally created the mascots of all the companies started by him. He also worked with a teenager named Rayouf Alhumedhi to create and release a hijab emoji.
He was against the ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ and the ‘PROTECT IP Act’ and led the campaign for an open internet system. He was named one of the top 10 most influential activists of 2012 by ‘The Daily Dot’ for his campaign in favor of an open internet system. ‘Forbes’ named him the “Mayor of the Internet.”
From 2013 to 2014, he was featured in the weekly business series ‘Small Empires with Alexis Ohanian’ that stressed on rising start-ups.
In October 2014, he launched the ‘NYRD Radio’ podcast where aspiring entrepreneurs could apply to work on new ideas with him.
In 2015, he launched a new podcast called ‘Upvoted,’ which narrated real-life stories, with each episode featuring a different personality.
Ohanian was named the number one investor for network centrality by ‘CB Insights’ in 2014.
In 2015, he fired Victoria Taylor, one of ‘Reddit’s most popular administrators who coordinated celebrity interviews. The move brought him adverse publicity and criticism, but he stood his ground.