tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:/posts Making the World Suck Less 2014-09-12T14:53:49Z Alexis Ohanian tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/738765 2014-09-09T16:31:52Z 2014-09-09T17:20:15Z The Next 2 Days Are Very Important for the Open Internet Howdy,

I'm nervous, but also excited. Mostly excited, but still a bit nervous. The next two days are going to be big.

New Yorkers: Teachout Wu FTW!

If you're a New Yorker, or know one, please vote (or tell them to vote) in today's primary for governor and lieutenant governor -- and vote for Teachout + Wu. I formally endorsed them yesterday at an event where they unveiled their tech policy for New York State. It made me so happy to see people who actually understood these technology issues (as I said, "Wu is an O.G. of the open internet") and cared so deeply about serving New Yorkers.

This is the first time I've ever endorsed a candidate. I'm going to be dancing all the way to the polls today. 

Internet Slowdown Day is tomorrow

There hasn't been an internet-wide protest like this since SOPA/PIPA and the internet needs your help to survive. I published an op-ed on The Verge about this very subject. 

All of your favorite websites are going to be very slow tomorrow to make sure the FCC realizes the fate of the open internet is in their hands as they have a chance to reclassify broadband as Title II (the public utility we all know it to be) and put an end to what John Oliver aptly described as "Cable Company Fuckery."

Please spread the word about Internet Slowdown Day and demand an end to "fast lanes." There's still time left to file a comment with the FCC (here's mine on behalf of Y Combinator!)

SOPA 'em!

Just a couple years ago we were in a similar situation with SOPA/PIPA, but against all odds, we the people prevailed. And we shall again.

Engage!

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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/721886 2014-08-01T23:49:01Z 2014-09-03T13:28:31Z Me & Two Future Y Combinator Founders on Fox Talking iOS Game Development Had such a great day visiting the MakeGamesWithUs Summer Academy and then bringing a couple of the students over to FOX for a TV appearance talking about educating this new generation of app developers. So excited to see where they all go from here.

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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/717593 2014-07-23T14:50:25Z 2014-09-12T14:53:49Z 30 signed copies of Without Their Permission auctioned for BlackGirlsCode! My last 30 signed copies of Without Their Permission are part of a "silent auction" Crowdtilt to benefit BlackGirlsCode - get 'em while you can!

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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/714971 2014-07-17T00:13:09Z 2014-09-09T16:35:46Z My comments for the FCC, on behalf of Y Combinator, about Net Neutrality

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington D.C. 20554

July 14, 2014

Re: Open Internet Remand, GN Docket 14-28

Dear Chairman Wheeler and Commissioners Clyburn, Rosenworcel, Pai, and O’Rielly:

Y Combinator is Silicon Valley’s premier early stage investor. Y Combinator has been investing in early stage startups since 2005 and now has a portfolio of over 700 companies valued at over $20 billion and creating over 3,000 jobs at quickly growing companies, many of whom are aggressively hiring. Y Combinator was an early investor in Dropbox, Airbnb, Stripe, Scribd, Heroku, Pebble, Twitch, Loopt, WePay, Crowdtilt, Teespring, Codecademy, Hipmunk, Coinbase, Cloudkick, Wufoo, ZenPayroll, SocialCam, Parse, and reddit.

The New York Times called Y Combinator “Silicon Valley’s Startup Machine”; the Times also described Y Combinator’s demo days, where our early stage companies present their products and services to “450 of the world’s richest and most influential technology investors” as “a biannual milestone, Silicon Valley’s version of the N.F.L. Scouting Combine.” We were the subject of a book by the Times’s former Digital Domain columnist, The Launch Pad, in which Eric Ries called us “a national treasure, a Silicon Valley seed fund that is mass-producing new startups,” and Marc Andreessen declared we were the “white-hot center of the new Silicon Valley startup ecosystem.” Within Silicon Valley, receiving funding from Y Combinator often carries more credibility than a degree from Harvard or Stanford. We receive thousands of applications from companies for fewer than 60 investments -- an acceptance rate lower than any of the nation’s top universities.

I was lucky enough to be in the very first round of Y Combinator’s investments and created reddit.com with my college roommate Steve Huffman. We were two recent college graduates with no connections and $12,000 in funding, raised from Y Combinator, building something from a pair of computers in a small rented apartment in Medford, MA. Today reddit is a top 50 website with over 110 million monthly unique visitors -- more traffic than CNN.com or NYTimes.com. We lived the American Dream thanks to the open internet and today I’m a partner at Y Combinator.

How? The world isn’t flat; but the world wide web is. It must remain that way.

We need the FCC to keep the level playing field that let me--and so many others--succeed as entrepreneurs. The reason so much innovation and wealth creation has happened in tech over the last decade is that any American with her laptop and Internet connection could build a startup and compete with incumbents (and even beat them) without a team of lawyers and without a large budget to pay for priority from ISPs.

Let me be clear: we need a bright-line, per se rule against discrimination, access fees, and paid prioritization on both mobile and fixed.

Title II of the Communications Act seems the most appropriate way to properly define broadband ISPs to be offering telecommunications. Speaking on behalf of Y Combinator, I’m urging you to adopt such a rule.

The rule you have proposed, based on Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, would not suffice. We know Section 706 cannot support a rule against discrimination, access fees, and paid prioritization because the appellate court in Verizon v. FCC ruled on these matters. The Court wrote: “We think it obvious that the Commission would violate the Communications Act were it to regulate broadband providers as common carriers. Given the Commission’s still-binding decision to classify broadband providers not as providers of ‘telecommunications services’ [under Title II] but instead as providers of ‘information services,’ … such treatment would” violate the Act. The Court held that, absent reclassifying broadband providers as Title II carriers, the FCC would be treating broadband providers as common carriers unless it left open room for “substantial room for individualized bargaining and discrimination in terms.”

Therefore, the FCC cannot impose a nondiscrimination rule--unless it classifies broadband providers under Title II. The Court also held that, without classifying broadband providers under Title II, the FCC could not ban charging fees for priority access, even though the FCC recognized such fees would be a “significant departure from historical and current practice.” The FCC could not ban such fees without Title II because banning the fees would leave “no room at all” for individualized bargaining and discrimination, which is necessary under Section 706. The Court simply couldn’t have been clearer: so long as the FCC refuses to classify broadband providers as “telecommunications services” under Title II, the FCC cannot ban ISPs’ technical discrimination, access fees, or paid prioritization.

While the Chairman has sought to protect innovation through a “commercial reasonableness” test and a “minimum” service guarantee, unfortunately neither would provide startups any relief. No startup has the funds and lawyers and economists to take on billion-dollar ISPs in an FCC action based on the vague legal standards in the proposal. Indeed, the startup ecosystem needs a bright-line, per se rule against discrimination--rather than a multi-part, totality-of-the-circumstances standard with a case-by-case approach or even a mere presumption against discrimination. Anything less would cause considerable uncertainty for entrepreneurs and investors and provide little comfort, as startups and small businesses are resource-constrained and need to know that access to the Internet will remain neutral, as it has been in the past.    

And, even with access to at least minimum service (often metaphorically referred to as a “slow lane”), startups would struggle to compete against those who were able to afford paying for a fast lane--or an exclusive fast lane. Even the slightest discrimination or paid prioritization significantly affects startups, as microseconds matter with both webpage-loading and real-time content. That discriminatory treatment harms startups is reflected by the outpouring of dissent from startup founders and investors alike. The fate of reddit may have been very different if Comcast had discriminated against our little two-person-startup in favor of the NBC.com news portal and the sites of other news giants.

Only reclassifying broadband as Title II will protect an open and neutral Internet. In pursuing reclassification, however, the FCC should choose to forebear from regulations unneeded to promote competition and innovation. As recommended by the EFF, the FCC should “explicitly reject any telecommunications regulations beyond specific and narrow prohibitions and requirements designed to create a fair and level playing field for innovation and user choice.”

Over 190 companies, 100 investors, and hundreds of thousands of average individuals have already spoken up to oppose the Chairman’s plan and call for nondiscrimination and a ban on new tolls. Even before initial comments are due, several companies have called for Title II reclassification; these include Kickstarter (doing so in the Washington Post), Etsy, Codecademy, Dwolla, General Assembly, CodeCombat, Contextly, and OpenCurriculum. Leading investors in technology startups, including Union Square Ventures and, now, Y Combinator have also urged the Commission to pursue Title II.

Competition is the fuel of the free market. We demand it not only as investors looking to invest in the next multi-billion-dollar American job creator, and not only as entrepreneurs who want to start it, but also as consumers who want to see innovation continue to thrive. Our sector requires a level playing field in order to lead the world, create jobs, and produce tremendous value for the United States economy.

Mr. Chairman, you say you oppose a two-tier Internet and want to preserve Internet openness, so let’s reclassify broadband as the public utility we know it to be. Ensure that the Internet thrives as a platform for free commerce and speech for generations to come. May the United States of America continue to lead in innovating on the greatest free market the world has ever seen.

Sincerely,

Alexis Ohanian
Partner, Y Combinator
Startup founder, reddit

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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/713421 2014-07-12T21:13:47Z 2014-07-14T17:34:00Z There's still time to grab my upcoming quarterly shipment! valued at over $100 worth of goods I've curated to maximize the awesome of your summer!

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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/710949 2014-07-05T17:52:07Z 2014-07-17T07:00:30Z My SXSW14 keynote + interview with Secret cofounder Chrys Bader ]]> Alexis Ohanian tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/697298 2014-05-28T21:55:46Z 2014-06-23T18:28:29Z My Commencement Speech to the Carthage Class of 2014  
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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/691322 2014-05-15T02:36:42Z 2014-05-18T19:22:37Z The Secret to All My Press (Personally, and how I did it for reddit & hipmunk & more) Traction: Everyone wants it, here’s how I think about generating “buzz”

Below is an excerpt from my national bestseller, Without Their Permission -- if you dig what you see here, I think you'll really like the rest of the book! I get asked about "traction" on an almost daily basis so it made sense to publish this for anyone to read. Enjoy!

I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.
Jay-Z, “Diamonds From Sierra Leone”

I believe in startup karma.

Being the kind of person who’s always asking for favors and hustling others is a reputation that not only gets around, it sticks. It’ll work in the short term, and perhaps there are some exceptions to the rule who have made it work in the long term, but being someone who’s always asking for favors makes the already difficult job of starting something new immeasurably harder.

Instead, look at every meeting as a chance to do someone a solid. This especially matters when dealing with representatives of the media, because just buying them a coffee doesn’t mean you’re getting a front-page story. Look at every meeting as a long-term investment. She’s not writing about your startup? That’s okay!

Be helpful. What’s she thinking about right now? Some kind of trend is going on in X that’s not been covered yet, and she’s looking for a founder doing Y. If you can connect the dots, make the introduction for her. You’ve just helped two people with one e-mail. Cha-ching. More good karma.

Over the years, you can build a reputation as a connector in your field. Connectors are a journalist’s trump card when they need to get a lead on an unreported idea, or when they need an introduction in order to land a useful interview. This is a valuable position for you to be in, because it means you’re going to stay at the tops of their minds. When your journalist friends are writing about something in your field, whom do you think they’re going to reach out to first?

Never Turn Down Cannoli

In between bites of cannolo (yep, that’s the singular form of cannoli), I was explaining to Rachel Metz, freelance reporter for Wired, why reddit.com was going to become the front page of the Internet. She seemed interested, but she could’ve just been enjoying her cannolo.

I’d taken the Fung Wah bus down from Boston to meet with her in downtown Manhattan because a few weeks earlier, I’d met a friend of hers named Jennifer 8. Lee. Jenny had attended a Halloween party that Steve and I had thrown at our Somerville home and office—which should explain the above photo—and we hit it off. We discussed the subject of her book proposal, which happened to be, of all things, Chinese food. I managed to impress Jenny with my knowledge of Chinese cuisine, so we got to talking that night and that led to her introduction to Rachel.

A few days later, Rachel would confess to me that while she initially wanted to write a story about reddit, she felt we’d become friends and that it wouldn’t be professional for her to pursue the story. That was fine by me. No Wired story came from that, but I got a new friend in Rachel, one who happened to mention reddit to her editor at Wired, Kristen Philipkoski. Kristen, the wife of Kourosh Karimkhany, was doing business development for Conde Nast and heard from Rachel about a pair of plucky founders in Boston working on something interesting called reddit.

And then one day (February 22, 2006, to be precise) this e-mail popped up in my inbox:

I’m a friend of Rachel Metz. I’m also the director of biz dev for CondéNet, the internet arm of Condé Nast, which, as I’m sure you know, publishes magazines like Wired, GQ, Vogue, New Yorker, Vanity Fair, etc. I’m intrigued with your technology and was hoping to set up a time to talk about possibly working together. I’m open the rest of the day today and Thursday, but will be traveling for a week starting Friday. Do you have time for a phone call? Also, are you based in Boston?

Little did we know that exactly one year after that fateful party on Halloween, Steve and I would be celebrating the acquisition of our company. As if you needed more reasons to throw a Halloween party. Or eat cannoli.

Everyone Is the Media

The traditional public-relations industry model is broken. Good riddance.

The only time I ever wrote a press release was when Condé Nast made me do it for the announcement of our acquisition, and I wasn’t about to argue with the company that had just bought my company. Full-disclosure: Since writing this book, I’ve had to edit a press release the PR firm hired by my publisher wrote on my behalf. But the truth is, I’m not certain that press releases are as relevant as they were in the twentieth century.

These days, everyone you meet is part of the media. Every relationship you enter into, whether it’s with a customer or a writer at The Wall Street Journal, is a long-term investment. No self-respecting journalist wants to feel like all she does is publish press releases as “news,” although some do. The idea that a press release is magically going to compel someone to talk about what you’re working on is absurd. At a time when none of us have enough time to pay attention to all the content the Internet produces, you can be sure the professionals who are pitched every minute of the day certainly don’t have the spare cycles. This means you’re going to have to make yourself known. Here are some things to keep in mind as you do that. 

Be Helpful

If you’ve been doing your job as a founder, by now you should be an expert in your industry (and maybe even in a few others as well). Use that to your advantage when talking to the media. It gives you insights on bigger trends that are valuable to journalists, so be helpful—even if it’s not directly helping you or your company, it is actually still helping you and your company. Anything you can do to help someone else do his or her job better is going to win you that valuable startup karma. Noticing a trend in X meets Y, offer an introduction to some other experts in X meets Y. Be helpful!

Remember the RentHop team from chapter 4?1 While Lee Lin was getting his broker’s license, he found himself noticing trends. He validated that hunch when he and his co-founder, Lawrence Zhou, started mining mountains of New York rental-price data that revealed everything from how much more people are willing to pay for a doorman to how much less an apartment is worth for every block it sits away from a subway stop. At first, they had no plans to publish any of what they’d learned. Once Lee started promoting RentHop, however, he realized that these data were a tremendous resource. Whether it was a blog post he wrote charting the optimal time of day to search for rentals in New York (spoiler: between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.) or a statistic a journalist could cite for an article, it was a piece of added value that bolstered his company’s reputation as experts in apartment rentals.

Every time Tim does a great job breaking down exactly how he does everything he does, it’s being helpful. Over time, he becomes known as the guy for getting things done (not always in 4-hours, mind you) then turns around and does solids for people like me. Building for the long-term.

Speaking of which, I’ve got an entire class on online brand building (lessons from reddit, breadpig, and hipmunk) with specific examples of everything from low-cost social media campaigns I used to make people love our hipmunk chipmunk to the sticker strategy that spread reddit aliens all over the world. Grab some popcorn, it’s long. 

 

Pitch the Right Journalists the Right Way (by Not Pitching)

Okay, you’ve found them. Warm introductions to mutual acquaintances from people who know you both well always help, but there’s nothing wrong with a cold pitch. Just be concise. I try to write e-mails in fewer than five sentences. Precision with impact is one of the most effective writing skills one can have. The best way to get coverage is to not pitch your product. Journalists are human beings. Whether they write for [insert your favorite, most venerable news organization here] or they just launched their first blog yesterday, they do not exist just to write about you or your big idea. Sorry, but it’s better you hear it from me now. In order to earn their attention (and their goodwill), you’re going to have to give them something. Pitch by not pitching—be helpful. You know what they’re into, so send them a link to a breaking yet underreported story you think they’d appreciate. If you can introduce them to a fellow founder who’s working in a sector they’re covering, offer it to them. Know they love futuristic watches? Let them know when NOOKA is having a sale. When and if the time comes to make a pitch (you’ll know it when it happens), then do it well. 

Tell Stories Around a “Peg”

Pardon the jargon, but it’s helpful to know how journalists think. Big trends, things that people are talking about, are “pegs” that you ideally want to anchor to your pitch. It could be as blatant and timely as the Olympics, or it could be more subtle. During the famed billion-dollar acquisition of Instagram by Facebook, Michael Seibel, CEO of SocialCam, a mobile video-sharing app and portfolio company, rode the wave of media attention surrounding the acquisition. It was no surprise that over the next few days, articles buzzed about who would be “Instagram for video.” It didn’t surprise me one bit when SocialCam was there in every discussion.

Over time you’ll develop an eye for it. If you’re reading about a particular idea that’s got everyone’s attention, find a way to connect your own story to it. If you don’t get written up, or quoted, or appear to have gotten anything in return for your time, don’t fret (and remember what I said about these people not existing to do you a favor). There’s always value in taking the time to meet someone. You shouldn’t always be pitching, anyway. Build long-term relationships and they’ll pay long-term dividends.

Don’t Forget to Document Your Startup 

Take photos around the office, screenshots of early builds, et cetera. No matter how things turn out, you’ll appreciate having these memories later. In the meantime, it’ll be useful in a blog post or tweet. And if things turn out really well, people will come to really value those behind-the-scenes photos or embarrassing early builds.

For instance, here’s a photo of Steve and me from just days after we’d launched reddit.

The first photo taken of Steve + me as “reddit founders” – photo courtesy of Trevor Blackwell

Please, please have a decent high-resolution photo of your founders readily available. I’ve had to arrange last-minute photo shoots for founders who were about to land some great press but didn’t have a single decent photo to send. Your smartphone won’t cut it. Borrow the nicest digital camera you can find from your nicest friend and take some photos. If nothing else, you can send them to your mom.

For good measure, record the stages of your product, too, even if it’s only so you can look back on them with a hearty laugh. No matter how your company turns out, you’ll appreciate having a record of its evolution. I use this first version of reddit as an example of just how embarrassed you should be by your first version.

Attentive readers will notice I managed to get –1 karma, because Steve is a jerk.

 

Once You Get Press, Make a Note of It, Then Get Rid of It

This has been my policy since the day we finally got a taste of attention from the mainstream media. It was a different Internet back then, and it took me months of hustling to finally get someone to write about us. Oddly enough, it was a British newspaper, The Guardian, that wrote the first story—six months after we’d launched. It was great to see the increase in our traffic when a digital publication would write about us, but there’s something to be said for that palpable version of the news. The Guardiankindly sent us a few print copies. I reread the article, imagining better quotes I could’ve used, and brought it with me on my next trip back home. My parents had hoarded just about everything I did since I was a little kid (only child, remember), and my mom was thrilled to see her son’s name in print (I couldn’t tell her that it was less exciting than digital, which would have enabled us to actually get click-throughs to our site).

This started a tradition I continue to this day. Even though Mom is gone, I personally send my dad all the press I ever get, because I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to think about it for more than a day. It’s a twenty-four-hour rule. I think I heard a football coach talk about this once in an interview. Feel good about the win for twenty-four hours, and then get your mind off it and think about next week. Same goes for losses, too. But I especially don’t want to dwell on past accomplishments, and I recommend the same for my portfolio companies.

Complacency, especially in this industry, is toxic. Remember what I said about your milk shake—forget that kindergarten advice and don’t share it.

Spreadsheets Are Your Friends

As a startup founder, you’re a cheerleader. You should always have a recent e-mail, or tweet, or quote from one of your users who love you readily at hand. Go a step further and keep a mailing list of those superfans who love you so much they’ve said they’d be willing to be interviewed about your business. List those people on a spreadsheet that you share among your team, and when you encounter a superfan, ask her if she’d be willing to be contacted by the press at some point and have a testimonial on record.

Each superfan should have his or her own row on your spreadsheet. Establish columns for a favorable quote, home address, occupation, and e-mail address. Always respect a person’s privacy and explain why these tidbits are so helpful; years later, when this list gets long and you’re trying to help a journalist who’s writing about graduate students in the Bronx using [insert your type of product or service here], you can get him connected to the perfect person.

Keep another spreadsheet for press hits, designating columns for important sort criteria like name, e-mail, publication, a pull quote from the piece, and the URL. This becomes your press contacts list. PR people will brag about the size of these as though they were in a locker room, but, as always, it’s not about size—it’s about how you use it. You’re building relationships. It does not matter how many people you have on this list if none of them give a damn about what you have to say.

Start small. As I said earlier, it took six months before any mainstream media wrote an article about us, and until then I was reaching out to anyone who had a blog in tech or media. As you grow beyond your niche, you’re going to be forced to connect your idea to bigger trends and find ways to humanize it with real people telling real stories.

Traction starts with a product people want; as word spreads, you’ll start seeing the week-over-week and month-over-month growth that gets investors pulling out their checkbooks and briefcases full of money.

Actually, most investments are done via duffel bags full of cash—or via wire transfer.

Get started being awesome. None of us know what we’re doing, but trying is how we learn.

This was an excerpt from my book, Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed, which is also available in audiobook form if you hate reading.

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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/690560 2014-05-13T16:59:21Z 2014-08-09T06:00:00Z Our Crowdtilt-funded ad campaign for #NetNeutrality is live across DC! Check it out and tweet @alexisohanian if you get a photo of one in the wild!

And if you'd like to print your own, here you go (creative commons, ftw!)

Fun fact: This campaign is running at 30 locations that generate 2.7M weekly impressions (and we're running for 2 weeks so that's 5.4M impressions total!).

The benefit of having a digital ad is that we can change the messaging almost instantly -- depending on the FCC announcement on Thurs, we can adjust our messaging ASAP and feature a new ad in that spot because it's digital, making us more nimble and newsworthy. That would be impossible with traditional printed advertising. 

Bonus fact: The average 18+ adult walks an average of 18 blocks in the city each week, so they are more heavily exposed to this type of advertising. There aren't a lot of billboards in DC proper, and this was the more effective way of reaching government workers and the FCC and it looks pretty damn cool, too.

The Verge broke the story.

Thanks to all of you who helped make this campaign a success!

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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/685678 2014-05-02T15:51:15Z 2014-05-04T18:02:41Z Fundraising to strengthen Queens Tech with a new generation of makers We're about to tilt! So happy to have donated my 31st to the Coalition for Queens.

Access Code 2013 from Coalition for Queens (C4Q) on Vimeo.

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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/674930 2014-04-09T00:50:38Z 2014-06-28T05:12:00Z I believe I was the first person on Meet The Press to use the term "O.G."   ]]> Alexis Ohanian tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/673739 2014-04-06T20:42:13Z 2014-04-27T21:04:49Z Apparently I've always been an optimist -- and a terrible speller.

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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/660362 2014-03-04T02:35:53Z 2014-04-14T03:31:15Z On being a proud non-technical founder a recent commentary on the YC Female Founders conference, so I thought it'd be wise to bring some evidence to the discussion:
Then there was Jessica Livingston’s keynote itself… Oh Boy. There was one point where she told us ‘when you’re the nontechnical cofounder, your job is everything that’s nontechnical’ including grocery shopping and errand running. I don’t know why this comment struck me as odd … maybe it’s because the only people I know who identify themselves specifically as “nontechnical cofounders” are women. Male cofounders rarely volunteer that information or qualify themselves that way. Every time I hear Alexis Ohanian speak he is the cofounder of Reddit, as if he wrote every line of code himself. To get a male founder to admit he doesn’t write the code his startup depends on you have to twist his arm. With a female founder it’s the second sentence out of her mouth. As if to say “PS - don’t take me seriously”
You'd be hard pressed to actually find one time where I made it sound like I "wrote every line of code myself."
In my book, Without Their Permission, pg 60:

Steve and I would have brainstorming sessions with pens and notebooks, which I’d take to PaintShop Pro 5.0 so that I could mock up designs and layouts, sometimes even for random ideas that had no chance of coming to fruition anytime soon. We only had one developer, of course, and that was Steve, who was responsible for everything technical. Thanks to him, those pixels I doodled actually became something useful.  

and on page 110:

Long before the glorious day of our acquisition, we were just grateful that Y Combinator had let us into their exclusive program after a dramatic rejection. This program, with Paul at the helm, was oriented toward key developers, who really do have all the leverage in this industry. I was one of only two “nontechnical founders” in the program. Despite having programming experience in high school and college, I was devoting my time to doing “everything else” at the company, though that assertion was met with quite a bit of skepticism. A running joke that Steve had to endure at Y Combinator meetings was “What does Alexis do?” One of the advisers in the program even overheard me speaking German (I’m proficient, thanks to my mother) and remarked to Steve, “Alexis sounds much more intelligent in German.”

I didn’t think I sounded that dumb in English. Fortunately, as a guy who grew up with the name Alexis, I quickly learned that it’s those with the lowest self-confidence who belittle and bully other people. When it comes to put-downs, I ran out of “fucks” to give back in grade school, so now I just embrace it.

I don't expect everyone to have read my book, though, so I took a minute to search "alexis ohanian nontechnical" and found pages of results -- here are a few from my recent speaking tour and interviews:
Here it is in an interview I did with Lambdaphant. I declare myself one comment on my book chapter excerpt on fourhourworkweek.com. It was a common theme during my 200-stop book tour, here's a few instances in interviews from my Syracuse University and University of Waterloo Without Their Permission book events.

In fact, it's even in my linkedin profile.

I'm not sure I can make it more clear: I'm a proud nontechnical founder, but that means a lot more work if you want to be valuable to an early stage tech startup. The reason I've gone across this country encouraging people to code is because in the internet age, makers have all the power.

Jessica is absolutely right when she says "when you’re the nontechnical cofounder, your job is everything that’s nontechnical’ including grocery shopping and errand running" and it's the same advice I've given for years and especially in the last five months on tour, using myself + Steve in founding reddit as a casestudy. 
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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/656716 2014-02-20T22:34:30Z 2014-02-20T22:34:31Z Meanwhile in Venezuela. Follow along via this reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/vzla


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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/652549 2014-02-09T21:58:53Z 2014-07-16T18:45:20Z My 2013 in Review: Year of the Entrepreneur

I did this for 2012, so here goes my 2013 year in review! And what a year it was -- thanks to all of you for making it my best yet!

My book dropped! People liked it!

Without Their Permission is a WSJ Bestseller - #4!

I love startups. It's been a great year for investing

Fortunate enough to invest in dozens of amazing new startups (full list here) -- here are some with big updates:
  • Grupo Regalii - Mobile platform for cross-border remittances with a focus on Latin America. These guys are holding it down in Washington Heights, NYC -- a NY tech startup to watch!
  • Mobileworks - Crowd-sourced work platform I've been using thoroughly for the last few months to outsource complex tasks like lead generation and large research projects.
  • Envoy - Saving the world’s time through automated receptionist kiosks -- you've probably seen this at some top tech frontdesks, including airbnb and yelp.
  • Frontback - Mobile app and social network for selfies. Seriously. I can't get enough of this. I've even made a subreddit for them.
  • Secret - They've just launched and are exploding. iOS (for now, Android to come) app for sharing anonymously with your friends. I haven't been this addicted since reddit.
  • AeroFS - It's a Dropbox-like file synchronization platform that allows individuals and companies of all sizes to run their own Dropbox on their own hardware they control, either behind the firewall or in the cloud. Privacy ftw.
  • Teespring - I love this startup so much because we made a janky version of it a couple years ago on breadpig (a brilliant Christina idea) and we sold a ton of shirts. Teespring went ahead and built that as a polished platform. It's magical.

My Show & Love Letter to NYTech Debuted

My show, Small Empires, debuted on The Verge and you wonderful people really liked it. We're working on Season 2, which should start shooting not long after I return from the book tour in May 2014. I've got some pretty awesome surprises planned.

2014 is going to have a few really exciting media developments for me. 

So much press -- everywhere!

Interviewed on The Colbert ReportCharlie RoseMeet The Press, and just about every news network.

Breadpig keeps soaring

++

I've got even bigger plans for 2014 and I won't be able to do it without all of your support.


Thanks especially to all the people on "team Alexis" without whom none of this would've happened: Asa Solomon, Christina Xu, George Rohac, Joseph Kristoffer, Michael Pope, and Richie Siegel.

-- Alexis

PS. My latest Teespring campaign has only a few hours left for you to get a special limited edition "HYE FTW" shirt. Let's be twinsies - you don't have to be Armenian to look fabulous!
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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/651357 2014-02-06T21:52:14Z 2014-02-06T21:54:31Z Video of me "Cooking Inspiration" at USC on #WTPbook tour

Cooking Inspiration - WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION from DOCUinc on Vimeo.


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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/646587 2014-01-27T15:44:42Z 2014-01-27T17:41:35Z Speaking frankly about guns & reddit My parents left Brooklyn in the eighties to raise me in Columbia, MD—a charming Baltimore suburb. Two days ago, tragedy struck a mall there. In the town I grew up in, at a place I wandered regularly as a kid, someone shot two people then turned the gun on himself.

Seeing footage of people hurt and afraid at our mall was surreal and unsettling. Memories of this place—a childhood friend meeting his wife, camping out at Electronics Boutique, enjoying lazy afternoons with friends—were tarnished with images of innocent people fleeing for safety.

What happened in Columbia was shocking, saddening, and occurs all-too-frequently. Even more disturbing is the lack of coverage of prevalent gun violence in urban communities: there were 12 separate shootings just twenty minutes away in Baltimore last week alone. That these tragedies don’t get nearly the same attention is baffling.

While I do not own guns or particularly like them, I have shot them (even earning a rifle shooting merit badge in Boy Scouts). I also occasionally visit gun ranges with friends. That said, I firmly believe our right to bear arms is inseparable from responsible use and smart regulation. The shooting in Columbia is another sad example that we’re not there yet in terms of stemming senseless gun violence.

To get there, we need honest debate, civil discussion, and bi-partisan legislation. I hope healing and tangible action will come from the pain inflicted on my hometown, but what happened to me a day before was a step backward.

On Friday, while on my book tour for internet entrepreneurship, I sat down with FastCompany’s Adam Popescu, who requested an interview to “talk about Reddit's commerce market.” Since the only reddit marketplace is the reddit gifts marketplace, I interpreted Mr. Popescu's invitation as an opportunity to discuss that platform. Reinforcing my assumption was Mr. Popescu’s desire to connect with Dan McComas, the reddit marketplace’s founder. It turns out Mr. Popescu wanted to talk about guns.

Based on a video Mr. Popescu posted about our t-shirt cannon at a talk I gave prior to the interview, it's obvious to me he had an agenda. Mr. Popescu later admitted to "being vague" in order to get the interview, but I’m a guy who’s definitively refuted bogus allegations with loads of sunlight and spoken candidly about heated topics like “donglegate” and the tech community’s role in them. I’m OK talking about controversial issues, let’s just do it honestly.

Right now, people are using social media platforms to legally arrange gun sales to other people. These social platforms are not commerce sites—there is no actual purchasing happening on the platform. Last fall, the headlines were all about instagram being used for this. Now, it’s reddit.

During this interview, Mr. Popescu pointed to “more than 400 redditors” involved in gun sales.” Out of 100,744,653 monthly users, this is .0004% of the userbase. He also implied that Condé Nast allowed the reddit logo to be sold, which is false. The logo was not sold: people were given permission to use it (in a transaction the aforementioned Mother Jones article already addressed was a “not-for-profit-buy”). I pressed him for facts and he backtracked, saying he’d follow up later.

This simplification continued into a plea that I say something, mobilizing the masses like he claims I do for internet freedom issues. Sadly, I’m not an expert on guns or gun laws. I’m an expert on tech, which is why I speak as much and as often as I have on tech policy issues like SOPA, PIPA, CISPA, TPP, and net neutrality.

In my view, new technology platforms aren’t the problem -- it’s the law. If we turned the internet off tomorrow, these exchanges would still happen on corkboard bulletin boards. Legislation is the way to solve this. The law currently leaves private, in-state gun sales virtually unregulated. We had a chance to change that last April, but Senate Republicans blocked it.

I asked him to work toward convincing people to act by engaging their representatives to pass the stricter gun laws a majority of citizens demand instead of going after hyperbolic headlines. Let's drive honest discussion instead of pageviews. He rebuffed me, saying regular people can’t make a difference -- that it’s up to people with “followings” like me to rally everyone. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This was remarkably naive and simplistic.  

He went on to insist that regular people don’t have much of a voice or the time or inclination and if it isn’t easy they can’t do it to actually make a difference. It was so condescending. As I’ve always said, it was precisely these regular people who defeated SOPA and PIPA. I was one of millions of private citizens who accomplished this. It’s how movements happen online -- from the bottom up. We didn’t defeat SOPA and PIPA because I led the way, it’s because I followed millions of people.

I understand many people still associate me with running reddit, despite not being involved with daily operations since leaving the company in 2010 (I do sit on the board). I’m happy to share my personal views, but that’s what they are: my personal views. After addressing how disappointed I was that he misled me into this interview, he implied he got what he needed. I have no idea what his FastCompany piece will entail, but I wanted to take the time to put forth my own views in my own words.

•••

Finally, Mr. Popescu, I do own pink socks (and love them) but the ones I was wearing that day were actually orange. During our interview, you called my childhood friend and crew manager Asa Solomon a “little guy,” which was rather unprofessional (sure, he’s a little shorter than average, but why the petty putdown?). And lastly, there’s no reason to insult our bus driver, Bruce, for owning a bag that didn’t meet your high-fashion expectations.

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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/625300 2013-12-01T17:35:35Z 2013-12-01T17:36:03Z reddit could've been called "hotlex" or "voxaloo" I found these gems in an email I sent to Steve back on April 22, 2005. These are just a few of the names we tossed around before I discovered "reddit.com" -- good thing I did....

sosnoo.com
mysnoo.com
hotagg.com
aggpop.com
hotsnoo.com
snoopop.com
perkma.com
hotlex.com
perkperk.com
voxperk.com
lexpop.com
gaxoo.com
freshperk.com
perkoo.com
perklu.com
popfresh.com
perkla.com
dosedose.com
perkdose.com
ripefresh.com
laperk.com
perkle.com
populoo.com
frescoperk.com
frescoo.com
nitlu.com
nitman.com
redsnoo.com
ripered.com
snoovox.com
voxloo.com
voxaloo.com

More stories from the early days of reddit can be found in my WSJ bestseller, Without Their Permission.

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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/620855 2013-11-18T18:59:43Z 2014-05-04T06:12:50Z A night with Stephen Colbert

I can't tell you how nervous I was, but I think it turned out OK despite me not realizing Stephen pre-dated Stewart on The Daily Show (fail).

Watch the clip.

Sure enough, Without Their Permission had another surge thanks to the Colbert Bump! I can't possibly thank Stephen and the entire team at The Report enough for making this all happen & being so freaking accommodating to me and my guests.

Keep up with everything WTP tour-related on our WIRED destination site.

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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/609421 2013-10-16T04:28:50Z 2014-04-26T16:46:30Z Russian Magazine Cover Whoa.


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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/608349 2013-10-13T01:16:34Z 2013-10-13T01:16:34Z I don't need a pop-up for every new song, iTunes Why is this default?

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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/607356 2013-10-09T13:17:56Z 2013-10-09T13:20:41Z Talking about digital privacy rights with Chris Hayes on MSNBC

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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/606643 2013-10-06T15:40:53Z 2013-10-08T17:31:04Z ABC goes old school and asks me to write answers to some interview questions This was fun.

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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/604147 2013-09-25T04:20:25Z 2013-10-08T17:30:33Z Got my mug in this month's WIRED: We Need More Nerds!

Fired up! Less than a week until Without Their Permission drops!

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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/601005 2013-09-12T12:31:28Z 2013-10-08T17:29:51Z I love a great startup trailer - nice job, @TeeSpring
A great trailer should look nice, sound nice (seriously, people will forgive so-so visual, but won't forgive bad sound), and tell a total neophyte exactly what your startup does as concisely as possible.
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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/599996 2013-09-08T20:07:21Z 2013-10-08T17:29:35Z First look at Without Their Permission cover (and first-ever "5 Hour Read" icon)

I can't wait for you to get your hands on my first book! Pre-order it now if you don't want to wait until Oct 1st and please fwd me your receipt so I can thank you properly: thankyou@alexisohanian.com

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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/599855 2013-09-08T00:21:11Z 2013-10-08T17:29:33Z Announcing an epic 100 stop, 65 university, 5 month tour for internet entrepreneurship (and Without Their Permission)

I announced this earlier this week on the reddit blog -- read all about it -- and let me know if I'm going to see you on campus!

My team and I have been overwhelmed with the response from everyone across the country and also abroad. I CANNOT WAIT for you to all get your hands on the book this October 1st (and high-5 you in person!).
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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/598167 2013-08-30T23:59:27Z 2013-10-08T17:29:14Z I cannot wait for football season to start -- who's with me?

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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/591704 2013-08-01T03:51:53Z 2013-10-08T17:27:53Z Make Good Art - Brilliant Commencement Speech from Neil Gaiman
So many awesome themes I totally agree with, delivered so masterfully by Neil Gaiman. Watch this.
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Alexis Ohanian
tag:alexisohanian.com,2013:Post/586975 2013-07-03T20:40:58Z 2013-10-08T17:26:58Z Superman Is An Immigrant

My mom immigrated from Germany and was undocumented for about a year. My dad’s family fled the Armenian Genocide. They all just wanted better lives for themselves - for me. 

I am the American Way.

Join the campaign!

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Alexis Ohanian