All Photos by Kelly Kimball
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Incite talks with Alexis Ohanian about what it takes to be successful and cutting-edge in the 21st century
Donald Bren Hall and the School of Information and Computer Science at the University of California, Irvine were gracious hosts to Reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian on Wednesday, Jan. 22 . Leading a book tour at over 200 venues, Ohanian hoped to call to action those ambitious, curious, and entrepreneurial young thinkers of the 21st century.
Such diversity took up every inch of the oversized conference room in Donald Bren Hall where students, journalists, photographers, faculty, alumni, and administration congregated waiting for their guest. Every seat was filled. Breathless students fell into the last few spots available along the edges of the venue shedding their bulky bags and coats form the fading overcast weather outside.
By the time 12 o’clock rolled by, this tall 30-year-old man with slightly disheveled hair and a neatly kept lumberjack beard entered the room sporting a goofy smile to the sound of applause and the flash of cameras. Ohanian sauntered up to the front of the room giving off a younger, sprightlier aura than expected from an internationally recognized entrepreneur.
After just a few minutes of Ohanian’s presentation of his new book “Without Their Permission,” which dives into the perks and downfalls of starting Reddit and the ideologies he adopted that uplifted him even in the most difficult of times, one could already understand that Ohanian was a classic advocate of working hard and following your own curiosity.
He gave off a colloquial, warm, and refreshingly extroverted nature drawing people in with his bad puns and references to pop culture characters like Grumpy Cat and Bane from “Batman” while effortlessly relating himself to the trivialities of college life. While he was studying at University of Virginia in his early 20s, Ohanian stopped at nothing to pursue his dreams. He took on coding and website projects from fledgling startup companies for free wanting evermore to develop his computer skills in a generation where very few people had them.
Acquiring and refining these skills via trial and error paved the way for Reddit to become a possibility. Reddit, however, only got off the ground after a fair share of adversity. Ohanian shared the “epic fail” he encountered when trying to collaborate with Yahoo. Yahoo turned him down saying, “You are a rounding error compared to what our website is.”
Instead of giving up, Ohanian typed this devastating quote, printed it on a large sheet of paper, and hung it on his wall so that he could be fueled and inspired to prove them wrong. Indeed, Ohanaian described the nuances of your supporters and critics: “There will be constructive critics. And then there will be haters.”
The constructive critics were the ones Ohanian and his team kept close along with inspiring people and their stories. He emphasized the idea of ignoring your competitors, and instead using your focus and energy to encourage yourself and your efforts in whatever you’re doing.
One of the last things Ohanian shared was that an entrepreneur “is just French for ‘has ideas, does them.’” In all, Ohanian hoped to initiate activism in our generation by forcing us to push the limits of our efforts and definitions. Needless to say, the event in all was uplifting and refreshing—something we need more of at a university.