Alexis Ohanian is something of an internet veteran — a tough label to earn in an industry known for new ideas. If you find yourself sitting on the next great idea for a whiz-bang internet company, Ohanian might be a a good person to talk to.
Ohanian is one of the co-founders behind the social news website reddit, which drew in 75 million visitors last month alone.
His new book, “Without Their Permission,” reflects on his own experiences starting companies on the internet, and why you should join the party too.
“There is something special going on here thanks to the Internet, which I’m pretty much convinced is not a fad, and I just want as many people as possible to basically be awesome on it,” Ohanian says. “There’s a lot riding on it. Obviously from an economic standpoint, there aren’t a lot of industries in the world that America dominates in. But the Internet and tech is one of the few.”
Ohanian points to companies like Google and Facebook as creating new platforms for entrepreneurs, but he’s also excited for new art, as well.
“It’s another generation of artists using Kickstarter to have films come to fruition, it’s another generation of writers building an audience and getting to produce their work,” Ohanian says. “And it’s exciting, it really is.”
And, according to Ohanian, those platforms are open to everyone.
“The power [of the Internet] comes from the fact that if you wanted to participate in the industrial revolution, you needed to opened a factory, and if you wanted to participate in the Internet revolution, you only need to open a laptop,” Ohanian says.
But, a low barrier to entry doesn’t mean everyone can be an Internet gazillionaire with a laptop.
“The barriers are indeed low. This is the gift and the curse, to paraphrase Jay Z,” Ohanian says. “The gift is that anyone get online … and when anyone can have that stage for their ideas, that’s great, cause it means anyone can have a stage. It’s also a problem, because anyone can have that stage. So, there’s a lot more noise.”
Despite the potential for noise and failure, Ohanian doesn’t think that should be a deterrent. Even after starting Reddit, he admits that there is no shortcut to success.
“I think not enough of us, who’ve had some success, are willing to really admit how little we really know about what we’re doing,” Ohanian says. “Past experience helps, but at the end of the day if we’re not constantly pushing ourselves to [do] something a little different, and a little out of the ordinary … we’re not really growing. And the sooner we come to terms with that, the better, because then we can actually start pushing boundaries. We can start innovating and doing new stuff, because there is no precedent.”
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