Co-Founder of Initialized Capital & Co-Founder of Reddit; Entrepreneur, Investor, Activist & Bestselling Author
Tech founder and venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian embraces disruption, beginning with his Waffle House epiphany that becoming an attorney was not his destiny to co-founding Reddit in his UVA dorm and launching the venture upon graduation. Ultimately selling the iconic company for millions, Ohanian’s entrepreneurial journey is a business school case study and playbook for founders.
Ohanian is a vocal advocate for the open internet, STEM education, and paid family leave. He has lobbied on Capitol Hill and penned a New York Times op-ed, “Paternity Leave Was Crucial After The Birth of My Child, and Every Father Deserves It.” Ohanian also launched the Business Dad podcast, where he interviews fellow fathers about what it means to be a dad in today’s world and how they balance their careers and families. If you expect Ohanian’s speeches to offer the formula for uncontested success, you would be surprised. Driven by curiosity and questions (not a well-designed strategy), Ohanian lessons are transparent admissions of beta failures. His stories – punctuated with humility and humor – share the discoveries that shaped his worldview and an unrelenting commitment to make the world a better place – without permission.Alexis Ohanian was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. and grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore, M.D. He wrote the national bestselling book Without Their Permission and has been a vocal advocate for the open internet, STEM education and paid family leave.
Out of college, Ohanian co-founded Reddit, one of the largest websites in the U.S., which was funded by Y Combinator in 2005 and sold to Conde Nast in 2006. He returned as executive chairman in 2014 to help lead the turnaround of the now independent company that today is valued at over $10B. In 2016, he left Reddit to run the venture capital firm he co-founded, Initialized Capital, and built it to $100B in market value through early investments in companies like Coinbase, Opendoor, Instacart, Patreon, and Ro.
In 2020, Ohanian resigned from the Reddit board in protest and left his role at Initialized Capital to launch Seven Seven Six, a new firm built like a technology company that deploys venture capital. Since launch, Seven Seven Six has quickly grown its total assets under management to over $769M and has been at the forefront of emerging technologies and trends, leading competitive investments in companies across sectors including software, crypto, healthtech, food tech, climate tech, and space tech.
In 2022, Ohanian launched the Seven Seven Six Foundation to support marginalized individuals and announced a $20M commitment to climate action through his new Seven Seven Six Fellowship Program. The Seven Seven Six Fellowship Program is a two-year program for motivated young people who want to build a better future—now. To kickstart their world-changing idea, each Fellow will receive a $100,000 grant and support from the Seven Seven Six Foundation’s network of founders, investors, and partners. The inaugural cohort will consist of 20 Fellows. Ohanian is also the lead founding investor in the LA-based professional women’s soccer team, Angel City Football Club. Ohanian has a B.A. in History and a B.S. in Commerce from the University of Virginia.
Without Their Permission
At 29, Ohanian has come to personify the dorm-room tech entrepreneur, changing the world without asking permission. Within a couple of years of graduating college, Ohanian did just that, selling reddit for millions of dollars. He’s gone on to start many other companies, like hipmunk and breadpig, all while representing Y Combinator and investing in over sixty other tech startups.
As Alexis Ohanian learned when he helped to co-found the immensely popular reddit.com, the internet is the most powerful and democratic tool for disseminating information in human history. And when that power is harnessed to create new communities, technologies, businesses or charities, the results can be absolutely stunning. In this talk based on his new book, "Without Their Permission," Alexis shares his ideas on harnessing the power of the web for good and shares his philosophy with young entrepreneurs all over the globe. Alexis believes that the internet is the world's greatest library and stage, and he helps everyone gets on board equipped with all the right tools. He calls it "Permissionless Innovation" and shows the power of this platform not only for entrepreneurship, but for philanthropy, activism, the arts and more.
According to Alexis, when all links are created equal, we're going to see better companies, better arts, better non-profits, even better politicians. The potential is limitless from people who’ve been left out by traditional gatekeepers.
In order for this creativity to flourish we need to keep internet open and free and a viable place for people to pursue their dreams.
Think Like a Startup
America is losing its competitive edge as a nation. With fewer products being produced in the US, it is innovation coming from dorm-rooms and garages that will continue generating wealth (and jobs) for the next generation. Today, Google (started in a garage) has over 20,000 employees. Skype was developed by programmers in Estonia, and when it was sold, the price was equal to more than 1/10th of Estonia's GDP that year. A 17-year-old high school student in Moscow started ChatRoulette.com, which quickly became one of the most popular websites in the world.
Alexis was in the first round of Y Combinator startups, funded in a model that has quickly become replicated worldwide as the standard means of investing in early stage web startups. He'll share what he learned from having gone through the experience, as well as what it's like now working for Y Combinator as their "Ambassador to the East."
With over 60 companies in his portfolio today, Alexis will also share his insights as an investor and show companies of all sizes the most valuable lessons they can learn from startup culture.
Make Something People Love
So, you want to learn how to make a product people love-that's great! But stop right there. Before you can make something people love, you have to make something people want. What's challenging and wonderful about the web is that tricks of perception alone will not work. Anything you create actually has to be good. No matter how you try to convince someone to buy or use your product, they are always only a back button away from something more interesting. The internet is the most efficient marketplace for ideas that has ever existed, but your competition is stiff, and comes in all forms.
Alexis shares lessons he's learned from co-founding reddit, and building community on breadpig and the travel search site hipmunk. He'll also share best practices for design and community that he imparts to the startups he advises and invests in.
Make the World Suck Less (And Still Make a Profit)
So many people talk about how to use social media to build community, but not many have actually done it on a massive scale. As co-founder of the social news site reddit, and founder of the social enterprise breadpig, Alexis speaks with authority on the power of building a passionate community and the opportunity to tap into that community to do good works.
"Make the World Suck Less" is Alexis's motto and the mission he builds into all his entrepreneurial endeavors. With breadpig, he turned the publishing model on its head, giving the bulk of its profits to the artists while still raising over $200,000 in three years to donate to non-profit projects.
Alexis tells stories from his own experiences, and from the companies he invests in, and shows how individuals and organizations of every size and type can put these values into action.
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