In 2005, a year after graduating from college, Alexis Ohanian and pal Steve Huffman founded the social news website Reddit, following an epiphany Ohanian had in a Waffle House. The site's simplicity was the key to its success; people submit links to cool things, and other people comment on them and vote them "up" or "down" the page. Links rise and fall throughout the day on the ever-changing, democratic homepage. Reddit's content was "user-generated" before everyone and his mother were throwing around that phrase.
Ohanian, 28, has a Zack Morris thing going on, a mix of easy confidence and geekiness. He's eloquent and self-effacing, getting flustered only once; when expressing how weird it is to be in a "Beautiful People" issue. Doesn't he know the nerds always win in the end?
After Reddit's success, Ohanian has taken on projects that aim to "make the world suck less." He founded Breadpig, a sort of "Newman's Own for nerds," which sells toys and books, sending the proceeds to charities. Last fall, he met with Congress to help lobby against SOPA and PIPA, arguing that the bills would stifle expression and innovation online.
As long as the web stays open and uncensored, Ohanian believes, it will continue to break down barriers for future entrepreneurs. Thanks to movements like open-source software and Kickstarter, it's never been easier to make an impact. His advice to startup-hopefuls is to just get started, today. "Solve the simplest problem you can, get it online and see what happens," he says. "And if anyone tells you it's not going to work, ignore them."
Alexis wears a jacket by Louis Vuitton and t-shirt by H&M.
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