Reddit co-founder speaks to UW students on entrepreneurship

Photo by Ryan Hueglin
Photo by Ryan Hueglin

Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of the popular website, Reddit, was at the University of Waterloo Friday night to talk about youth entrepreneurship. He was also promoting his new book Without Their Permission: How the 21st

Century Will Be Made, Not Managed

To Ohanian, UW and the Waterloo community were seen as an ideal stop on the tour.

“A big part of the curriculum [at UW] is doing stuff, is building stuff, is making stuff,” said Ohanian.

“Culturally it’s already so ripe with the spirit of entrepreneurship,” he continued.

“And that’s great because that’s severely lacking in most other curricular at most other schools.”

Despite being on a book tour, Ohanian spent very little time discussing his work; he instead focused on the endless possibilities of the “information age.”

The main theme of the lecture was to emphasize the power of the Internet in relation to youth entrepreneurship.

Ohanian lauded the virtues of the Internet, claiming it to be “the world’s largest stage and library in one and it is real time 24/7 accessible to every one of you.”

He explained that the Internet has provided opportunities that have never been witnessed before.

Much of these opportunities, he said, have been provided by the pioneers of the information age.

“Every one of you now is coming up at an age where you have the resources, you are standing on the shoulders of giants,” he said.

“They are huge and you have resources, you can start up right now.”

Ohanian maintained that as a generation born in the Internet age and molded by its existence, today’s youth have knowledge and skills that can be hugely beneficial.

“There is a fundamental advantage that we have to having a fluency about this technology and once we can realize that this thing not only lets us get greater entertainment,” he continued.
“But also lets us solve any problem we want, is really, really amazing.”

The Internet has created a plethora of opportunities that previous generations were not privy to, but to some there is still a sense of self-doubt.

“Do not let not knowing what you are doing stop you from doing what you want to do, because spoiler, eight years in, with whatever success I have had thus far I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time,” assured Ohanian.

“That is life, it is not paint by number; it’s just figuring sh*t out as you go along.”

He added that “we’re always in a state of trying to figure it out and so embrace that; embrace it, accept it, and love it.”

Ohanian also addressed the ability of software to revolutionize non-profits.

He pointed to organizations such as Watsi which collects donations via crowdfunding software to facilitate medical treatment in the developing world.

“That model is one that’s not going to have the bloat ten years from now because it’s run on software, it’s not run by people who go out to have fancy dinners in big cities and fundraise every night.”

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