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Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian makes entrepreneurship click

February 12, 2014

lovett.45@osu.edu
Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian speaks to a crowd at Mershon Auditorium Feb. 10 in an event sponsored by OSU’s Business Builders Club and Fundable LLC.  Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian speaks to a crowd at Mershon Auditorium Feb. 10 in an event sponsored by OSU’s Business Builders Club and Fundable LLC.
Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian believes innovation and entrepreneurship are keys to making the world “suck less.”

In fact, starting early — while attending college — might be the best time to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors.

Students are “more free to fail than you’ll ever be in your life,” said Ohanian in an interview with The Lantern Monday.

“If pizza in fridge, then content,” Ohanian continued.

He said the life responsibilities of college students are not as prevalent, making the creation of startup businesses easier.

There is an integral tool the millennial generation has that allows it to disperse messages and create these businesses: the Internet.

“The world wide web is flat,” Ohanian said to an audience of Ohio State students and staff gathered at the Mershon Auditorium Monday. “(It’s) the world’s largest stage and library in one.”

Ohanian talked Reddit and startups for about an hour and a half in an event sponsored by OSU’s Business Builders Club and Fundable LLC, a Columbus-based crowdfunding platform.

The event was split into three segments. The first featured Ohanian speaking by himself to the audience, discussing the ethos of his new book, “Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed.” This was followed by a “fireside chat” between Ohanian and OSU graduate Jason Ross, founder of JackThreads, an online contemporary menswear store. The night concluded with an “AMA (Ask Me Anything)” between Ohanian and Wil Schroter, CEO of Fundable.

Ohanian said the most necessary elements to succeed might not be an education, but rather a skillset.

“Coding is the most valuable skill of this century,” Ohanian said. Web design also is crucial in today’s marketplace, he said.

This was echoed in the segment with Ross, who mentioned that a person’s GPA “does not matter” when it comes to creating businesses and taking advantage of the Internet.

“It’s important, but not the end all, be all,” Ross said.

Ohanian provided his outlook a few minutes later on the subject of education’s importance.

“I’m not saying you guys can fail your classes, but I’m saying you guys can fail your classes,” Ohanian said, following up Ross’ comment.

Ohanian’s tongue-in-cheek dialogue with the crowd was ultimately appreciated by attendees.

“It was very funny, and it definitely channeled the spirit of Reddit,” said Noah Faust, a second-year in electrical engineering. Faust said he is an aspiring entrepreneur himself as the owner and creator of Conjoynts, a type of wooden building toy he invented.

Even though GPA and schooling are important yet not essential, there is a certain character quality that is imperative to achieving success, Ross said.

“One of the key things is that you’ve got to do something you’re passionate about,” Ross said, mentioning that men’s fashion was a great interest of his prior to starting JackThreads in 2006.

He added that passion was not the only ingredient needed for success.

“Smart, educated people are a commodity,” Ross said. “One way you can separate yourself is persistence.”

The inclusion of Ross in the presentation was rewarding to some OSU students, such as Alice Hirsh, a second-year in international studies and economics.

“I loved the fact that (Ohanian) brought in other entrepreneurs,” Hirsh said. “I didn’t expect (the event) to bring that local perspective. I loved the variety they brought.”

Ohanian said entrepreneurs are people that have “ideas and do them.” It is the execution of ideas, however, that makes a good entrepreneur, he said.

“Ideas are worthless,” Ohanian said. “Being able to create is where all the value is.”


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