When Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian talks about the type of things that motivated him on his way to creating one of the world’s most valuable entities on the web, you might be tempted to say he sounds more like an NFL coach than an immensely successful entrepreneur.
After all, the term “bulletin board material” has been made famous by the culture of football locker rooms, where trash talk from an opposing team can end up printed and plastered on the wall for all to see, just to provide another reason to crush the competition.
And such was the case for Ohanian who, during the early days of the development of Reddit, the popular news aggregating site, made sure he and partner Steve Huffman never had to look far for an extra boost of motivation as he placed all of his critics’ words in between the co-founders’ desks.
“Any moment when I needed to remember why I was there and what I needed for motivation, I could look over and see right there staring at me someone who I wanted to prove wrong,” Ohanian told MSNBC. “I printed: ‘You are a rounding error’ on the wall.”
The internet mogul placed the words on what he called his “wall of negative reinforcement.” And as for the “you are a rounding error” bit? Those words came from a Yahoo! higher-up who, while in a meeting with Reddit’s co-founders, way before the site became as big as it is today, asked Ohanian and Huffman “what are you even doing here?” after hearing about the pair’s modest web traffic statistics.
With Yahoo! being, well, Yahoo!, an internet giant compared to a no-name site at the time like Reddit, Ohanian might have had reason to take great discouragement from the encounter. Instead, he chose another route and advises everyone to do the same when they face similar situations in any walk of life.
“Look, there are always going to be haters in our lives, right,” Ohanian said. “One of the best things we can do is to use it for ammunition, use it for breakfast.”
With those words in mind, the entrepreneur who proclaims his mission is to “make the world suck less,” wants to push to acknowledge the fact that the road to success begins with putting oneself out there, right in the firing line for all to see. That fact, however, should not stop anyone from doing what they want to do and doing so eagerly, he argues.
“We aren’t born successful entrepreneurs; we have to work our way up,” he said. “The first step to doing that is just getting started; getting something out there and seeing how people respond… Today is the day to get started.”
Photo: Alexis Ohanian