Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian--a self-proclaimed “start-up guy"--recently returned from an eight-day bus tour with an answer for the country’s economic woes: technology start-ups.
Between the first presidential debate in Denver and the vice-presidential debate in Danville, Kentucky, Ohanian and his crew visited different start-ups, held rallies, and participated in panel discussions. The group traveled on an Internet 2012 campaign bus (which didn't have WiFi--oops) and Ohanian saw firsthand how the open Internet he’s been championing over the last year has benefited tech start-ups across the country. The tour came out of Ohanian's open opposition to controversial regulations like PIPA and SOPA proposed earlier this year.
“The world is not flat, but the World Wide Web is,” Ohanian said at Consumer Electronics Association’s annual Industry Forum on Tuesday in San Francisco. “That’s what drives entrepreneurs like me to start these companies, that’s what drives investors like me to me to invest in entrepreneurs that start these companies--because if you have a level playing field, where all links are created equal, the best ideas can actually win. The best ideas grow in a matter of years and dramatically change industries and they do so through innovation.”
These ideas can originate in Manhattan just as easily as they can in Mississippi as a direct result of an open Internet, Ohanian argued. He told the audience he saw “the kind of innovation that’s helping this country get its swagger back” on his tour. Innovation will lead to creation, he said, and the Internet will be its catapult.
“The beauty of a start-up, the hope of a start-up," he added, "is this idea that we can take a small amount of money and over the span of a few years, grow it into something huge that employs hundreds of people and starts to build an entire ecosystem and an entire community.”
Throughout his travels, Ohanian continued to hear the same message from the U.S.-owned and -operated technology start-ups: “We’re hiring”--a phrase that, he said, that all Americans would love to hear right now, no matter their political affilication.
Ohanian's pitch for why the Internet must remain open boiled down to a simple business equation all entrepreneurs know: supply and demand.
“At the core of this story is a really simple graph: supply meets demand," he said. "Consumers get what they want and businesses get paid for it. All the Internet is doing is making that graph line up a lot more efficiently than it ever has.”