Maybe the news that he's about to become a father has Alexis Ohanian feeling circumspect. (The tennis star Serena Williams, to whom the Reddit co-founder is engaged, announced on Snapchat two weeks ago that she's expecting their first child.)
At Collision, a three-day tech conference in New Orleans, the entrepreneur, who co-founded Reddit with his college roommate Steve Huffman in 2005, encouraged the crowd to aim high no matter the obstacles. "Great things can start from a humble beginning," he said. Ohanian ended his uplifting session, "What the World Needs Now: Community, Conversation, and Shitty_Watercolour," with a short Q&A, during which an audience member asked, "What advice would you give to the next Alexis Ohanian?" The internet entrepreneur replied:
1. Get things off your chest.
"I lucked out," said Ohanian, who met Huffman when they were undergraduates at the University of Virginia. Even so, he noted that having hard, yet necessary conversations with his co-founder and friend was challenging at first. Recalling his experience of talking to an executive coach a year and a half ago, he wishes that he had gone sooner. His advice to entrepreneurs? Talk to someone with an outside perspective, whether it's a mentor, executive coach, therapist, or rabbi, he said.
2. Prioritize your mental health.
Productivity may be of utmost importance to entrepreneurs, but don't go overboard, he said. This kind of "hustle porn," as Ohanian put it, often establishes an unhealthy standard for entrepreneurs to live by, reinforcing the idea that they need to sacrifice their health to be successful. "It's just posturing and frankly unhealthy," the 34-year-old founder said, adding: It's hard to detect signs of depression when you're in it. He wishes he had talked to a therapist much sooner. His advice? Exercise, eat well, and find someone you can confide in.
3. Stay determined.
Now the fourth most popular site in the U.S., Reddit has continued to grow from its modest beginning in a small apartment, with $70,000 in funding. "It's a fight to get anyone other than your mom to care about your startup," Ohanian said, but you need to find ways to take an unenthusiastic response, or even hate, and turn it into a positive outcome.
And in case you're curious, "Shitty_Watercolour" is the handle name for Hector Janse van Rensburg, a watercolor illustrator who started his art career on Reddit. Ohanian cited him as an example for the power of pseudonymity on Reddit.