Reddit co-founder wants you to start working on your idea

Projected behind reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian on the Big Kansas City stage last week was his personal motto in all caps, paired meme-style with a snarling wolf: "Have an idea. Start doing it." Before his user-generated website built steam, he had to let another idea crash and burn. At our Big Kansas City event, he

Projected behind reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian on the Big Kansas City stage last week was his personal motto in all caps, paired meme-style with a snarling wolf: “Have an idea. Start doing it.”

Before his user-generated website built steam, he had to let another idea crash and burn. At our Big Kansas City event, he shared the story of spending a year researching the viability of My Mobile Menu—an app that hoped to cut wait times for customers by ordering ahead—with his soon-to-be reddit co-founder Steve Huffman.

They took a train to Boston to see investor Paul Graham give a talk, “How to Start a Startup.” After the talk, Ohanian was able to get in front of Graham, at which point he offered him a drink if he would give him and Huffman five minutes to his time that night. Graham took them up on the offer and after the meeting, the two hopped on the train home not knowing what might come of it.

At the time, Graham was just starting his now notable accelerator, Y Combinator, and though he wasn’t sold on their app, he liked the co-founders. He called them while they were on the train and offered them a spot in Y Combinator if they changed their idea to something completely different. They accepted the offer and immediately switched trains to head back to Boston. It wasn’t long before reddit was born.

“We’re conditioned to not fail on a daily basis,” Ohanian said. “I have no idea what I’m doing. It’s about adapting, the very nature of a startup.” Get past that obstacle and he believes everyone has the ability to start something of their own.

It used to be that “when you wanted to change the world, you needed to open a factory,” Ohanian said. “Now, all you need is a laptop. The barriers are falling every day to build these companies.”

The open nature of the internet has given greater control to entrepreneurs, artists and consumers to determine what succeeds or fails, he said, highlighting several Kickstarter projects that challenge the market. He believes that will be the norm more and more going forward. Industries will have to keep up. “They adapt or go away,” he said.

Ohanian also talked about his strong support for maintaining an Open Internet and creating equal economic opportunities across the country to use it as a resource, citing two projects—the “Don’t mess with the internet” campaign and the bus tour that resulted in the film “Silicon Prairie: America’s New Internet Economy“—he has helped spearhead.

Big Kansas City is a two-and-a-half-day event that aims to inspire, educate and celebrate the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the heart of the Midwest. Produced by Silicon Prairie News, it’s part of the Big Series, the nation’s most ambitious events on innovation and entrepreneurship.

 

Credits: Video by Quadrant5. Snippet photo by Kenny Johnson Photography.


The Big Kansas City Video Series is presented by NIC, Inc.

NIC Inc. is the nation’s leading provider of official government portals, online services, and secure payment processing solutions. The company’s innovative eGovernment services help reduce costs and increase efficiencies for government agencies, citizens, and businesses across the country.

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