Reddit co-founder discusses 'how to be awesome on the Internet'

Alexis Ohanian advocates for web entrepreneurship to a packed auditorium

· December 2, 2013, 9:26 pm   ·  Updated December 2, 2013, 11:39 pm

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Yolanda Chen | DP

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian speaks at Steinberg-Dietrich Hall on Monday as part of a promotional tour for his new book about digital entrepreneurship.


Yesterday afternoon, Alexis Ohanian — co-founder of the website Reddit — stormed a packed auditorium at Steinberg-Dietrich Hall to preach the message of internet entrepreneurship.

Ohanian was visiting Penn as part of a nationwide promotional tour for his new book, “Without Their Permission,” which was released in October.

Related: Reddit co-founder to speak at Penn

His key focus, however, was to discuss “how to be awesome on the internet,” he said, and to inspire his audience to bite the bullet and become web entrepreneurs themselves. For Ohanian , the requisite leap of faith for starting a business is crucial.

“Ideas are worthless, and execution is everything,” he said.

Ohanian’s team organized the talk in collaboration with Penn organizations eClub, Wharton Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Club and PennApps. 2006 Wharton graduate Jake Stein joined Ohanian on stage for a conversation, which constituted the second half of the presentation.

Related: Two Wharton professors partner on new social enterprise e-book

As co-founder of e-commerce analytic software company RJMetrics, which he began in 2009, Stein was able to give specific insight into how life at Penn can become life as a start-up internet entrepreneur.

Both men discussed the role of failure in their success, and Ohanian stressed that “sucking is the first step to being good at something.” He also spoke about facing competitors, telling his audience to ignore it. “They will not beat you, you will beat yourself,” he added.

The talk was tailored neatly to its audience at Penn and spoke clearly to students as Stein stated “now [in college] is the first time that veering off onto your own path is the right choice.”

Wharton and Engineering senior Pulak Mittal — one of three founders of the start-up Emerald Exam who helped organize the event — described Ohanian as “the most compelling speaker on entrepreneurship,” alongside venture capitalist and programmer Paul Graham.

Related: Making entrepreneurial dreams a reality

Stein himself said afterwards that “it was a thrill” to speak with “the mayor of the internet.”

With a T-shirt cannon and numerous pictures to illustrate his points — many of which featured cats — Ohanian was certainly popular with his audience.

After handing out postcards with the inscription, “By the time you get this, you’ll have finally…” for his audience to fill out, Ohanian finished his talk by promising to mail the postcards back to everyone at the end of his tour, which will end in March.

Later, he settled down to book signing. Audience members were assigned a number via text message, because Ohanian admits to using technology even to avoid lines.

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