Alexis Ohanian (Co-founder of Reddit) on “Building and Growing an Internet Startup” (Edinburgh Entrepreneur Club)

I arrive late. (See, four blog posts in and you’ve spotted a theme.)

A few familar faces…

It feels weird to hang out with folk where the collective label is “entrepreneur”. It is … at times … in some conversations … a dirty word. I have even heard entrepreneurs blamed for the recession. No, really I have.

It was a pretty top-level speech and although I’m not sure it really gave the audience the detail they wanted, I did take a few things on board (though perhaps this is a mixture of what Alexis talked about and a few after-event chats…)

Technical start-ups should ideally have a geek/hardcore coder and a “useless co-founder”. I’m not sure I liked the term “useless co-founder”, but his pitch was that you need to ring-fence, protect the geek half of the partnership (in this case Steve Huffman) so that they code, code, code. The other “useless” founder (Ohanian) hoovers up all the marketing, admin, domestic duties – to leave geek-man (or girl) in a state of uncluttered code zone. Think this was linked to the Mr Wolf slide… “I solve problems”

In marrying up the geek (Huffman) and go (Ohanian), he argued marketing savvy can be obtained from various internet resources now and it’s actually more important to focus on whether you’ll be able to breathe, eat and sleep the same space with that person for the next X months/years. (But on a personal EMW* note, whilst you can “just f***ing Google” everything now, sometimes human experience is a valuable shortcut.)

Ohanian also made a point about “Just start[ing]”.

Yep, no buts.

Just go …

Just do it …

Run with an idea, some ideas, any ideas!

In the search for The Killer app we’re probably missing lots of killer apps.

Hmmm, what else did I write?

<Reads notes>

I think he also said as the useless founder and loving, supportive equivalent of “life partner” [Steve], it’s up to you to provide the constant supply of optimism in the relationship partnership. Which is sometimes difficult, indeed very difficult, when times are tough.

He also mentioned something about surprises… could have been about customers. Like posting stickers out to 300 people, who were clearly pretty chuffed at this interaction and sent him back pictures of the curious places (all above board) where they’d placed the stickers.

And then there was a wee note on customer service….

Ohanian’s advice: ignoring the volume of emails you’ll have to deal with each day and the time it will inevitably take to respond to all of them… Every now and then, take an email that comes in and respond really quickly (say within 10 minutes or so), especially if it’s a critical message …. and then sit back and watch the reaction. Often it’s one of terrific enthusiasm and well worth the very small, initial investment.

And so we get to the end of the slick presentation and in the Q&A session, there were various questions including:

How do you address the work/life balance as a start-up (A: you don’t, can’t…. starting-up is effectively a life killer or a lifestyle)

How do us “useless” folk get into the tech start-up game (A: you don’t without a geek).

And life post-Reddit? Well not a lot of detail from the talk, but a little online digging provided some information…

http://gawker.com/5392249/wired-loses-reddit-founders-just-like-we-warned

http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/10/27/three-years-after-their-acquisition-reddit-founders-move-on/

Anyway, feck it’s taken an eternity to write this post and there’s still a TEDx Edinburgh post to write.

Oh the photos, almost forgot!

Alexis Ohanian on "Building and Growing an Internet Startup", Edinburgh Entrepreneurship Club

"I made my first million when I was fourteen..."

Another photo from Edinburgh Entrepreneurship Club, featuring Alexis Ohanian.

"We love you man"

*EMW = Evil Marketing Witch: a quote from **someone at ***TMU.

** = you know who you are

***TMU = Tech Meet-Up

Advertisements