Wednesday night, Lillis 182 was fuller than the first day of a BA 101 class. Every seat was filled, every inch of standing room taken, with people anxious to hear Alexis Ohanian — co-founder of hugely popular social news site Reddit — talk about his new book, “Without Their Permission: How The 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed.”
For 40 minutes, Ohanian charmed the crowd with his self-deprecating sarcastic humor, collection of Internet memes and most of all, his entrepreneurial success story.
Ohanian, who apparently knew his talk would qualify for many classes’ extra credit, gave a friendly “What up Ducks?” greeting, and opened by saying, “This is the first time anything involving Reddit will be for credit!” encouraging students to use the #WTPBook hashtag.
Ohanian explained Reddit’s trials and tribulations, all while using examples from his journey to encourage young entrepreneurs to use the power of the Internet to create start-ups. He said that we, as millennials, have the asset of Internet fluency, providing insight to the title of his book: Nobody has to wait for permission to start anything. He illustrated this point by asking the crowd, “Who has something they’re doing that they’re passionate about?” He brought up a student who raised his hand, who then shared his idea with the room.
“He had a really good sense of humor,” said Kieran McCann, a freshman majoring in business and interested in marketing and entrepreneurship. “He shows that it’s really easy to start from nothing.”
Ohanian was able to illustrate his unique business method best to the audience by making them laugh. He claimed that waffles had changed his life, causing him to skip out on an LSAT prep course and instead go to a Waffle House. He also admitted that he had no idea what he was doing when he and his partner, Steve Huffman, started the company.
Ohanian continued to cite examples of the power of the Internet could be harnessed to share ideas, be it Grumpy Cat, the photographer behind Humans of New York or Zach Anner, a comedian with cerebral palsy who put a video on YouTube and now has a show produced by Rainn Wilson.
Adam Green found the talk particularly inspiring. “I was already a huge Reddit fan and I’ve seen Alexis’ podcasts,” the junior computer science major said. “It was really inspirational.”
After the talk, students had the opportunity to meet Ohanian to get their book signed or just talk with him and share ideas. For over an hour, he signed books, took photos and cracked jokes.
When asked about his waffle-eating habits, Ohanian said, “I’m a purist. I like butter and maple syrup and I’m willing to pay for the good stuff.”
He also invited people to join him at Rennie’s afterward.
“Without Their Permission” is available to order through the Duck Store.