Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian pitches motivation through memes at CMU

Written by Ethan Magoc on .

In 2005, the year he started a microblogging site Reddit with his friend Steve Huffman, Alexis Ohanian had no idea what he was doing.

Evidence: he drew Reddit's ubiquitous robot logo, "snoo," before hashing out the site's mission or direction. "I'm Alexis," he said. "I start companies and draw mascots for them."

He shared this story, all the while harping on the benefits of entrepreneurship, on Tuesday night to a crowd of about 200 people at CMU's McConomy Auditorium. His presentation was in equal parts focused on motivational speaking, Reddit history and power of the Internet.

Oh, and it contained plenty of memes about the divide between digital immigrants and digital natives, who, he said, now possess a huge advantage.

Alexis Ohanian Carnegie Mellon University February 2014 Ethan Magoc Post-Gazette 3

He is an evangelist for learning to write code, calling it "the most valuable skill of this century," though he was largely preaching to the choir at a campus like CMU.

At one point, he asked for a show of hands: "Who is working on a Web project?" Many shot up, and he called to the stage Jackie Vesci, who pitched her Pittsburgh conversation site, 3HourLocal.

He was often self-deprecating in trying to show those in attendance that the road to success is rarely smooth. Besides almost calling Reddit "Snoo" — hopefully prompting the frequent question "What's snoo?" — he also worked toward the end of his college career on an ill-fated startup known as My Mobile Menu.

The acronym? MMM...

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While Ohanian is on a nationwide college tour selling his book, he attempted to personalize his pitch with slides like these. With the Tartan mascot, he said, "I was expecting something a little different (than the Scottish terrier)." More like that guy. (Ethan Magoc/Post-Gazette photos)

"I still do not know what I'm doing most of the time," Ohanian said. "There's no paint by numbers for life."

He left the crowd with an old-fashioned, albeit interactive, gimmick. Write down your address and a month-long project or goal you're working on, he said, and leave it with me. In a month, he's paying for the postage and mailing them back.

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