Alexis Ohanian

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Alexis Ohanian
Alexis Ohanian 1-17-2012.jpg
Ohanian protesting SOPA and PIPA in 2012
Alexis Kerry Ohanian

(1983-04-24) April 24, 1983 (age 35)
ResidenceWest Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.[1]
Alma materUniversity of Virginia
  • Entrepreneur
  • venture capitalist
  • investor
Notable work
Serena Williams (m. 2017)

Alexis Kerry Ohanian (born April 24, 1983)[2] is an American Internet entrepreneur and investor, who is co-founder and executive chairman of the social news website Reddit. He also co-founded the early stage venture capital firm Initialized Capital, helped launch the travel search website Hipmunk, and started the social enterprise Breadpig. Ohanian is based in San Francisco, and was a partner at Y Combinator. In 2012, Andy Greenberg of Forbes magazine dubbed him "Mayor of the Internet".[3]

Early life[edit]

Ohanian was born in Brooklyn, New York,[1] to a German-born mother, Anke (née Prigge)[4][5] and Chris Ohanian, an Armenian-American whose grandparents came to the U.S. as refugees after the Armenian Genocide.[6][7] He went to Howard High School in Ellicott City, Maryland, where he gave the student address for his graduating class in 2001.[8][9]


After graduation from the University of Virginia in 2005 with degrees in commerce and history, Ohanian and friend Steve Huffman pitched the idea, MyMobileMenu, to Y Combinator. The company passed on the idea, but encouraged the duo to come up with another idea it could potentially fund.[10] They subsequently came up with with the goal of it becoming the "front page of the Internet."[10] Now living in Boston, they were less than a month into development when Ohanian learned that his girlfriend had fallen five stories and was in a coma.[10] Shortly after, his father called him to tell him that his mother had been diagnosed with an inoperable tumor.[10]

Reddit joined Y-Combinator's first batch of start-ups in the Summer of 2005,[11] and were later acquired by Condé Nast in 2006 for an undisclosed amount between 10–20 million dollars.[10] Ohanian continued to work closely with Reddit as a member of its board of directors. He returned to Reddit full-time with co-founder Huffman on July 10, 2015, to lead the now-independent company.[12][13][14] He stepped back from the company in February 2018 to return to focusing on investing.[15]

In 2007, Ohanian launched Breadpig, an "uncorporation" that produces geeky merchandise and gives the proceeds to charity. He no longer is involved in the day-to-day operations of Breadpig.[16]

In 2009, Ohanian spoke at TED about a whale named Mister Splashy Pants.[17] After leaving Reddit in 2010, Ohanian spent 3 months working in microfinance as a Kiva fellow in Yerevan, Armenia.[18] Ohanian helped launch travel search website Hipmunk in 2010, and now acts as an advisor.[19] In June 2010, Ohanian announced the launch of his company Das Kapital Capital, which focuses on startup investing, advising and consulting.[20]

Ohanian was named the "Ambassador to the East" for early stage venture firm Y Combinator. In this position, he meets with East Coast applicants, mentors New York YC founders, and is a general representative for the company.[21] He also held the role of part-time partner and full-time partner at Y Combinator, before leaving in 2016 to help launch the third Initialized Capital fund with Garry Tan.[22]

Early stage tech investing[edit]

Ohanian co-founded Initialized Capital in 2010 and made seed investments in startups including Instacart, Zenefits, Opendoor, and Cruise. It has had three funds, totaling over $160 million under management.[23] In 2014, CB Insights analyzed all the investors in tech and Ohanian was number one ranked investor for network centrality (the breadth of connections an investor has with other investors in the ecosystem and the quality and depth of those links).[24]

Open Internet activism[edit]

In late 2010 and early 2011, Ohanian spoke out against Congress's Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate's PROTECT IP Act. He helped lead the Internet-enabled campaign that eventually overturned the two bills. Ohanian spoke to members of Congress, helped launch the national anti-SOPA/PIPA protests that took place on January 18, 2012, and spoke at the rally in New York that was organized by NY Tech Meetup.[25]

In October 2012, Ohanian teamed up with Reddit General Manager Erik Martin and embarked on the Internet 2012 Bus Tour from Denver, CO to Danville, KY to campaign for the open Internet during the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates. One of the campaign stops spurred the idea for a possible "National Geek Day" in Washington D.C.[26][27]

In response to his work advocating for the Open Internet, The Daily Dot named Ohanian number one in their top ten most influential activists of 2012, and Forbes Magazine dubbed him "Mayor of the Internet".[28][29]

In May 2014, Ohanian began lobbying the FCC to support net neutrality, culminating with a day-long phone-a-thon into the FCC and Congress on January 15, 2015.[30]

Victoria Taylor firing[edit]

On July 2, 2015, Reddit fired communications director Victoria Taylor, a well-liked administrator who co-ordinated celebrity interviews from Reddit's New York office. In protest, volunteer moderators of the IAmA community set their forum to private, effectively turning it off, and other volunteer moderators followed suit, because of "anger at the way the company routinely demands that the volunteers and community accept major changes that reduce [their] efficiency and increase [their] workload."[31] Initially, interim CEO Ellen Pao was blamed for the dismissal. Harassment which was already being directed toward Pao in relation to other controversies intensified and she resigned a week later.[32]

However, a moderator of IAmA posted on July 3 that "Chooter (Victoria) was let go as an admin by u/kn0thing [Alexis Ohanian]".[33] This was not widely reported until the aftermath of Pao's resignation when Ohanian elaborated on his role in Taylor's dismissal. On July 12, former CEO Yishan Wong informed the Reddit community that Taylor was fired by "the CEO's boss" and accused Ohanian of scapegoating.[34] Ohanian countered that even though the AMA / IAmA changes came from him, he still reported to Pao.[35] As was done for Ellen Pao, a petition was uploaded to asking Alexis Ohanian to step down.[36] In 2017, Pao criticized Ohanian for avoiding the fallout by attending The Championships, Wimbledon in the days immediately following Taylor's firing.[37]

Creative work[edit]

Ohanian created all the mascots for the companies he started: Reddit alien "Snoo", Breadpig pig with bread wings, Hipmunk chipmunk "Chip", and Initialized Capital honey badger.[38]

Hijab Emoji Project[edit]

In early 2017, he worked with teenager Rayouf Alhumedhi to campaign for a hijab emoji. Ohanian helped arrange an AMA for Alhumedhi on r/twoxchromosomes about her idea and responded to critics.[39] On July 17, 2017, Apple released its version of the hijab emoji.[40]

Crowdfunding campaigns[edit]

On December 10, 2012, Ohanian teamed up with Lester Chambers of The Chambers Brothers to launch a Kickstarter project, with the intent to make a new album entitled "Lester's Time Has Come." According to Fast Company, Ohanian aimed "to prove that there are new, sustainable funding opportunities for artists now thanks to platforms like Kickstarter."[41] This project raised over $61,000 for Chambers.[42]

Two years later, Ohanian raised $12,244 for the non-profit Black Girls Code on[43] In May 2014, Ohanian used again to launch "Save Net Neutrality: Billboard in FCC's Backyard," a crowdfunding campaign to protest the FCC's plans to eliminate the idea of net neutrality.[44]

Personal life[edit]

On December 10, 2016, Ohanian became engaged to tennis player Serena Williams.[45] Their daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., was born on September 1, 2017, in West Palm Beach, Florida.[46] Ohanian and Williams married on November 16, 2017, in New Orleans.[47] Ohanian has said "watching Williams compete has changed how he measures success in business."[48]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 2011 and 2012, Ohanian was named to the Forbes "30 Under 30" list as an important figure in the technology industry.[49][50]

In 2013, Ohanian and Erik Martin were featured as "champions of innovation" in the 20th Anniversary issue of Wired.[51]

In 2015, Ohanian was named to the Crain's "40 Under 40" list for business.[52]

In 2016, Ohanian was named one of Fast Company's "Most Creative People in Business".[53]

Published works[edit]

Ohanian published a book entitled Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed on October 1, 2013.[54][55] Without Their Permission ranked fourth on The Wall Street Journal's best sellers list for Hardcover Business.[56] In connection with the book, Ohanian embarked on a five-month, 150-stop and 75-university tour to promote the book.[57][58]

Small Empires[edit]

In the summer of 2013, Small Empires with Alexis Ohanian, a weekly online series focused on rising startups in New York City hosted by Ohanian, premiered on The Verge.[59] The first season ran for nine episodes. The second season premiered in October 2014.[60]


NYRD Radio[edit]

On October 15, 2014, Ohanian launched the NYRD Radio podcast.[61] Guests on the show have included Tim Ferriss, James Altucher, Carter Cleveland (founder of Artsy) and Cameron Russell. The podcast features a segment called Office Hours, in which aspiring entrepreneurs can apply to work through an idea with him.[62]


On January 8, 2015, Ohanian released the first episode – listed as "Episode 0" – of Reddit's new podcast Upvoted, in which Ohanian delves deeper into real stories found on Reddit and talks to the users involved.[63] Each week, the podcast focuses on a different story and features a guest around whom that story is centered.


  1. ^ a b "Alexis Ohanian". CrunchBase. Retrieved May 22, 2012.
  2. ^ "Alexis Ohanian". (Soylent Communications). Retrieved April 19, 2017.{
  3. ^ "How Reddit's Alexis Ohanian Became The Mayor Of The Internet".
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Kompanek, Christopher (September 20, 2013). "Alexis Ohanian on founding Reddit and future start-ups". Financial Times. Retrieved October 25, 2013. His mother was born in Hamburg and his paternal grandparents were Armenian immigrants.
  6. ^ "The Next Web NYC Keynote Speech by Alexis Ohanian".
  7. ^ Yeghiazaryan, Aghavni. "ALEXIS OHANIAN".
  8. ^ Alexis Ohanian (March 29, 2012), 2001 Howard High Student Address, retrieved December 16, 2016
  9. ^ Case, Wesley (30 December 2016). "Serena Williams and Columbia native Alexis Ohanian, Reddit co-founder, are engaged". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d e Moretti, Marcus (May 31, 2012), "The Heartbreaking Backstory To The Founding Of Reddit". Business Insider. Retrieved April 28, 2017.
  11. ^ "Y Combinator's first batch: where are they now?". The Next Web. Retrieved November 17, 2017.
  12. ^ "How Founding Reddit Got Me Through The Hardest Part Of My Life – Business Insider". August 3, 2010. Archived from the original on March 10, 2013. Retrieved June 26, 2015.
  13. ^ "How Y Combinator Helped Shape Reddit". 2007-09-26. Archived from the original on April 26, 2012. Retrieved June 26, 2015.
  14. ^ Martin, Erik (September 6, 2011). "what's new on reddit: Independence". Blog.reddit. Retrieved June 26, 2015.
  15. ^ "Reddit's Alexis Ohanian On His Return to Venture Capital, Bitcoin's Price, and Internet Cats". Fortune. Retrieved 2018-05-11.
  16. ^ "About". Archived from the original on February 1, 2012. Retrieved February 15, 2012.
  17. ^ Alexis Ohanian. "Alexis Ohanian: How to make a splash in social media – TED Talk –". Retrieved June 14, 2015.
  18. ^ "Alexis Ohanian Gains Perspective in Yerevan". AYFWest. 11 May 2010. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
  19. ^ "About". Hipmunk. Retrieved June 14, 2015.
  20. ^ "An Angel in New York: Alexis Ohanian - AlleyWatch". AlleyWatch. 2013-08-08. Retrieved 2018-05-11.
  21. ^ "Reddit Cofounder Alexis Ohanian To Join Y Combinator". September 1, 2010. Retrieved June 26, 2015.
  22. ^ "Initialized Capital raises $115 million for its third fund". VentureBeat. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  23. ^ "About Us". Initialized Capital. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  24. ^ "Google PageRank for Investors". CB Insights - Blog. 2014-07-06. Retrieved 2017-01-10.
  25. ^ Alexis Ohanian SOPA Protest.m4v. YouTube. January 18, 2012. Retrieved 2015-06-14.
  26. ^ Lindsey Hoshaw (October 23, 2012). "In the Midwest, Reddit finds a thriving startup culture". Forbes. Retrieved 2015-06-14.
  27. ^ "The Internet's March On Washington". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 2015-06-14.
  28. ^ Collier, Kevin. "The top 10 most influential Internet rights activists in 2012". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 2013-01-03.
  29. ^ Andy Greenberg. "How Reddit's Alexis Ohanian Became The Mayor Of The Internet". Forbes. Retrieved 2015-06-14.
  30. ^ "Join us in a final push for net neutrality! It's as easy as calling (858) WHEELER". 2015-01-15. Retrieved 2017-11-25.
  31. ^ Lynch, Brian; Swearingen, Courtnie (2015-07-08). "Why We Shut Down Reddit's 'Ask Me Anything' Forum". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-01-08.
  32. ^ Roettgers, Janko (July 10, 2015). "Ellen Pao Out At Reddit, Co-Founder Takes Over As CEO". Variety. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  33. ^ Campbell, Andy (July 3, 2015). "Reddit Community Revolts After 'Ask Me Anything' Administrator Is Dismissed". The Huffington Post. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  34. ^ Isaac, Mike (July 13, 2015). "Details Emerge About Victoria Taylor's Dismissal at Reddit". The New York Times. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  35. ^ Weinberger, Matt (July 13, 2015). "Yishan Wong says Alexis Ohanian failed Ellen Pao". Business Insider. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  36. ^ "Fire Alexis Ohanian". Reddit. July 13, 2015. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  37. ^ Pao, Ellen (2017). Reset: My fight for inclusion and lasting change. Spiegel & Grau. Retrieved 2017-11-25.
  38. ^ Rebecca Jarvis. "5 Things You Didn't Know About Reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian". ABC News. Retrieved June 14, 2015.
  39. ^ CNN, Judith Vonberg, Atika Shubert and Nadine Schmidt. "Teen behind hijab emoji: 'I wanted an emoji of me'". CNN. Retrieved 2017-08-25.
  40. ^ "Apple previews new emoji coming later this year". Apple Newsroom. Retrieved 2017-08-25.
  41. ^ Carr, Austin (2012-12-11). "Reddit Cofounder Alexis Ohanian Taps Kickstarter And The Chambers Brothers To Prove Music Industry Wrong | Fast Company | Business + Innovation". Retrieved June 26, 2015.
  42. ^ "Lester's Time Has Come Today". Kickstarter. Retrieved 2017-08-25.
  43. ^ "Black Girls Code]". Retrieved August 25, 2014.
  44. ^ "Save Net Neutrality:Billboard in FCC's Backyard". Retrieved August 22, 2014.
  45. ^ Williams Engaged to Reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian", The New York Times, December 29, 2016.
  46. ^ Skiver, Kevin (September 1, 2017). "Serena Williams and fiancé Alexis Ohanian welcome first child -- a girl". CBS Sports. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  47. ^ Jason Duaine Hahn; Kathy Ehrich (November 16, 2017). "A Perfect Match! Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian Are Married". People. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  48. ^ Kathleen Elkins (April 14, 2018). "Reddit co-founder thought he was 'the hardest-working person on the planet' before he met Serena Williams". Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  49. ^ Barret, Victoria (December 19, 2011). "30 Under 30 – Technology – Forbes". Forbes. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  50. ^ Barret, Victoria and Connie Guglielmo (December 17, 2012). "30 Under 30 – Tech – Forbes". Forbes. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  51. ^ d'Agostino, Brita (April 16, 2013). "From Zuck to Musk: The Champions of Innovation, in Portraits". Wired. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  52. ^ "Alexis Ohanian - Meet Crain's New York Business Class of 2015 40 under 40". Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  53. ^ "Alexis Ohanian: Latest News, Work, Videos, Photos on Fast Company". Fast Company. Retrieved 2017-01-28.
  54. ^ Victoria Barret. "Alexis Ohanian, CEO, Breadpig, 28 – In Photos: 30 Under 30: Technology". Forbes. Retrieved June 14, 2015.
  55. ^ "Without Their Permission". Retrieved June 14, 2015.
  56. ^ "Best-Selling Books: Week Ended Oct. 6 – WSJ". WSJ. 10 October 2013. Retrieved June 14, 2015.
  57. ^ "Without Their Permission — Book Tour Dates". Retrieved June 13, 2015.
  58. ^ "blog.reddit -- what's new on reddit: I'm putting the reddit alien on a bus and doing a 150 stop, 77 college, 5 month long tour for internet entrepreneurship (let's hang out)". Retrieved June 14, 2015.
  59. ^ "Small Empires". Vox Media. Archived from the original on June 13, 2015. Retrieved June 14, 2015.
  60. ^ "Small Empires - Season 2 Trailer". YouTube.
  61. ^ "NYRD Radio". NYRD Radio. Retrieved June 14, 2015.
  62. ^ "Reddit Founder Alexis Ohanian Wants to Answer Your Toughest Startup Questions –". Retrieved June 14, 2015.
  63. ^ "Episode 0 – The Story of u/youngluck (Dante Orpilla) : upvoted". Reddit. January 8, 2015. Retrieved February 9, 2015.

External links[edit]