When University of Virginia alum Alexis Ohanian co-founded the news aggregation community Reddit in 2005, along with his college roommate Steve Huffman, the internet was a shadow of what it would become, and their creation, “The Front Page of the Internet” has helped shape the modern web. The site has fueled the propagation of “meme culture,” championed online privacy, and drawn attention to overlooked stories around the world. Fifteen years later, Ohanian has grown from upstart entrepreneur to venture capitalist, shifting his focus toward aiding the next generation of ideas and promoting inclusion in internet technology and governance.
He’s also become a family man, marrying tennis superstar Serena Williams in 2017 and raising a daughter, Olympia, together. Altogether, Ohanian’s success has provided him with a sense of humility, and after his second stint as a leader with Reddit, he decided to take leave permanently, in part to encourage racial diversity and equality. His alma mater, the University of Virginia, is not only the birthplace of Reddit, but it has also played a central role in exposing hateful rhetoric that usually remains online. Ohanian wants a better future for his own family, and he hopes to influence the next generation to join him.
As a student at UVA, Ohanian explored a wide range of subjects before committing himself to becoming an entrepreneur, even if he didn’t quite know how to proceed. Together with Huffman, and inspired by Y Combinator’s Paul Graham, he developed what would become a top-ten visited site that empowered users to share information.
Since graduating, Ohanian has returned to Charlottesville on several occasions to share his own story and inspire students to handle their own adversity. He encourages UVA students to value learning within and without one’s concentration, noting the importance a base in the humanities has played in navigating success. He also encourages students to learn essential new skills like computer coding, a proficiency that is in high demand.
Through his Initialized Capital fund, co-founded with fellow Y Combinator veteran Garry Tam, he has given startups the same opportunities he and Huffman received as they launched Reddit. As a father, he promotes his “business dad” lifestyle, and encourages others to seek help when needed, advocating for better care of one’s mental health. Most importantly, he is trying to lead by example as he promotes an equitable future for the young innovators still incubating at the University of Virginia.