Though they couldn’t “ask him anything,” Binghamton University students were treated to a night with Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of the website Reddit.
Ohanian, who co-founded Reddit in 2005 along with his University of Virginia roommate Steve Huffman, visited BU as a part of his 200-stop, 77-university book tour.
His talk, which brought more than 400 people to the Mandela Room on Thursday evening, covered his experience of founding Reddit, his ideas on entrepreneurship and how crowdsourcing is changing the way audiences connect with content creators.
Attendees were given postcards when they came into the Mandela Room. Ohanian told them to write a goal they wanted to accomplish and that at the end of his book tour, he would mail the postcards back. Hopefully, he said, everyone will read their postcards and will have accomplished their goal.
“Whether you want to have an IPO one day or whether you want to win a Nobel Prize, whatever it is, let me know when you do it,” he said. “‘Cause I want to take all of the credit for it.”
Ohanian said that college students should be the most open to trying new things because most do not have to deal with the pressures of living in the adult world. He recommended learning how to code through websites like Codecademy and HackBU, and not being afraid to fail at first.
“If you learn nothing else from this, please, go forth and suck,” he said. “This is the time to try new stuff and suck at it. You’re more creatively free now than you probably will ever be in your lives. “
Afterward, Ohanian had a “fireside chat” with Ben Eisenkop, a BU doctoral candidate who gained fame on Reddit by answering science-related questions under the moniker “Unidan.”
During Ohanian’s interview with Eisenkop, they talked about Eisenkop’s project on Experiment.com, where he is trying to crowdsource money to fund his study of crow movements. Eisenkop calculated that scientists have an only 3 percent chance of receiving grant funding from the National Science Foundation, and said that Experiment.com was a way of raising independent funding.
Ohanian details his own different business ventures in his book, “Without Their Permission,” including the importance of net neutrality and his advice for other entrepreneurs.
Shortly after leaving Reddit in 2009, Ohanian began working for Y Combinator, a company that helps startup businesses with money, advice and connections. He also runs his own startup investing and consulting company, Das Kapital Capital, and in 2010 co-founded Hipmunk, a website that organizes hotel and flight information from other travel websites.
The talk was hosted and organized by the Women in Business club.
“This is definitely the biggest event that we’ve ever had,” said Camille Barron, a senior majoring in economics who helped organize the event. “I think it’s awesome because Women in Business is a relatively new club; our original E-Board hasn’t even graduated yet. I think it’s exciting because an event like this really puts us on the map.”
Ohanian encouraged audience members to not be afraid to try new things, saying that failure is just a step toward achieving one’s full potential.
“You made it [to Binghamton] because you’ve done well on tests and you’ve done well in classes,” he said. “But life has failure. Life has setbacks. Sucking is the first step to being sorta good at something.”