Ohanian Visits OU
The entrepreneurial spirit of an Ohio University student brought the co-founder of reddit to the Athens Campus. Alexis Ohanian, one of the internet’s most prominent entrepreneurs, activists, and investors, spoke to students Monday, Feb., 24, 2014.
Alexander Harshaw, a media arts and studies major, was researching reddit’s inception and ended up on Ohanian’s website.
“I found that Alexis was promoting his new book and accepting appearance location recommendations via email. I decided to give it a shot and it paid off in a big way,” said Harshaw.
Harshaw sent an early morning email to Ohanian and heard back the very next day. Harshaw suggested that Ohanian bring Alan Schaaf to campus with him. Schaaf, an OHIO alum ’10, founded the site imgur (pronounced “imager”), an image hosting site where users can upload and share images.
The next day Ohanian replied and referred Harshaw to his tour manager. An entrepreneurship certificate candidate, Harshaw then connected the tour manager to the Center for Entrepreneurship, a partnership between OHIO’s College of Business and Voinovich School for Leadership and Public Affairs. With the on-campus connections made, they got started planning Ohanion’s visit to Ohio University.
Before Ohanian took the stage, videos played, the lights dimmed, and the crowd packed in, ready to hear from the man that Forbes dubbed, “Mayor of the Internet.”
Ohanian shared his journey from overweight middle school student sporting a bowl cut, to new-media mogul named twice to Forbes’s “30 under 30,” and named tech “Titan” in WIRED Magazine’s twentieth anniversary issue.
Action is what makes an entrepreneur, according to Ohanian. “Ideas are worthless.” For someone who started one of the largest social news websites, helped launch a travel site, championed the use of the internet as a force for social change, that statement should be shocking. He went on, “Ideas alone are worth nothing; execution is everything.”
Ohanian shared some samples of his early work that put kindly, lacked the polish of later examples. “It’s okay for things to be janky. Sucking at something is the first step at being good,” said Ohanian. He went on, “Go forth and suck, Bobcats!”
That kind of encouragement is just what Harshaw was looking for. “It’s hard to make a name for yourself in the media industry. Well-rounded technical skills are important, but you won’t be able to make it anywhere if you don’t have an entrepreneurial spirit.”
As one of Ohanian’s slides said, “Entrepreneur is just French for ‘has idea, does them.’”
Harshaw is ready to put that thinking into practice. “You need to be ever vigilant for opportunities and prepared to promote your personal brand with passion.”
Ohanian’s final recommendation was to remember that, like in video games, you have zero lives remaining. “Go be great, Bobcats.”
Article written by Jessica Gardner
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