The Email From Alexis Ohanian That Kicked Off Reddit. Seriously, Bro

Introducing Starred, a series where we take you deep inside the inboxes of our favorite entrepreneurs. Joining us today, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian.



Introducing Starred, a series where we take you deep inside the inboxes of our favorite CEOs, entrepreneurs, and VCs. Think that first message Jack Dorsey ever sent to Biz Stone describing his crazy idea for a 140-character blogging platform–the emails you’ve had starred in your inbox for years, saved almost solely for nostalgia. Joining us today, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian:

Summer of my junior year, I accepted an invitation to compete on behalf of UVA at a technopreneurship conference in Singapore. I wrote [then-future Reddit cofounder] Steve [Huffman] this email the morning after pitching our first objective person, one of my professors. At that point, my parents were the only ones who’d heard our idea, and they were ludicrously supportive.

Here it is in its original form for authenticity. Please forgive all the typos; those keyboards in Singapore aren’t QWERTY. Apparently there’s also a button on those keyboards that kept inserting “bro” everywhere–sorry about that. In fact, imagine a great big “[sic]” around this whole thing.

hey bro,

i’m in singapore at this technepreneurial seminar, and am basically spending a week learning how to create a tech start-up.i spoke to Mark White (a professor in the comm school, the guy who took me to South Africa, and who recruited me to come here, as well as a generally good guy and technophile) over some drinks last nite, and pitched him on our idea…from his feedback–and let me remind you that he gets pitches every couple of months from students, and was very candid and honest with his thoughts, but basically said it was one of the best he’s heard, period.

Not only that, but he wants to be on the board of directors, and already knows some people to hit up for starting capital…

I’ve got plenty of more details, but I am seriously considering putting off law school for this, but i need you, and we’ll both need to be doing this full time for about a year to get it off the ground….but the potential he saw was in the millions my friend…we need to talkseriously.i am coming back the 20th so if we could have lunch around 1pm i could meet you whereever you’d like… let me know.

honestly, this is the kind of thing that could change our lives–and his motivation has really spurred me.but i need you and the same kind of commitment.

We’d been talking about applying to Y Combinator. This was the email where I decided I wanted to try a startup with [Steve]. It’s the beginning of the process of convincing him to do it with me.

We were rejected by Y Combinator for this particular idea. But the next morning, Paul Graham called me back, we agreed to discard our idea, and went back up to Boston. There, we brainstormed with him for an hour. What came from that was what would become Reddit, which Steve and I launched at the end of June 2005.

Join us next Monday for another edition of Starred.


[Image: Flickr user anirudhkoul]

About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.