Untold History of Reddit

Untold History of Reddit

Intro (00:00:00)

  • Paul Graham's essay about Reddit reveals interesting connections and lessons.
  • Reddit goes public, but the focus is on Paul Graham's essay and its insights.
  • Paul Graham has known the Reddit founders for nearly 20 years.

If you want to learn, teach. (00:01:59)

  • Paul Graham gave a talk at Harvard's Computer Club, which led to the creation of Y Combinator (YC).
  • Teaching helps solidify one's thoughts and can lead to writing books or creating successful ventures.
  • Steve and Alexis, the founders of Reddit, traveled from Virginia to attend Paul Graham's talk after following his blog.
  • Paul Graham was impressed by their dedication and agreed to meet them for coffee.
  • The principle of "80% of success is just showing up" applies here.

Show up – the ultimate high agency move (00:03:45)

  • Paul Graham, a successful entrepreneur and blogger, was inspired by a group of young entrepreneurs he met.
  • Despite their unconventional idea, Graham saw potential and encouraged them to apply to his newly created startup incubator, YC.
  • The entrepreneurs' idea involved ordering fast food through text messages, but it was ahead of its time as smartphones did not exist yet.
  • Graham's decision to trust his gut and support the entrepreneurs, even though their idea seemed impractical, highlights the importance of taking risks and recognizing potential.
  • Teaching as a gateway: Giving a talk can be an effective way to generate insightful ideas and validate their potential for success as a book or company.
  • Trusting your gut: Following your intuition and taking risks can lead to unexpected opportunities and success.

Trust your gut (00:05:54)

  • Paul Graham initially rejected the idea of ordering food through a phone app because he thought it was too difficult.
  • His wife, Jessica, convinced him to reconsider because she liked the people behind the idea.
  • Graham called the founders back and offered them funding on the condition that they change their idea.
  • The founders agreed and immediately seized the opportunity by hopping off the train and taking the next one back north.
  • Paul Graham believes that some of the best ideas are discovered, not thought of.

How to get the best ideas (00:07:47)

  • Paul Graham, inspired by the "popular" tab on Delicious, suggested creating a separate page for the most interesting links of the day, leading to the birth of Reddit in 2005.
  • Reddit initially focused on creating a valuable product rather than monetizing through advertising.
  • Ryan Hoover, founder of Product Hunt, shared a similar idea with Paul Graham, noting that the most interesting content on Hacker News was in the "show" section.
  • Product Hunt, initially a side project, became a successful platform for showcasing new products and was eventually sold for $20 million.
  • Scott Bsky, a successful entrepreneur and investor, recognized significant traffic coming from Pinterest and invested $155,000 in the company at a $3 million valuation, resulting in a $100 million return.
  • Bsky replicated this strategy with StumbleUpon, investing $15,000 and later earning around $100 million through his investment in Uber, founded by Garrett Camp, a friend he met through StumbleUpon.
  • The original intended name for Reddit was "sn.com" before settling on the current name.

Don’t be precious about the name (00:14:00)

  • Reddit's mascot's name is SN um, which was initially a placeholder name.
  • The founders couldn't afford the domain name sn.com.
  • Paul Graham advised them to pick a name that feels right and works for the moment, and to ship the product fast.
  • Reddit launched in three weeks after being admitted to YC.
  • Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian, the founders of Reddit, gained early traction by posting on the site themselves and encouraging their friends to do the same.
  • They also reached out to other websites and forums to promote Reddit.
  • Reddit's early growth was driven by user-generated content and a sense of community.

How Reddit faked early traction (00:14:53)

  • Reddit created fake usernames to submit content and generate activity on the platform.
  • They used different personalities to comment and engage with the content.
  • This helped create a critical mass of users and solve the chicken and egg problem.
  • Reddit also set the culture by being active in the community and stoking the fire.
  • They asked popular people to post and comment on the platform to create a sense of activity.
  • The numbers of fake accounts needed to create this initial traction are relatively small compared to the total number of users.
  • Paul Graham believes that the best way to find talent is to look for people who are passionate about something and have a strong work ethic.
  • Reddit used this principle to find and hire talented people.
  • They looked for people who were passionate about Reddit and willing to work hard.
  • This approach helped Reddit build a strong team and create a successful company.

Talent filters (00:18:15)

  • Steve attended a talk because he followed the host's blog about Lisp, an obscure programming language.
  • Lisp is a language that attracts people who pursue intellectual interests rather than fame or wealth.
  • Talent filters are activities that reveal a person's predisposition to success.
  • Examples of talent filters include:
    • Math Olympiad participation
    • Spelling bees
    • Degenerative obsession with certain activities
    • World-class individual sports
    • Video games
    • Magic tricks
    • eBay flipping
    • Being a Mormon and going on a mission
    • Escaping from war-torn countries
  • The best products are simply the creator pushed out.
  • This podcast is an example of a product that is simply the host pushed out.

“The best products are you pushed out” (00:21:07)

  • Steve Huffman, the founder of Reddit, has two key traits that contributed to Reddit's success:
    • He likes ideas for the sake of interestingness, which is reflected in Reddit's content.
    • He has an anti-authority streak, which led to Reddit's decentralized moderation system.
  • Reddit's mascot, the goofy alien creature, exemplifies the importance of embracing weirdness early on.
  • The author shares a personal anecdote about meeting Reddit employees and being starstruck by them.

We read Chris Sacca’s early emails (00:25:13)

  • Chris Sacca's early email to Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman was in all lowercase and had no punctuation.
  • In the email, Sacca praised Ohanian and Huffman's technological skills and sense of humor.
  • Sacca expressed his desire to have them visit Google and offered to introduce them to some Googlers.
  • Sacca ended the email with an informal "cool question mark the next line cool period dude."
  • Sam Alman, one of the co-founders of Reddit, owns 8% of the company, which is worth approximately $1 billion today.

Reddit’s exits to Conde Nast, then buys it back (00:28:02)

  • Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz faced legal trouble for allegedly providing unauthorized access to scientific journals.
  • Swartz committed suicide before his trial.
  • Reddit faced various challenges and drama in its early years.
  • In 2006, Reddit was sold to Conde Nast, a magazine publisher, for $10 million.
  • Reddit co-founders Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian each received $2 million from the sale.
  • Reddit was later bought back from Conde Nast through a spin-out and subsequent fundraising.
  • Sam Altman, an investor with an 8% stake in Reddit, briefly served as interim CEO.
  • Reddit has experienced several CEO changes and controversies over the years.

19 years later and still not profitable (00:30:50)

  • Reddit is the 10th most visited website in the US.
  • Reddit has 75 million daily active users.
  • Reddit has been around for 19 years and is still not profitable.
  • Advertising on Reddit is not user-friendly and has low conversion rates.

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