Columbia native Alexis Ohanian had an unconventional ride to becoming the founder of Reddit, one of the most successful social media platforms, and husband to 23-time tennis champion Serena Williams. In fact, he had never watched a full tennis match before meeting Williams. And before Reddit, he had dreams of being an immigration lawyer, as revealed in his latest interview with the The New York Times.
"I had this romantic idea of helping people get citizenship. But then I realized how much I hated what I was doing, so I went and got a waffle instead," Ohanian said, adding that he had his light bulb moment — that he "wanted to start something" — at a Waffle House.
Ohanian also candidly discussed his foray into computers and the internet, which involved convincing his parents to buy him a PC to play video games; what he learned from his job at Pizza Hut and his wife Williams; his fandom for Metallica, and more.
On Reddit's complicated history with hate speech:
"The general spirit is we want to encourage dialogue. We want to encourage opportunities for people to be wrong and be corrected. Part of this is having a place where things can be said that I find incredibly disagreeable and reprehensible, but are still conversations that are happening right now online or offline in this country and in this world.
Hopefully, minds can be changed and discussions can be had. We see it happening. I don't see it happening as fast as I would like because, unfortunately, we live in a pretty broken society and a pretty broken world. But I think so much of this stems from ignorance. And one great way to combat this ignorance is with knowledge and with discussion."
On what he's learned from Williams:
"I thought I was the hardest-working person on the planet. I thought we were the hardest-working industry. That's what we tell ourselves. It's all malarkey.
I've had this front-row seat over the last three years to greatness. It's a humbling experience seeing really what high-pressure situations actually look like professionally, seeing just what it takes to actually be that great. It is a work ethic on another level.
I used to change the channel when tennis was on. Then I watched my first match when I met her, and quickly got an appreciation for the sport. It's not just the physical requirements but the mental requirements. I could not imagine doing my job with millions of people watching."