On the outside, Alexis Ohanian doesn’t look like your ordinary superhero. But underneath the camouflage of a plaid button-down, jeans, and sneakers, the 30-year-old Howard High grad is out to save the world. Or, at least, as he puts it, make it “suck less.”
He’s well on his way. Already, Ohanian has co-founded the social link-sharing super-site Reddit.com with his college roommate and sold it for millions. Since then, he invested in and advised dozens of successful startups, became a spokesman in the fight against anti-piracy legislation, and penned his newly released autobiographical how-to guide, Without Their Permission: How The 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed, to inspire future web innovators.
“The book is really for anyone who has a great idea to share with the world,” he says. “I want to see more people taking chances, and, unfortunately, there isn’t a curriculum anywhere that really pushes at this.” Now he’s taking the book and his mission on tour, visiting more than 60 colleges (including The University of Maryland on November 6 and The Johns Hopkins University December 3).
He’s using his story and those of successful alums in the hopes of finding other undergrads, who have a good idea, but aren’t sure how to turn it into greatness.
“There have always been awesome people who were capable of awesome things, but didn’t take the leap, and we are poorer for it . . . because we didn’t get their art, their nonprofits, their ideas,” he says. “My base is definitely my fellow millennials. It’s no surprise that there are so many of these dorm-room startup success stories.” Though he’s since moved to Brooklyn, Ohanian comes home often to visit his family in Towson, to cheer on that other regional football team, or just to escape the busy life of a NYC tech mogul.
“I’m used to walking into the Brooklyn hipster bar with the level 11 pretension,” he says. “To be able to go out in Baltimore without that, it’s just relaxing. It’s a sigh of relief.”