Alexis Ohanian, Cofounder of reddit, stopped by The University of Texas at Austin on a leg of his multi-city tour to talk entrepreneurship, startups, and about his upcoming book Without Their Permission. In this book, Ohanian shares his ideas and tips about harnessing the power of the web for profit, fun, and the good of humankind. Ohanian later chats with Cam Houser, 3 Day Startup (3DS) CEO, to explore the future of student entrepreneurship. “Are the people in this room going to save us?” Ohanian asked, as he addresses a young crowd of faces.
One of the key take aways from Ohanian’s talk is that entrepreneurship is truly accessible in this day and age. “The internet has made the world flat,” said Ohanian. This means that a student from Mexico has the same access to the thousands of resources available to a student in New York City.
“College is a time for students to experiment and reach their own level of awesome,” said Ohanian. He elaborates by talking about his own experience in trying to start a company with Steve Huffman while they were still studying at UVA. Although they did not get accepted into Y Combinator with their initial idea, the two eventually founded reddit in 2005 after graduating.
“Do not be afraid of failure. Most people don’t know what they’re doing!” said Ohanian.
Other insights from Ohanian’s talk include:
- Just ship it! Sucking is the first step at being good at something.
- Do not let competition stop you. Love thy haters.
- Do not launch a company for anyone other than yourself.
- Just build something people want.
- Get in the mode of doing stuff.
Ohanian further explores the accessibility of entrepreneurship on university campuses in his fireside chat with Cam Houser, 3 Day Startup CEO. “You don’t need a wealthy uncle or a rich dad to startup a company. You truly don’t know your capabilities until you go out and try things,” said Houser.
“3DS believes the university is the perfect platform to start a company because college students are smart, physically close together, and at a life stage where they have a high risk tolerance,” added Houser. 3DS is a hands-on entrepreneurship program for university students. The nonprofit was founded at The University of Texas at Austin, but has grown to other universities around the world such as, Harvard, MIT, and Peking University. To date, more than 41 companies have come out of 3DS to collectively raise $14.5 million in investor capital and 21 have been accepted to prestigious incubators and accelerators such as Y Combinator and TechStars.
Ohanian then asked Houser what advice he would give to students interested in starting a company while in college. “Building prototypes that are crappy or marketing plans that fail are more effective in helping you start a company than just reading blogs or theorizing,” Houser said, “You are the customer at this institution. Take advantage of the fact that you are in school and hack the system. For example, use your graphic design class to design your logo and your CS class to build your prototype.”
Other advice Houser gives:
- No one is going to steal your stupid idea.
- Don’t just seek good feedback when you ask for advice. Someone telling you how much your idea sucks is largely valuable.
- Doing something poorly is better than doing nothing at all.
- Take advantage of local resources. For example, in Austin we have spaces like Capital Factory and gurus like Ash Maurya.
- Again, don’t be afraid to fail. From an international perspective, cultural attitudes around the concept of failure need to change so innovation can move forward.
- Being able to code is the next form of literacy.
“The internet is the great frontier. Those with access can explore it, but those who can code are building the footing of what’s underneath us,” Ohanian said. There are 60 more stops on Ohanian’s multi-city tour. To see if he is coming to your university, view his tour dates here. You can also order a copy of Without Their Permission on Amazon.
3 Day Startup programs are happening at more than 50 universities around the world. To learn more about 3DS or to request a program at your university, please visit our website.