Reddit co-founder calls on ASU students to enter new age of the Internet

Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, gave an inspirational speech at ASU on Feb. 27. Ohanian emphasizes the role of the internet in the 21st century as a tool that can accomplish just about anything with the right drive. (Photo by Mario Mendez) Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, gave a speech at ASU on Feb. 27. Ohanian emphasizes the role of the internet in the 21st century as a tool that can accomplish just about anything with the right drive. (Photo by Mario Mendez)

The familiar sight of cat videos and silly Internet pictures greeted ASU students as they filled the Memorial Union’s Ventana Ballroom at the Tempe campus for a speech by Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit, an immensely successful website where users can share content of any kind.

Promoting his new book, “Without Their Permission,” Ohanian spoke about how today's generation truly controls the progression of the Internet and how powerful of a tool it can grow to be.

“One of the greatest strengths this generation has is the fluency of those brought up with the Internet,” he said.

This was the basic theme of his hour-long speech where he talked about his personal story, the reason behind his success and what students can do to follow in his footsteps.

Ohanian also emphasized the importance of computer code and called it one of the most valuable skills of this century.

“Ideas alone are not enough," he said. "You have to build. You have to do. That’s why learning code is so important.”

When asked about what he wishes someone told him to help his career as a computer coder attending college, he said people should start working while they're still students.

“I still graduated, but I got started while I was in school," he said. "When you have all these passions, don’t look at it as an either/or situation. Do both.”

He asked the crowd who among them could code and were working on their own projects. Many raised their hands.

Ohanian then brought a completely caught off guard student to the stage and gave him an opportunity to talk about his own projects to the crowd. Although nervous and dumbfounded, the student spoke about how he creates his own coding tutorials and puts them online for anyone to view.

Ohanian is also a known supporter of Internet regulation and freedom.

“It’s on us and it’s especially on Congress to pass the laws to protect our rights to privacy online,” he said.

In addition, he spoke about President Barack Obama’s recent public recognition that laws needed to be put in place to protect the rights of privacy on the Internet for everyone in this country.

“We have a Congress right now that’s pretty dysfunctional," he said. "I hope the president will take a strong initiative and Congress can pass the laws that we need to protect these rights.”

The Tempe Undergraduate Student Government was behind bringing Ohanian to ASU. It added a contest element to his arrival where students could tweet “#redditatASU” and automatically have the chance to win a meet and greet with the prominent figure.

Accounting sophomore Brandon Long and political science senior Cole Libera coordinated the event.

"We want to keep (the meet and greet) very small and informal as a conversation for people who are interested and truly care,” Long said.

Freshman supply chain management Garrett Bentley, one of the contest's winners, wanted to talk with Ohanian about Internet regulation.

“Free Internet is necessary for innovation,” he said.

Interior design senior Cindy Tsai, another winner, is also an avid user of the site.

"(Ohanian) is only 30 and already in Forbes magazine," she said. "That’s impressive.”

Ohanian ate dinner with the winners of the contest at ASU’s “Engrained” restaurant. Students kept his attention with questions about his endeavors within the tech world. He maintained a very personable demeanor throughout the conversation and even asked where the best bars are located on campus.

“Incumbents of the industries merely adopted the Internet, but we were born in it,” Ohanian said. “You can actually have a career where every day, you are doing things you are passionate about.”

Reach the reporter at or follow him on Twitter @mister_jgold

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