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How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed

by Alexis Ohanian

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4555-2002-2
Publisher: Business Plus/Grand Central

A jazzy guide to getting your Internet startup off the ground, from one equipped with time-tested advice: reddit co-founder Ohanian.

Entrepreneurs of the world, unite—the means of production are now in your hands: “Today, you can simply create and present your ideas online,” writes the author. Goodbye to the gatekeepers who passed judgment on your inspiration; unless, of course, those gatekeepers are the buying public. That’s the short of it, but Ohanian, whose hopped-up optimism rushes from almost every page, takes care of the long of it as well. While still in college, he and his partner conceived of reddit, “a place where anyone at any time could find what was new and interesting online.” The author took to heart the words of early Internet experimenters—hire good people, make something people want, spend as little as possible, have a plan to outsell your competitors—and he presents all of these tenets in blueprint format, along with dozens of anecdotes that make it feel real and enabling. For example, there is the story of the genesis of reddit, which follows a well-worn timeline: Build, test, launch, enter the “trough of sorrow,” ride the epic failures and false hopes, and ultimately, witness growth. The author pats his back enough (“I majored in history and business (graduating with high honors) and minored in German”; “Forbes magazine called me mayor of the Internet”) to be appealingly insecure, and his many bromides—“Magic happens when you give a damn”; “excellent customer service is vital”; “ideas are worthless…execution is everything”—also happen to have heft.

Even if Ohanian’s arguments concerning intellectual property rights are unconvincing, everything else he has to say can only help aspiring 21st-century entrepreneurs.