Alexis Ohanian was in Abu Dhabi at the end of last year at Sheikha Salama Foundation’s Muntada discussion of technology and science.
The co-founder of Reddit, the internet’s front page, delivered a presentation that was informative, entertaining (plenty of cute cat photos on his PowerPoint slides) and designed to inspire his audience.
His book Without Their Permission touches on many of the themes he covered last November and is similarly conceived to inspire. The publication, which the front cover says takes five hours to read, is divided into three easily digestible parts.
In the first, Mr Ohanian recounts his own story. He describes how he met his business partner Steve Huffmann at college; came up with the idea of a mobile food ordering service that the world wasn’t quite ready for; co-founded Reddit; and on being included in the first intake of the now celebrated Y Combinator accelerator programme in the United States.
This section also tells how he sought funding to grow and then eventually sold Reddit after 16 months to Condé Nast for an undisclosed sum.
The book’s second section is a “how to” blueprint for those aspiring to create their own start-ups.
The final section explains how people can use the internet to, in Mr Ohanian’s words, “make the world suck less”, and describes the creation of Breadpig, his vehicle that helps creative people when traditional backers, such as publishers, music labels, might not.
He ends with a warning about how damaging internet censorship is and why internet freedom must remain uncurbed.
Mr Ohanian recounts his own involvement in battling the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act in Washington.
Perhaps of particular relevance to readers in this region (aside from the chapter about internet revolutionaries in Cairo), given that “wasta” has traditionally decided who gets ahead is that, as Mr Ohanian reminds us, – “all links are created equal”.
“An open internet means a platform where what you know is more valuable that whom you know,” he writes, stressing that the dot-com of the world’s largest multinational is equally accessibly as that of your own tiny start-up.