Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian on two things startup founders shouldn’t do

Alexis Ohanian Reddit

Entrepreneurs setting out to make their mark in the world will likely have an ever-lengthening to-do list, but what about the things you shouldn’t be doing?

It can be a fine balance to achieve and, given the likelihood of your priorities changing over time, it is important to remain vigilant in ensuring your time is being spent wisely.

It’s something Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian has learnt since launching the startup with Steve Huffman in 2005 and later selling it to Conde Nest. Ohanian is now back at Reddit, having spent the years after the sale co-founding early stage venture capital firm Initialized Capital, launching Hipmunk and Breadpig, and serving as a partner at Y Combinator.

In a recent interview with First Round Review, Ohanian shared 12 of the “don’ts” that have helped shape his career. Here’s two of them.

Don’t get sucked in

It can be difficult for startup founders to know when enough is enough when it comes to networking, but Ohanian says it’s important to not get sucked into the scene.

Ohanian recalls how just months into launching Reddit, he and Huffman had an endless stream of invites to startup events.

“There’s even more pressure now, and it’s very tempting to go to every single thing,” he says.

“You’re guaranteed to find some helpful people out there who will make a difference for you, but for the most part you’re having the same conversations over and over. I went to so many things that were just opportunities for people to talk about how they were ‘crushing it’ or ‘killing it’.”

When considering going to an event, Ohanian says founders should ask themselves whether there will be people at the event who can help you in specific ways, or if there will be people there who you have a “real connection” with or may want to support.

Don’t let friendship inhibit communication

As someone who founded a startup with a close friend, Ohanian has learnt the value of communicating properly. He told First Round Review that being able to work effectively with someone you are also friends with means being able to have difficult conversations.

“Whenever you’re choosing a co-founder or hiring people to lead big parts of your company or your vision, you have to make sure you can have hard conversations,” he says.

“You’re inevitably going to have a bunch of conversations that you would never ever have with a friend – and I think that a lot of new entrepreneurs don’t anticipate that.”

Ohanian recommends first laying groundwork by finding out how the other person thinks they would respond to arguments or challenging situations, and then once you begin working together, let them know that you will still respect them even if you do fight at work.

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