It doesn’t take anything but an idea and an Internet connection, Ohanian said during an afternoon keynote address at Dell World held at the Austin Convention Center.
When Ohanian and his University of Virginia roommate, Steve Huffman, pitched their idea for MyMobileMenu to Y Combinator’s Paul Graham, they got rejected. But later, Graham called Ohanian and invited them to join the first Y Combinator class.
They didn’t like their idea for MyMobileMenu, an application that would allow people to order and pay for their food in advance of pickup, thereby skipping lines and saving time, but they liked Ohanian and Huffman.
“It was an idea ahead of its time,” Ohanian said.
Instead, Graham asked them to think up a problem they faced regularly. They both liked to read news online but had a hard time finding it and organizing it in one place. They decided to build a way to find out what’s new and interesting online.
Graham told them to “Build the front page of the Internet.”
At 21 years old, Ohanian said why not? In June of 2005, three weeks after joining the program, they created the first version of Reddit, a news aggregation site that allows users to up vote and down vote posts and add comments. Today, Reddit has 175 million registered users from all over the world. Conde Nast bought the site in 2006.
“This is less a testament of what Steve and I were able to do,” Ohanian said. “It’s a testament to the age we live in.”
There is so much more innovation to come, he said.
Today, at 31, Ohanian meets 18 year olds that have already shipped their first apps.
“And we’re still just getting started,” he said.
In the last year, Ohanian visited 85 universities and more than 200 places overall all across North America on a book tour to promote his book “Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed.”
“Starting from your dorm room, you can build something that can change the world,” Ohanian said. “Everyone is thinking of themselves as an entrepreneur.
And that’s a good thing, Ohanian said.
“The more of us who can be entrepreneurs, the better off we’re going to be,” he said. “This generation coming up doesn’t just consume stuff but creates it.”
Software, technology and the Internet are affecting everything, Ohanian said. Software is affecting every single industry, he said.
“We’re all here with front row seats to this change,” he said. “Whatever it is you go off and end up doing, just please push forward this idea we are all creators now, not just consumers. It’s going to change the world.”