Fireside Chat: Amazon Fishbowl with Alexis Ohanian

Jason Philip Yoong
4 min readApr 26, 2018

*Updated Post*

*Announcement* I launched a newsletter, Curious Expeditions, to share my thoughts on the content I create and consume. My goal is to help you look around corners, explore new ideas, and inspire you to dive deep on your own expedition. Topics will range from business, philosophy, empathy, sports, mental models, and more. I primarily explore ideas through fireside chats, books, articles, podcasts, and videos.

Join the community and subscribe:

Example content:

  1. Fireside Chat with Alexis Ohanian
  2. Business Writing Tips
  3. Mamba Mentality

— — — — — — — — —

Had a great time chatting with Alexis Ohanian (Cofounder Initialized Capital and Cofounder Reddit and one cool human) at Amazon HQ in Jan. 2018 about life, career, his super cute daughter, remembering to be human, and his best-selling book Without Their Permission: The Story of Reddit and a Blueprint for How to Change the World.

Watch our chat below. Also, a lot of people have asked about the questions I prepared, in the spirit of transparency and to get better (let me know what other questions you recommend), I have decided to share them below (after the neat Fishbowl photos, of course).

Put this in the “great peculiar day” category
You definitely want to follow Alexis
Now look at that photo!
Repost FTW
LOL — the truth is finally out
Remember to be human
Reddit team getting potassium at The Amazon Community Banana Stand

Questions (in order):

  1. 2017 was quite an uneventful year for you…Reddit raised $200M in new venture funding at a $1.8B valuation, you got married, and you had your first child, a beautiful baby daughter named Alexis Olympia Ohanian, Jr. How on Earth are you going to top it this year?
  2. For audience members who have yet to read the book, how would you describe it?
  3. In chapter two, you describe the journey when you went to Boston for the first round of Y Combinator funding, got rejected, get a call back from Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham to come back but only if you changed your startup idea. Take us through that last moment when you and Steve went back to Y Combinator and came up with the idea for Reddit with Paul, what did you do, how did you feel, what sparked the idea to create Reddit?
  4. You quote Paul Graham saying that you must be “relentlessly resourceful” as a startup, what is a recent example of your team at Reddit showcasing this relentless resourcefulness?
  5. A recurring piece in the book is your recommendation to keep a list of “agonizing experiences” as they are opportunities for innovation — what is currently on your list?
  6. You write that larger companies cannot have absolute focus on solving a specific problem better than anyone else nor can they inspire work ethic as passionately as a startup can, as Reddit grows, what are you and Steve doing to maintain that relentless focus and work ethic?
  7. Looking back now, would you make any changes to the book?
  8. Tell us about some exciting projects you are working on at Reddit now.
  9. What is your favorite failure at Reddit and what did you learn?
  10. At Amazon, we have 14 leadership principles such as “customer obsession” “bias for action” and “earn trust” — what would you say are Reddit’s leadership principles?
  11. One of the most popular and enduring things about Reddit is the mascot, Snoo, and Snoo is famous for taking on many variations, what is your favorite Snoo or Snoo story?
  12. Final question before we dive to audience Q&A, when can we expect your next book?

Additional questions: (note: took a page from Tim Ferriss and his book Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World, which I highly recommend from my 2017 book list)

  1. What books, besides your own, have you gifted the most to other people?
  2. What is the most worthwhile investment you have ever made?
  3. What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession?
  4. When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?
  5. You have a room full of Amazonians, what is the one takeaway you want everyone to leave with?
Read it!