He wasn’t talking about Friday night at the drive-in, he was proselytizing for entrepreneurship and the role of the internet in ‘maximizing your potential to be awesome.’
The author of “Without Their Permission: How The 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed,” spoke to nearly 1,000 attendees. The event was put on by Refresh Miami, who have been vital to Miami’s growth in its thriving #tech and #startup scenes.
Refresh founder Brian Breslin thanked the audience for 8 years of loyal patronage and welcomed all first timers.
After a promotional intro by event sponsors ParkJockey, and a brief speech by locally ridiculed Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who objected to Miami Beach ever being a tech base, Ohanian took the stage.
He spoke about the soul destroying properties of LSAT prep classes, and how skipping out on them with a college buddy to go eat Waffle House changed the course of his life.
He spoke about Grumpy Cat, and used the infamous feline for an analogy about competition. We don’t have the exact quote written down, but it was something along the lines of, ‘Every single day Grumpy Cat wakes up and has to compete against every other cat on the Internet. But does that ever stop him? No! He’s just gotta be the best Grumpy Cat he can be.’
He spoke about his nearly religious fervor for professional football, and his obeisance before the greatness of University of Miami’s own Sean Taylor. He professed an utmost respect for the fallen football player, and admitted that he and his father have held up a hand made Sean Taylor flag at every NFL game they have been to in the past 3 years.
Ohanian spoke about being accepted into the first class of Y Combinator, an early stage seed funding program that allowed he and his partner Steve Huffman to build Reddit from a small apartment in Massachusetts.
He told the crowd that the original idea they approached Y Combinator with was a mobile application for ordering foodstuffs via payment by cell phone. It was to be called My Mobile Menu, and would be referred to as “Mmm”. Ohanian recounted how their idea was summarily dismissed as practically absurd.
And then he remembered getting a call from Y Combinator saying, “We hate your idea, but we love you guys. Cut the mobile and do something browser based and you’re in.” And that is how a $12,000 grant helped build one of the biggest websites in the world.
Ohanian was still clearly wowed by the significance of his contribution to global culture. Especially so when he said, ‘We get more hits on our website than the New York Times does on theirs.’
The Miami tech crowd was extremely responsive and represented the same beautiful diversity of ages and backgrounds as the front page of Reddit does itself.
And then Ohanian held a fireside chat with a local entrepreneur, followed by a book signing whose line was determined by text messaging.
It was an awesome event. Thank you Reddit. Thank you Alexis Ohanian. Thank you Refresh Miami!