Editorial credit: ilikeyellow / Shutterstock.com
Reddit’s evolution as an organization is almost unique as the social media purpose that it fills.
The online community chat forum is 16 years old and has been connecting people across the internet through nearly every topic you can think of during that time. It’s set the format for countless online chat forums and even coined the widely-used #AMA (Ask Me Anything) format between online viewers and select guests.
And recently it’s hit the headlines for a few reasons. In August it raised its Series E fundraising round, around the same time it released new short-form video features that mirror TikTok and Instagram reels. Politically, it’s been in the news with moderators on the platform pushing executives to ban misinformation about COVID-19 that is spreading across various subreddits.
The Org has taken a look at the non-linear history and leadership for the “front page of the internet” that has over 50 million daily active users.
Founders Alexis Ohanian, Steve Huffman and Aaron Swartz started the network of online communities back in 2006 when they were roommates at the University of Virginia. Ohanian and Huffman knew they wanted to create something together, and initially traveled to Boston to pitch a startup idea for a new startup incubator, Y Combinator. After their first idea (a mobile food ordering app) was rejected, YC founder Paul Graham invited the team to join the founding class of his startup accelerator -- which is where Reddit was born.
Barely 18 months into the startup’s life, the founders sold it to Condé Nast for $10 million. Ohanian reflected on the deal in a Twitter thread last year, where he shared that at the time of the deal, he was 23 and his mother was battling brain cancer.
“I wish I’d had an investor tell me there were other options (like raising a Series A!) and there would be a path to much greater things given how fast the audience was growing at a time when our engineers had basically stopped working on the product,” Ohanian said in the thread.
It was wholly-owned by the media group until 2012 when the company finally raised a Series A round. Ohanian eventually returned to the company to be it’s chief executive officer before stepping down in 2015, requesting that a Black candidate take his place on the board. These days Ohanian is a published author and widely-circulated public speaker. He’s also married to tennis star Serena Williams.
Huffman also left the company after the sale to Condé Nast to explore an entrepreneurial path. He launched Hipmunk, an airfare and travel search engine, in 2010 with co-founder Adam Goldstein to take on travel sites like KAYAK. The venture landed him a spot in Forbes' 30 Under 30 list in 2011 and 2012 before returning to Reddit in 2015. He is currently spearheading Reddit’s native image and video hosting initiatives and a full website redesign. In addition to his work at Reddit, Huffman is a mentor at Hackbright Academy, a San Francisco-based coding school for women.
While not a part of the roommate group that initially started Reddit, Chris Slowe is Reddit’s founding engineer and has been with the company since 2005. He has a PhD in physics from Harvard, and built up the company’s initial product and engineering team until he joined Huffman at Hipmunk to become chief scientist after Reddit’s change in ownership.
He found his way back to Reddit at the same time as Huffman, and in 2017 became the social network’s CTO. He now manages a team of over 200 engineers and developers.
“Everyone on this team is taking on a fairly significant load,” Slowe said at the Reddit-UXDX Europe conference in March 2020. “The side effect of this is that everyone has to know what they’re doing.”
Standouts on Slowe’s team include Shariq Rizvi, EVP of Monetization. Rizvi’s career journey began at Google as a software engineer on the Webserver team. In 2008, he launched his own enterprise startup, Dasient, that was acquired by Twitter in 2012. He stayed on at Twitter and eventually co-founded its performance ads business, generating over $2 billion in revenue for the social media platform. He joined Reddit in 2018 with a similar task, as he now oversees the Ads Product teams, a new territory Reddit has been exploring with its latest influx of funding.
One of the newest members on Slowe’s team includes Allison Miller, Chief Information Officer and VP of Trust. She has 20 years of experience working in product risk-management and has had career stops at Visa, PayPal and Google before ending up at Reddit. In her new role, she’s responsible for expanding trust and safety operations and data security, a big task for a website that receives 52 million daily active users. Miller is also tasked with redesigning Reddit’s trust frameworks and transparency efforts to enable further growth across the platform.
Conversation and audience building is core to Reddit’s success, so arguably tasked with the biggest job in C-suite is Alex Le, VP of Product and Community. He joined the company in 2015 and is responsible for product, design and community aspects of the platform. Le and his team of community managers oversee more than a million siloed groups on the website and are constantly tweaking the product to drive retention and growth of users back to the platform.
Building a community within a company is arguably as important as building one as a product, so rounding out Reddit’s executive team is Nellie Peshkov, Chief People & Culture Officer. Peshkov joined the company in February 2020 and brought her background in human resource experience from Netflix, where she served as VP of Talent for over five years. While scaling and hiring remains a large part of Peshkov’s role, she also is responsible for Inclusion and Diversity and employee engagement.