The Art of the Fail: How Alexis Ohanian’s Spectacular Flop of a Startup Led to the Creation of Reddit

CEO of Reddit Alexis Ohanian
CEO of Reddit Alexis Ohanian Jerod Harris / Getty Images

Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit and Initialized Capital, talks about his biggest flop.

In 2004, before I created Reddit, I started a company called My Mobile Menu that was a spectacular flop. The idea was that users could order food via text message, but smartphones didn’t exist yet, so the user experience was awful. My partner and I interviewed with Y Combinator to secure funding and figured we were shoo-ins since we knew the founder.

 

 

Then Y Combinator rejected us. I was so ashamed that at a party that night, I couldn’t bring myself to admit we hadn’t raised the money. Well, the next morning, Y Combinator called and said, ‘We like you, but not your idea. If you’re willing to change it, we’ll fund you.’

So I did; our next idea was Reddit. What I thought was a failure ultimately saved me from years of trying to launch a company that would have never gone anywhere. — As told to Sal Vaglica

This essay is part of our Art of the Fail series.