Reddit founder shames Digg founder with an old magazine and a Biggie quote

Photo of Alexis' copy of a BusinessWeek issue

Despite being the co-founder of one of the biggest and most highly active discussion forums on the Internet, Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian is a pretty modest dude.

And when I say Reddit is “highly active” I mean it generates over 2 billion monthly page views and attracts more than 35,000,000 monthly unique visitors. Over the last year, the site has grown from a tiny team of four or five people under the banner of media conglomerate Conde Nast to its own company that’s rapidly hiring a full staff of employees.

But Ohanian doesn’t let this go to his head, due in part to one pretty significant reminder: a 2006 BusinessWeek magazine issue that features Digg founder Kevin Rose as the cover story. Written by PandoDaily founder Sarah Lacy, the cover headline reads “How this kid made $60 million in 18 months.”

What’s the significance of this? Well, Ohanian said he back-ordered the issue the day after Digg launched version 4 (v4) of the site, which cause a thunderous backlash from its users — sending them to Reddit in droves.

“After @digg v4 I backordered this. I don’t keep any of my own press but wanted this around as a reminder,” Ohanian wrote in an Instagram update today. “Biggie knew. Treat everything like it’s your first day (because) nothing is guaranteed.”

So there you have it folks. Reddit’s co-founder is inspired not to take his success for granted thanks to Kevin Rose’s missteps — and maybe also famously murdered rapper Biggie Smalls.

Update 7/13/2012 – (5:10 p.m. PT): Ohanian responded to Venturebeat’s request to elaborate on what he meant by keeping the magazine as a reminder:

No Schadenfruede. The reason I dont keep my press (I send it all home to my dad) is because I don’t want it in front of me. I hope I don’t ever get complacent. This industry moves so fast, the onus is on founders to always be focusing on their companies and doing right by their users/customers — especially when relying on user-generated content, all the value is in the community (e.g., we open-sourced reddit years ago and it never hampered us). I keep stuff like this around because I want to always remember when no one gave a damn about reddit, or us, or what we were building. It was pretty clear once I got my hands on diggv4 alpha that reddit was going to become #1, but that doesn’t guarantee a thing. We’re still far from where I’d like to see the site. I’m just on the board now, but it’s obviously something I’d like to see continue to grow.

The same attitude goes for any new breadpig projects we start or even when we launched hipmunk back in Aug ’10. I don’t want to take anything for granted and like Biggie said: “The key to this joint // The key to staying on top of things // Is treat everything like it’s your first project, knahmsayin // Like it’s your first day like back when you was an intern // Like, that’s how you try to treat things like, just stay hungry”

e.g., Forbes can put out a headline like “Mayor of the Internet” and I’m happy the people close to me tease me about the headline it as I ship it off to my dad’s and remember that I’ll be forgotten as soon as someone leaves the page.

Ohanian was also quite clear that there was no “shame” intended to his message about the polybagged BusinessWeek issue with Kevin Rose on the cover, saying: “he didn’t choose the cover/headline! It’s a reminder to myself about how I need to earn it every day.”

And while Ohanian is guilty of calling out competition, so is Rose. (See video below of Rose’s poking fun at Reddit.)

Photo via Alexis Ohanian/Instagram


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