Alexis Ohanian on Community at SocialDevCamp Chicago

August 25, 2011

3:35 pm

As a preview to this weekend’s SocialDevCamp Chicago keynote address, Tech Cocktail connected with Alexis Ohanian, whose accomplishments include co-founding reddit, launching Hipmunk and serving as their head of marketing, YCombinator ambassador and an active angel investor with Das Kapital Capital.  A very busy entrepreneur, Alexis also recently launched Breadpig, a company that creates geeky products donating proceeds to individuals and charities who “make the world suck less”.

Alexis will be presenting “Building Big Little Communities” – a crucial topic for the conference’s audience of startups, developers and marketers who do everything from building support from within the industry to launching a new technology, securing buy-in from investors or generating interest and conversation among your target market.

Tech Cocktail (TC): With your diverse experience launching new companies, has your personal definition of community changed as your career has taken you from startup to success to angel investor?

Alexis: Nope. It’s actually all based on the approach I took with a simple web forum I started and ran in college. It was a janky, phpBB forum, but cultivating a strong community comes down to a lot of non-technical approaches — basically a combination of hustle and candor. People get excited when they see others giving a damn, it’s contagious. People are investing their time in these communities whether they’re online or offline, because the relationships are just as real.

TC: How does a startup community evolve from company’s inception through maturity and possible acquisition?

Alexis: It becomes more mainstream, but if you can continue to enforce the early behavior (not necessarily top-down, but reward and incentivize older members to set examples for new members) it stays true to its core. I think reddit had over 20M uniques last month and for all that mainstream-ness (top 50 website) redditors still exchange geeky Secret Santa gifts with total strangers on — we’re 6 years old and post-acquisition, which is pretty exceptional.

TC: What advice do you have for a startup that needs to balance the demands of launching a company while fostering the community surrounding it?

Alexis: You always want to launch first, since you need a website for a community to gather around. But once you’ve launched, if you want to make something special that excites and engrosses, you’ve gotta build a product that encourages it and invest time with those early users concurrently.

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Barbara Maldonado is the Social Media Strategist at Legacy Marketing Partners, one of the top Experiential Marketing agencies in the country. For Tech Cocktail she looks at emerging technologies that can help businesses. Follow her on Twitter @bmaldonado

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