In less than one month, Alexis Ohanian shook up Silicon Valley with two major announcements: His immediate departure from the executive board at Reddit and his exit from an incredibly successful venture capital investment firm. Ohanian is a celebrity not only within Silicon Valley but also beyond it because of his marriage to tennis superstar Serena Williams. The reasons he has publicly given for this career change are certainly worth discussing.
Ohanian had been with Reddit since the idea for “the front page of the internet” was formulated in 2005. The project enjoyed success from the start despite competing in the tight space known as Web 2.0; it only took about a year for Reddit to be acquired by a major publishing house, and less than a decade later it was welcoming $50 million in venture capital funding.
As a Silicon Valley darling, Reddit attracted considerable attention from venture capital firms from the beginning. Ohanian became immersed in this world of technology financing, and in 2012 he co-founded Initialized, a VC firm with a deal portfolio that includes the likes of Patreon. A couple of years later, Ohanian returned to Reddit after the company faced an ugly corporate scandal. Two years later, he proposed marriage to Serena Williams; their daughter Alexis Olympia was born in 2017.
Ohanian has mentioned that his business mindset has changed ever since he started living with Williams, particularly with regard to the way success should be measured. The man has not only become introspective but also more noble, and his recent business moves reflect this transformation.
It took a couple of years for Ohanian to right the corporate ship at Reddit. In early June 2020, he announced his decision to leave the board with the specific desire of seeing an African-American executive be appointed; his wish was granted a few days later when Michael Seibel, co-founder of the Twitch video streaming network, joined Reddit. Ohanian stated that he insisted on diversifying the board because he thought about his daughter one day growing up and asking what he had done during the tensest moments of the George Floyd global movement against racial injustice and police brutality. He also pledged a million dollars to the “Know Your Rights Camp” managed by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
As for his exit from Initialized, Ohanian is still interested in VC action, but he wants to explore options at even earlier stages; this is a riskier approach to investing and funding, but he certainly has the experience to make it work. Something else that he will continue working on is his campaign to ensure equal and fair paid family leave for American workers, and this includes being more mindful about the challenges that single mothers must endure in the workplace.