Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman sold Reddit to Condé Nast when they were 23. Then both — in stages — came back to the company. Why? According to Ohanian, because of a single and rare thing that was happening at Reddit and almost never happens in the technology industry.
"In spite of us being gone for half a decade, the company had not really changed," Ohanian told CNBC from the Net/Net event on Tuesday. "It kept growing. That's rare. In any industry, lack of innovation will hurt you. In tech it almost guarantees it will kill you," he said. "We saw something in Reddit in the half decade we were gone. ... The site was not changing, but it kept growing. Growing despite not changing," Ohanian said.
(Ohanian came back as executive chairman of Reddit in 2014, and Huffman returned as CEO in July 2015.)
There was something else, too. The Reddit co-founders were young. Even if they did enough right to put the site in a position to grow without constant change, they were wrong to sell in the first place, Ohanian conceded. "We had the chance of a lifetime to come back to a company we sold too early, frankly. We were 23 — we didn't know any better," he said.
The two Reddit co-founders originally met each other on move-in day at the University of Virginia. Reddit now has 250 million active users, or a population of commentators that is larger than the population of Brazil.