it had more than 150 employees by the end of 2016.
Ohanian’s new job’s best description might have been “sales-
man emeritus.” His title was just “co-founder.” In fashy sneak-
ers and T-shirts, Ohanian had begun serving as a jet-setting
hype man. “He likes to travel, he likes to speak, he likes to talk
about Reddit. I think 70 percent of the population just really
falls for his charms, and many of them are CMOs,” Hufman
joked, with a little grin. “That works out great.”
Zubair Jandali, Reddit’s dynamic chief of sales, had infor-
mally dubbed Ohanian “chief bullhorn.” One of Ohanian’s big
successes was working with the producers of the sci-f tech
dystopia show Mr. Robot. During its third season, which aired
in 2017, they pulled of an elaborate integration in which there
were nods to Reddit on the show and, simultaneously, clues
from the show unfolded in subreddits online.
Months later, in mid-2017, Ohanian would visit South Korean
consumer electronics giant Samsung in New York City to try to
establish the framework for a $10 million partnership deal, the
very morning after his pregnant fancée was featured wearing
only a thong and a silver belly chain on the cover of Vanity Fair.
“Oh, that,” Ohanian said when the cover was mentioned
in the Samsung lobby. It was a long and glowing story focusing
on his courtship and pregnancy with Serena Williams. The
pregnancy had come to light the past April, when Williams
made public what appeared to be intended as a private
Snapchat pic of herself in a swimsuit with a tiny midsection
bulge labeled “ 20 weeks.” Ohanian has said he’d been reluctant to participate in big, splashy, overtly personal
press, but was game to do whatever Williams
wanted—and she had already decided to participate in the story.
“You’ll always be her assistant,” joked Ohanian’s
longtime assistant, Elisabeth Garvin. Ohanian
threw Garvin an almost undetectable side-eye, and
joked about the magazine photographs: “It killed a
couple birds with one stone. I’d been meaning to
schedule both engagement and maternity photo shoots for
Serena. Now we have both—taken by Annie Leibovitz.”
T wo years after those awkward dinners, each of the men said he had fnally accepted the other for the person he had become. Ohanian deferred to Hufman on business matters—gone was his mandate of “let Alexis be Alexis.” Ohanian grew to appreciate his new position: Making money and converting
trafc to money were clear goals, something he’d never had
before at Reddit. Hufman had come to accept Ohanian’s wild,
jet-setting lifestyle, and had even become prone to smile at his
appearances on magazine covers and talk shows, which had
accelerated thanks to his extraordinarily famous fancée.
Perhaps most encouraging for their relationship, the
pair had again begun to banter like brothers. They were not
together in the ofce a lot, but when Hufman was asked how
working side by side was going, he was so comfortable that he
went straight for a joke: “Smells so good, I can’t concentrate.”
Ohanian laughed, too: “People have given me really great
feedback on that.” They’re not best friends, and they are per-
fectly fne with that. They had, after all, lived together on and
of for eight years. They had their fnances intertwined for
years. Their legacies were still tied together, in Reddit.
In the future, making decisions that are good for business is
perhaps the biggest change Reddit faces—though Hufman was
poised to walk into that wind. Reddit had improbably survived a
decade of management lax enough that its communities spiraled
out of control—and now everything, down to specifc content,
was under the microscopes of multiple teams at Reddit: the
friendly, interactive community team; the secretive, ban-enacting trust and safety team; its engineering counterpart,
dubbed “anti-evil”; and the policy and legal groups.
In the summer of 2017 came a moment of epic relief for
Steve Hufman. Finally, he had completed a new funding
round. The process of putting together the round—setting
terms that could shape the future of Reddit and its value to
both existing shareholders and employees—had been a slog.
At least once during the yearlong process, he’d grown so
frustrated that he’d come close to calling of the efort. Now
it was done, which meant time for a victory lap.
On July 31, dozens of articles appeared in the tech press
under headlines reading some variation of “Reddit raised
$200 million in funding and is now valued at $1.8 billion.” Just
like that, six years after Advance Publications bestowed upon
its little acquisition the power to raise outside funding and
grow like a startup, Reddit joined a new echelon of Silicon
Valley elite. It was now a unicorn, a private company valued at
$1 billion or more, like Palantir or Pinterest. There were only
about 200 of these companies in the world, and a hundred in
the United States.
Something else miraculous happened over the summer of
2017: Reddit’s trafc grew to such an extent that Amazon’s
web analytics arm, Alexa, the primary site-ranking service,
considered it the fourth most popular website in the U.S.,
behind only Google, You Tube, and Facebook.
August and September 2017 went by without a single major
community fare-up—the frst time a late summer and autumn
had passed in fve years without Reddit nearly strangling itself
out of existence. Hufman’s past cycles of self-doubt seemed
to have lifted. There was joy for him in experiencing the daily
rhythm of Reddit’s new home at 420 Taylor Street, the fow
of staf pausing to chat on their way to their workstations. He
could often be found with his laptop on a couch in front of the
elevators on the third foor, his feet in scrufy Adidas soccer
shoes, propped up, greeting anyone who walked by.
CHRISTINE LAGORIO-CHAFKIN is Inc.’s senior writer. We Are the Nerds
(Hachette Books) will arrive in bookstores on October 2.
Two years after those awkward
dinners, each said he had fnally
accepted the other for the
person he had become.