My frst few months back were
really difcult. I didn’t feel welcome.
Some of that was expected: I was the
third CEO in a year. Nothing was going
right. There was a time I wondered:
“Wow, what did I get myself into?”
There were 65 employees when I
returned. My frst actions—such as
defning what behaviors were allowed
on the site—were polarizing. People
quit in my frst few days. A lot more
left within six months. By the end of
the frst year, about half remained. But
somehow, we kept the site running.
Reddit was basically frozen in time.
It hadn’t really changed at all in quite
a while, and the attitude at the company was one of fear: “We’re afraid to
make changes, because if we do we
could break or kill Reddit.” That was
literally what employees told me—
that if we change, we could die.
I was like, “I don’t know if you
realize this, but you are dying. That’s
why I’m here.” I mean, the company
was actively committing suicide.
Hiring, at frst, was a challenge. We
were in the press for all the wrong
reasons. Our reputation was horrible.
Users were in open revolt, and
employees were ashamed to work
here. We hadn’t hired an engineer for
almost a year. Yet the product was
working—the site was growing.
So this became my pitch: Reddit
is an incredible place. It works even
when we’re trying to kill it, so what
would happen if we actually did a
We’ve done the hard part of making
this platform, where users create
community and share funny and
interesting and helpful and supportive things. So, what if we built a nice
onboarding tool? What if we built
decent mobile apps? What if we just
did sensible Product 101 things? How
amazing could this company be?
At its core, that’s still my pitch.
For the frst time in my career, I’ve
really started to value values. I write
them down—both what’s great about
Reddit and the areas where we need
to close the gap to be what we aspire
to be. (The frst value is “evolve.”)
Being consistent about those things
makes it clear who will be a part of
your new culture and who won’t.
Today, Reddit is a fun place again.
We have almost 500 really smart,
quirky, friendly people who love
Reddit and believe in our mission.
We’d have our culture without my
writing it down.
But we’ll write it down, just in case.
Steve Huffman j You can go home again
How I alienated my
Steve Hufman co-founded Reddit in 2005, lef in
2009, and returned as CEO in 2015. At the time, there
was a massive user revolt—and a nearly sitewide
blackout—going on. At frst, it seemed every action he
took made the company hemorrhage employees. Then
he fgured out the framework he would use to turn the
business around. AS TOLD TO CHRISTINE LAGORIO-CHAFKIN
and then rebuilt