I was inspired to begin writing again by reading Alexis Ohanian of reddit fame’s debut book, titled “Without Their Permission” for those that were regular readers and know me are aware of my interest in the startup community, technology, and activism during the SOPA/PIPA days. So reading this book happily fell into many of those interests.
First of all, this book was entertaining. It’s a rather self aware book and in some cases the humor of it reminded me of Drew Curtis’s book “It’s not News it’s Fark” which is a humorous book that really pokes fun at mainstream media. There’s some of that in this book, but it’s much more playful and selfaware of how important the media has been to Alexis’s success.
During my Master’s thesis research I read a lot of scientific studies that looked at the types of businesses, industries, education, and so forth of founders. Which really focused on the technical skills of the founders. This book didn’t. Alexis wasn’t the technical brains behind reddit, he was the “other stuff” that helped make reddit reddit. I believe that this is a fantastic view point to bring to the conversation on start ups, incubators, accelerators, etc… because it’s something that’s missing.
I have to say at first while reading the book I was really annoyed by the line “every link is created equal” because in any network this simply isn’t try. Any unconnected link is equal, but as soon as the Internet is the Internet links become less equal because of interconnectedness of the Internet. At first this prevented me from enjoying the book because I was so focused on this, however after working 8 hours I forgot about it until it was mentioned later. I only bring this up, because a large portion of the book is spent discussing how important networking is to the success of a startup. It became clear to me that Alexis gets it.
I also found this book enjoyable because it is much less self congratulatory about the Internet entrpreneurs than other books such as Makers, the New industrial revolution, Micro Wikinomics and Macro Wikinomics which cover very similar topics and ideas. In fact any time it felt to be getting too overly optimistic Alexis would point out that everything comes from hard work. It’s work that almost everyone can do, but it takes dedication.
Alexis points out a lot of successes that he’s been involved with as an investor, which provide a lot of great anecdotal experience as well as a graduate’s perspective from the Y-Combinator. I think these views are all helpful as we begin to look for more unique ways to fund startups beyond the traditional VC method.
Finally, I enjoyed the section about SOPA/PIPA which was interesting as I was actively involved on reddit and blogging to inform others about what was happening. Some of that included sharing the interviews Alexis did during that time period.
In general this book is definitely a great introduction to a more realistic view of Internet entrepreneurship from a successful founder, a great introduction to many unique startups out there that are very inclusive, and a great introduction to SOPA/PIPA for people that weren’t paying attention.
Get out there and make something great happen.