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Creating New Frontiers Written by Tamara Savage ’15

HARNESS THE POWER of the Internet and, when

you have an idea, just run with it, advised activist-investor Alexis Ohanian, cofounder of Reddit. During his visit to campus Jan. 21, Ohanian pointed out that the World Wide Web is flat— links to websites, including those to the White House, CNN and major companies, for instance, are equally accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. More than ever, the Internet makes it easy for people to “just start doing stuff.” And this, Ohanian says, is the power to “create new frontiers.” Something else the Internet offers is free material; as long as you have an Internet connection, you have access to nearly unlimited information. This provides an opportunity for self-teaching, a strategy employed by Ohanian and Reddit cofounder, Steve Huffman. Ohanian says he “had no idea what [he] was doing” when first starting Reddit. He showed a

screenshot of the first version of Reddit’s website, which he called “janky, because the first version is always janky, and that’s okay.” This previously “janky” website now gets more than 100 million visitors every month. “Failure is an option,” Ohanian says. “It’s okay.” He emphasized the importance of failure as part of the process and encouraged students not to be afraid of it. He also talked about competitors—specifically, not paying attention to them, “Because that’s when you stop innovating and start worrying.” He also gave a spoiler: “Ideas are worthless. Execution is key.” And, he emphasized the importance of action and, particularly, action “without their permission”— that is, doing something because it is possible. “Entrepreneur is just French for ‘has ideas, does them,’” Ohanian says. Ohanian concluded his talk with a fireside chat with Harvey Mudd alumni Jon Schwartz ’13 and

Alexis Ohanian

Max Friefeld ’13 co-founders of the 3-D printing company, Layer by Layer. The two engineering majors began working on their startup while still at Harvey Mudd and have now successfully launched their company. Schwartz and Friefeld spoke about learning how to build a company and experiencing and overcoming obstacles. The trio encouraged current students to pursue and act on ideas they are passionate about.

Notes & Quotes

From the Bruce J. Nelson ’74 Distinguished Speaker Series

I think these are amazing jobs, and women are not getting their share of them, and that’s crazy. These jobs are high paying, they are flexible, they are creative, they are collaborative, they are fun. I love my job. I have loved every minute of my work. Jocelyn Goldfein, director of engineering at Facebook and a Harvey Mudd trustee, spoke about the need for more software engineers during her talk Jan. 29.

SPRING 2014

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Harvey Mudd College Magazine spring 2014  

Our alumni are world changers. Meet three who are impacting finance, design and medicine. Armed with strong technical experience and trainin...

Harvey Mudd College Magazine spring 2014  

Our alumni are world changers. Meet three who are impacting finance, design and medicine. Armed with strong technical experience and trainin...