Alexis Ohanian on Permission

Do Entrepreneurs Need College?

Do Entrepreneurs Need College?

By John Jantsch

Marketing interview with Alexis Ohanian

Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman founded the social bookmarking site reddit shortly after graduating from the University of Virginia. They sold it a year later to media giant Condé Nast. You’ve seen the movie, that’s kind of how Facebook got started as well.

Alexis Ohanian

Alexis Ohanian

So, to answer the question posed in my title today – yes, college is very important as a vehicle for entrepreneurship, but not because the case studies used in Marketing 101 teach anyone how to launch a product. College for the entrepreneur has always been more about community and connections and learning how to try stuff out.

That’s why coworking spaces, startup villages, mentoring programs and incubators make so much sense for the aspiring entrepreneur.

For this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast I spent some time with Ohanian to talk about his recent book – Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed.

Ohanian has become a bit of a poster child for the under 30 entrepreneur set. In less than a decade his business accomplishments would make up a pretty solid career.

What I like most about his story though is that he’s thrown himself head first into causes that excite him (Stop SOPA and Mister Splashy Pants) along the way. That, I think, is the real promise of no permission needed. In fact, he describes himself as a start up guy with the aim of making the world suck less!

He’s currently on something like a 150 stop tour that includes a great number of stops at colleges where he is spreading a message of hope and inspiration and advice for how to take advantage of the opportunities present right now.

Today, anyone with an idea and some timing can disrupt an entire industry. Today, anyone can sit at a keyboard or draw stick like figures that incite a movement or create a business where nothing previously existed. Hugh Macleod of Gaping Void takes on the lunacy of work through what some might call doodles and millions join his community.

Allie Brosh shares her simple drawings and amazingly dry sense of humor at Hyperbole and a Half and writes about very real things like her very real battle with depression and routinely draws thousands of comments with each submission. Her book Hyperbole and a Half was an instant best seller!

Like so many other institutions the higher education system in this country is under assault. The same permissionless innovation that allowed Ohanian and Huffman to create reddit is poised to tear down any industry that won’t tear itself down and embrace the fundamental shift in the way people learn, create, build and grow.

I believe we are headed into a generation where entrepreneurship will be the defining attribute of society.


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