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Jim interviews uber entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian

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Three years. It’s hard to believe I’ve been doing this podcast for that long, but on April 16 2008, The Hopkinson Report was born.

Just 2 weeks later on April 30, I recorded my very first podcast interview ever, speaking with Alexis Ohanian about their up-and-coming site reddit.com. It’s interesting to go back to Episode #3 (and 4) and hear where reddit was at the time, and also just how new and nervous I was with the whole process.

So, it was with great pleasure that I got to sit down with Alexis this week for Episode #149 and compare notes, as we’ve both come a long way.


Reflecting back on reddit years later, I asked:

How have things changed since you started reddit?
What would have you done differently?
How did they just pull off 1 billion page views with just 6 employees?
What was reddit’s theory on development and iteration?
What was the key takeaway as a founder of reddit?

Then as Alexis puts it, like any successfully-exiting startup founder, the next logical step was to flee the country.

However, he did it the right way…

Visiting his family’s homeland in Armenia as a Kiva fellow:


We talk about exactly what Kiva does
How can a goat herder buy more goats
What is the most important thing for a borrower to do in their application

Then we move on to talk about his latest venture…

Travel site Hipmunk.com

I think it is fantastic that they are taking on such an established industry and trying to make travel planning fun and easy. Frankly, the transition from travel agents, paper tickets, and having to CALL multiple airlines to compare costs to having a site like Orbitz launch in 2001 was so huge, that we’ve let them off the hook in terms of innovation over the last 10 years.

Take one feature as an example:

Hipmunk HIDES search results that no human would possibly ever take.

On the flipside, here is a result I was able to find on Orbitz today
(Click for larger image)

Please find the person that wants to go from New York to San Francisco this weekend, and is willing to pay $1000 to:
1) Take Frontier Airlines to Denver
2) Have a layover for an hour and 13 minutes
3) Return on Continental, taking a redeye to Cleveland!
4) Have a layover for two hours and 13 minutes
5) Then continuing from Cleveland to New York

Again… for $1000!

We go on to talk about:

– The David vs Goliath mentality
– Origins (Having an international debating champion from MIT helps)
– The agony of the connecting flight or the O’Hare layover in winter
– Ecstasy rankings for hotels… not just the cheapest but the best one for your dollar, including reviews and amenities such as free WiFi
– Aha… ‘Hipmunk moments’
– How they are marketing the new site, and how has that changed from reddit (Hint: it’s the exact same marketing plan as reddit, but easier)
– The ‘Hipmunk me’ Facebook social media marketing plan

One of the features they have is really cool…. a “Hotel Heatmap” overlay for shopping (girls trip to Miami?), tourism (family trip to San Diego?), and yes, vice (bachelor party in San Francisco?).
Click for larger image:


Lastly, we discuss Breadpig, which of course is a pig with bread for wings.

– Actually, it’s a ‘Neuman’s own for nerds’
– Not salad dressing, but book publishing and LOLcat fridge magnets
– We discuss the false assumptions that surprised him in the traditional publishing space
– How the XKCD web comic went from reddit darling to published book (or, why would an online web comic do a dead tree book?)


Links from this show:
Alexis: Blog | Twitter
Jim: Twitter

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