Countering Competition

Alexis Ohanian

Lesson time 06:57 min

Whether they’ve grown dramatically or hit a subtle plateau, most new companies look different a year after launch. Alexis shares insights from advising hundreds of successful startups about evaluating progress and identifying the right moment for change.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Focus on Your Community, Not Your Competitor • Lesson From My Dad


- Competition is an inevitable byproduct of starting a business. And the sooner you accept that, the better. I know I personally took all of my competition way too personally for years when starting Reddit because it was-- felt like an attack on my kid. Now that I have a kid, I realize starting a startup is definitely not the same as having a kid. But those feelings are totally reasonable. The danger with focusing too much on your competition is that you're not actually spending time innovating and actually solving problems. And one of the best skills that you can develop is understanding you should just ignore your competition. You should maybe pay attention to what they're doing, and more importantly, pay attention to what their customers say about what they're doing. But don't obsess over them because if you do, you're not going to be creating anything new. You're going to be too busy copying the things that they're doing and really limiting the upside for your own business. In the early days of Reddit, we had a competitor called Dig. Our approaches seemed pretty similar. You submit a link, other people vote on it, they comment on it. OK. What's the differentiator? One of the things we kept asking ourselves was, why are people going to keep coming back to Reddit every day, especially when they could go to Dig or so many other places? There were times when yeah, candidly, I was just thinking way too much about what they were doing because they were the market leader. They had VC funding. They were based in Silicon Valley. We were this tiny startup, didn't have any funding, based in Boston then. And you know, I spent more time than I would have liked to thinking about their business and how they were acting and how we should be reacting. And it was a year in that I realized no, we need to be building our products the way that's best for our customers, and really understand what their users weren't happy about in order to make better decisions about what we were building. And that's it. And I realized as long as Dig was one home page, one front page of the internet, so to speak, it could only apply to a certain number of people. There was always going to be a ceiling because what is a good front page for me isn't necessarily a good front page for you and isn't necessarily a good front page for someone else. So we knew we had to build a platform that was built on communities. And in that, we created a way for the site to naturally scale beyond that idea of just one front page. Today, tens of thousands of communities exist on Reddit. Each one has its own front page that each community believes is the front page for them. We knew deep down that this was an important enough distinction, and what our communities actually wanted was a chance to have autonomy over that because these weren't just sections of a newspaper. These were real communities. Each one had its own culture, its own language, its own in joke...

About the Instructor

In 2005, UVA undergrad Alexis Ohanian envisioned a place online where users connect over subcultures—enter Reddit. That was only the start: From growing billion-dollar companies to championing female founders, Ohanian shaped culture. Now he wants to lead tomorrow’s innovators. Learn how to turn an idea into a startup with advice Alexis has shared with other entrepreneurs through his VC fund, Seven Seven Six.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Alexis Ohanian

Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian teaches you how to turn an idea into a startup. Get the advice he’s shared through his VC fund, Seven Seven Six.

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