Reddit cofounder turned investor Alexis Ohanian opens up about the myth of work-life balance: founders that think they don't need coaching take 'amazing leap of arrogance'
- Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian opened up on his approach to work-life balance at an event in San Francisco on Wednesday.
- The founder turned venture capitalist said after beginning therapy he now realizes how "stupid" his work life was when he was building Reddit with cofounder Steve Huffman.
- Ohanian said his new professional goal is to be more like his wife, tennis star and investor Serena Williams, who "works just as hard when she's not working as when she is working." He added that any founder that thinks they don't need coaching has taken "an amazing leap of arrogance."
- During the discussion with Zeus Living cofounder and CEO Kulveer Taggar, Ohanian also said that he would be skeptical of investing in a company through his venture capital firm Initialized if the founder insisted on building the company in San Francisco, citing the costs of living and doing business in the tech hub.
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Alexis Ohanian is a cofounder of forum site Reddit, founded a venture capital firm Initialized Capital, and married tennis star and investor Serena Williams. By most objective measures, he is one of Silicon Valley's biggest success stories.
So when Ohanian began opening up publicly about his mental health and the pressures tech industry founders like him are under, he said he was surprised by the supportive reception he received from the tech community.
"Running a startup is hard enough," Ohanian told attendees at an event in San Francisco on Wednesday. "What we put ourselves through as founders is bad for us and it's also bad for business."
Ohanian said he and Reddit cofounder Steve Huffman didn't see each other for weeks on end even though they were living together while building Reddit because Ohanian preferred to work into the night while Huffman was more of an early bird.
"Some amount of ego or pride convinced me it was right," Ohanian said of his past all-nighters.
With therapy, Ohanian said he now realizes how "stupid" his work schedule was, and has tried to take a page out of Williams' book by going all in on whatever he is doing in a given moment, whether that's doing due diligence on a prospective portfolio company or watching Golden Girls.
"In business we are playing ourselves," Ohanian said. "In sport, you have a win and a loss and you know where you stand. If I'm in business or I'm a doctor, and think I don't need coaching, it's an amazing leap of arrogance. I think that's really starting to seep into tech in big ways."
Now an investor, Ohanian says he is positioned to better implement his best practices for work-life balance. He's realized that he isn't necessary for every decision at either Initialized or Reddit, and even went as far as turning off the notifications on his phone.
"I no longer feel the tremor when you think your phone is buzzing but you're not even wearing pants," Ohanian said. "Creating those boundaries, and trying to be more like Serena Williams, is my professional goal. These tools work for us and we have the ability to say no."
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