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Why Your Reddit Karma Might Get You Somewhere

“If I was back in college, I would play Halo with my roommates for as much time as I possibly could.”

Those were the words of Steve Huffman, co-creator of Reddit and Hipmunk speaking at IST Startup week on Friday in the Cybertorium at the IST Building.

In addition to Huffman, Scribd creator and current EIR (Entrepreneur In Residence) at Google Venture Tikhon Bernstam also talked about his startups and gave advice to future entrepreneurs. They talked about everything from their terrible ideas, to market research, and their experiences with venture capitalism.

Adam Krempasky, IST senior and student committee member for IST Startup Week, said the speakers were chosen due to the fact that they’re “prominent entreprenurs whose knowledge and experiences can be related to students.” He also explained that Huffman and Bernstam “have similar educational and technical backgrounds.”

It began with a question to Huffman, who told an anecdote about his favorite Reddit memory thus far. He explained that, before they gave a length limit to post titles, users began posting codes that would take up an entire webpage and show an image of, for example, Fry from Futurama. “I was actually speechless,” said Huffman of the event, because it was so early in Reddit’s history.

Then he was asked where the idea of Reddit came from. When he and his original business partner, Alexis, wanted to create a startup, it began as a way to order food with cell phones. That idea was rejected, but the company liked his and his partner’s personalities. From there they wanted to build “the front page of the internet.”

Bernstam’s idea for Scribd orignally came from his business partner’s father who needed to upload a document to the internet and had way too much trouble doing so. Bernstam said, “Let’s do Youtube for ‘x,’ and let’s fill in ‘x.'” He also mentioned that this was their 20th startup idea.

Huffman left Reddit in 2009 and has since helped create another startup, Hipmunk, which helps people travel more easily. He originally hated the idea. After his friend Adam graduated from MIT they both had some time off, and Adam suggested creating  startup for travel. He said, of a conversation with Adam, “When we fail in 3 months, we get to do what I want to work on.”

Throughout the discussion, both Huffman and Bernstam emphasized that giving up was never an option. They both talked about their trials and errors as well as their multiple failures before coming up with something successful.

As for advice, Bernstam spoke about clear communication. He said, “So many smart people with good ideas can’t speak clearly. Communication is very important.”

Huffman told a freshman in high school who was in the audience that learning how to code is the easiest way to get started. “The best way to learn how to program is to make your fingers move,” he said.

In addition, they spoke about how to properly execute ideas. As an example of a good idea with a bad execution, Huffman pointed out Twitter. “Twitter is stupid, right?” he asked, to a room full of laughs. “We all used to make fun of Twitter,” he said, because in its first few years, it was nowhere near what it has become today. But, he said, “they stuck with it, they didn’t give up.”

Huffman was also asked about Reddit karma (for you non-redditors, you get karma when people enjoy your personal posts) and commends it as a system. “It’s always worked. We use it for all sorts of things.”

He calls it an “indicator of how valuable you are to the website.”

The entrepreneurs also gave advice to the audience about having fun in college and keeping your friends close.

“This is the best time of your life. Take advantage of thousands and thousands of people who are the same age. As an adult, those experiences are harder to come by,” Huffman said.

About the Author

Maddy Pryor

I'm a 2013 Penn State alum with a B. A. in Public Relations as well as minors in History and Communications Arts and Sciences. I am proudly from Neptune, NJ and talk about it at any opportunity possible. I love college basketball and am a big fan of Penn State Basketball, as well as their official student section, Nittany Nation. I'm a big supporter of Relay For Life of Penn State as well as THON and Coaches vs. Cancer.

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