Steve Huffman, Co-founder & CEO, Reddit
Reddit Founder and CEO Steve Huffman on Creating a Content Kingdom
You hear it all the time, don’t let a rejection get you down. But the backstory of Reddit is a classic tech startup example of how one “no” can set you down a path to a much bigger and better “yes.”
Back in 2005, Steve Huffman and his dorm roommate Alexis Ohanian had a chance to pitch Y Combinator, the now-legendary startup accelerator. It was an idea for a mobile food ordering service—not a bad idea right? Except for the fact that the iPhone wouldn’t hit the market for another two years, meaning mobile as we know it wasn’t even born yet.
And yet, the two hit it off with founders Jessica Livingston and Paul Graham.
So they tried again. This time, it was a killer pitch that you can still see atop Reddit today: “the front page of the internet.”
One of the most popular sites on the internet was born. Today, Reddit is valued at $1.8 billion, with 300 million monthly visitors.
But Huffman recalls those early days were pretty slapdash. After five years in business, Reddit had grown to just six employees. “I wasn’t even really sure whose job was what,” he says. “The team was so small, and we were all friends—it was somewhat chaotic.”
At the end of those five years, Huffman left Reddit and started Hipmunk, an online airfare search site. At Hipmunk, Huffman played the role of CTO, and the business flourished.
Following five years in the wild, Huffman is now back at his original creation, after being asked to rejoin the Reddit team as CEO. It took four days for Huffman to decide that it was time to return (“It was a very violent transition”).
The company is undergoing some big changes under Huffman, recently raising $200 million in funding, on a path toward 300 full-time employees, and yes, even changing that ugly old homepage.
At first look, it doesn’t appear that much has changed on the Reddit site since it was first created in that University of Virginia dorm room. Similar layout, logo, typeface, basic rules of the road. But superficial similarities cloud massive growth and evolution into a truly unique and culture-shaping entity.
“It is important to realize that there was never a point at which there was an idea for Reddit the way it exists today,” Huffman says. “There was just the idea we started with, to build a place where people can find interesting stuff every day. Not anything in particular, just interesting stuff.”
Part of that vision persists, yet much has changed. Scaling changed the company’s logistics, but the vision has changed too. In the beginning, it was just a place to find cool things. But the growth of communities on the site has morphed it into a hub where users find everything from a laugh, to help with addiction or relationships.
“Reddit plays an important role in hundreds of millions of people’s lives. So now we have this opportunity to provide value to everyone in the world,” Huffman says. “The world would be a better place if we all had a bit more empathy, and that is what Reddit deals in.”
Beyond Organic Growth
How did it get to be such an outsized presence in so many lives? Reddit’s growth has been about as organic as it gets.
“The blessing and the curse of Reddit is that for a long time we didn’t even know why it grew. Some of it was word of mouth, but mostly, it just grew because it grew,” Huffman says.
In the early days, the team did not do any marketing or even collect email addresses, a decision he now counts as a lesson learned.
“We were very naive,” Huffman recalls. “The word ‘viral’ felt icky to us in those days. It was trendy and impure. We had a lot of 20s idealism about the way things should work.”
Instead of focusing on marketing, the Reddit team put all of their efforts into the site’s content. “The reason Reddit grew was because our content was good. The only thing that matters is that you provide value to your users.”
Despite its size, Reddit’s growth has not been explosive. “We have always been frustrated by our growth,” Huffman says. “There has always been a tone on Reddit that is real and raw, which was good for our business and our users, but it also left us with some catching up to do.”
Over the years, Huffman’s business savvy has matured, and Reddit’s current numbers show it. With more than 540 million monthly visitors and nearly 250 million unique users each month, the company’s stats are enviable. It’s building momentum in both funding, value, and team size.
Reddit is set to grow its revenue by five times this year, and “we are doing it without adding more ads, just getting better at business,” Huffman says. “I’ve told the team not to spend their energy being creative about monetization; instead be creative about improving the product.”
The Attention Game
For Huffman, the world is divided into two camps: customers and users. Customers exist mostly in B2B endeavors; if you sell something, you have customers. The only “way to validate your idea is to find out if someone will pay for your product, because you have to sell to make money.”
Reddit, on the other hand, deals in users instead of customers, so they have to sell ads to make money. “It is a well-worn path. You know the model works so you can focus on other stuff.”
The “other stuff” is playing the attention game. Huffman always wants more attention for Reddit and is always asking, “How can we make all of the lovely things that happen on Reddit known to more people.” The answer: “Make Reddit the best version of Reddit possible.”
To do this, Huffman “solves the hardest problem first; let’s find out where the dragons are hiding,” he says. After “taking care of the tricky part, we know we can take care of everything else.”
Currently, Huffman and his team are focused on rebuilding Reddit’s desktop user interface, since it has not changed much in the 12 years since it launched. “Reddit did not succeed because we have an ugly site, it succeeded despite it,” he says.
Over the years, the site has maintained a utilitarian feel that worked well when most of the content was text and links. “Now our content is Q&As, images, videos and all sorts of stuff that a list of blue links does not convey effectively,” he says. “Our user base is becoming more diverse, and our site should reflect that.”
Curious about what to expect from the new site? Look at Reddit’s mobile apps, which only launched last year.
You read that right, there was no mobile app for more than a decade. That’s a testament to the devotion of its community, and to the company’s tendency over the years to stick with what’s working, even when it’s not exactly offering the most beautiful user experience.
“The mobile applications are viscerally more engaging and visually more appealing,” Huffman says. “It is the same content, just presented in a better way. We are much better product people than our desktop site would suggest.”
With all of this success, is Huffman content? Sure. But he is not content enough to say that he has done enough. “You have moments of amazingness before you realize there is more work to do!”
How Huffman CEOs
- Maintain an irrational passion for your people, your product, and your company. Lead your company through difficult times, even when the approach is not clear, and success is not guaranteed.
- Quitting is not an option. You have an obligation to too many people.
- Be a founder, learn from every experience, and know when to step back. A favorite example is Larry Page allowing Eric Schmidt to be CEO of Google; now Larry gets to retake the helm and run the company with the experience he needed to gain.
Burnout Prevention Advice from Someone Who Never Stops Thinking About Work
When your passion becomes your business, taking time for other things, even your health or your family requires discipline. Huffman admits that the moments when he is not thinking about Reddit are rare. So how does he prevent burnout? “Reading, exercising, playing sports. I crave things that require my complete attention, otherwise I think about work,” Huffman says.
He also promotes focusing on only one thing at a time. “If you are a student, be a student. If you have a job, do that job. Side projects are difficult when you are in an intense situation,” and startups are intense.
Finally, if you can’t shut off work or wait to start that side hustle, “at least be intentional about it and recognize the tradeoff.” Then you will remember to reap the reward before burning out.
- Why you should focus on content instead of marketing
- The difference between customers and users, and why you need to know what separates the two
- How to build an online community that rivals the population of most countries
- Picking your battles—when to take a step back and when to step up
- What Huffman’s number one focus is at all times and how it keeps him, and Reddit, on top
Full Transcript of Podcast with Steve Huffman
Nathan: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Foundr Podcast. My name is Nathan Chan. I’m the CEO of Foundr Magazine and the host of the Foundr Podcast. Hope you all are having a fantastic day wherever you are around the world. I just want to say thank you so much for taking the time and sharing your earbuds with me wherever you are around the world.Now, today’s episode you’re in for an absolute treat. I know I say this a lot, but trust me, this guy’s a serious beast. His name’s Steve Huffman and he’s the co-founder of a little company called Reddit. They’re one of the top 10 most visited websites in the world. We go deep on the growth of Reddit, his strategies on product, why he came back to the company. And really I asked him a question that it’s something that I think about a lot. I think it’s something that you think about as well as an entrepreneur. That’s, “Will it ever be enough?” You know, you tell yourself this, you know, when I get to this, if I get to $1,000 a month or if I make an extra $5,000 a month or if get to this, it’s gonna be awesome.
I asked Steve that question, “Is it ever enough? Do you tell yourself these stories?” His answer was really, really interesting. I’m gonna save that for you guys to hear it, but a great conversation. I felt very blessed and humble to speak to a super smart founder. Once again, I speak to a lot of super smart founders and just pick their brain and be quite selfish. I hope I’m asking questions that you guys want me to ask. Anyway, that’s it from me. Before we jump into the show I just want to say if you have a second please do take the time to leave us a review on iTunes, Spotify, or Stitcher wherever you’re listening. It helps more than you can imagine. Make sure you tell your friends. I know as an entrepreneur or founder you must have other founder friends. Make sure that you let them know. Give them the heads up. Also, make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss an episode.
All right, that’s it from me guys. Thank you so much for listening. You’re in for a treat with this episode. Now let’s jump to the show.
The first question that we ask everyone that comes on is, “How did you get your job?”
Steve: Well, I can tell a long story or a short story. I’ll try to keep it to 30 second and then maybe we can follow up. Which is, you know, I started Reddit with my college roommate Alexis and I was at Reddit for the first five years. When I left at the end of that first five years there was only six people on the team, so to be honest i wasn’t even clear whose job was what at that point. We were just people kind of working. It was somewhat chaotic, but we were all friends and close.
I started another company, Hipmunk, when I left where I was the CTO. I was there for five years and during that time Reddit continued to grow. Had some tough times, had some good times, too. It was in the summer of 2015 in July when Reddit asked me to return as CEO, and so I did. So really the very short answer is I started the company and had the luxury of getting to be the CEO as the result.
Nathan: I see. I know you actually just recently sold Hipmunk, is that correct?
Steve: Yeah, they sold last summer, last fall, something like that, to Concur.
Nathan: Awesome. How did that come about? So you’re not there anymore, right?
Steve: Right. The time between when I decided to leave Hipmunk and actually return to Reddit was about four days. It was a very violent transition on kind of both sides really.
I remained as CTO at Hipmunk for a few months to kind of help with that transition, but it turned out at Hipmunk we had hired pretty well. The team was stable. We had all been working together for years. So they actually, from kind of a CTO role, didn’t miss me that much.
Now, Reddit and Concur had been in each other’s orbits for a while. We’d always wanted to do a deal with them, so the acquisition I think is actually a great deal. I wish we had done it sooner and I can elaborate on that. It’s interesting. But, nevertheless, Reddit and Concur had been in each other’s orbits for quite a while and I think it’s a pretty natural fit, so finally they actually got that deal done. I think it’s going to be kind of a win/win for both companies.
Nathan: Yeah. Awesome. So, I guess what’s curious to me and for some of our audience is, just quickly, how did Reddit get started? This is one of the top 10 websites in the world, you know, one of the top 10 most visited websites in the world. I know you guys started at Y Combinator, but how did this idea be conceived? Like, you know, the front page of the internet, you know, half a billion monthly uniques, how’d that all a start? How’d you come up with this idea?
Steve: Well, I think the important thing to recognize, this is true with Reddit and almost any successful company, is there was never a point when there was an idea for Reddit as it exists today, right? There was the idea we started with, which was let’s build a place where people can find interesting things online every day. Not necessarily news, not necessarily funny stuff, not necessary anything in particular, it was just stuff. That was the original idea and part of that is still true today. Although our vision has, I think, changed quite a bit because when we started the company we were very young, 21, and our motivation was different than it was today.
We got into Y Combinator kind of on the second time around. Our first idea was rejected, but the partners at Y Combinator, Paul Graham and Jessica Livingston, liked Alexis and I personally or as people and, you know, suggested we come back and basically work on a different idea, which would ultimately turn into Reddit. The company is so different now both in terms of kind of function and vision than it was then, but, you know, we’re 12 years old now, so the whole context in which Reddit exists and the way people use the internet and think about us and the way we think about the business has changed entirely, but on day one it was very simple, “What can people do to find interesting stuff online every day?”
Nathan: How did you grow it?
Steve: Another question where I may have an unsatisfying answer. The blessing and the curse of Reddit is that for a long time we didn’t know why it grew. It grew through word of mouth. I wouldn’t say we grew it. We had the luxury of just kind of growing.
Now, we didn’t grow explosively. In fact, we were always frustrated about like the rate of growth because we looked at our peers, companies that were started after Reddit, YouTube, Twitter. We looked at our peers and they were just like exploding growing and were growing but never that fast, and so it was always frustrating to us. We never did any marketing. We did very few growth tactics. We didn’t even collect email addresses. There’s all sorts of things you can do with a product to grow it, but we eschewed those things, I think, very naively. I think that was a mistake in hindsight.
The reason Reddit grew was because the content was good. You know, fundamentally we had something very interesting. I think the only thing that really matters in any business is are you providing value for your customers and in this case our customers were the users and we were providing them a lot of value through the content on the site.
Nathan: So that was strategic from the start. We’re you trying to create viral type content seeded on the site in the early days?
Steve: You know, we really didn’t think of it that way. We thought of it in kind of a very pure sense, “What’s the most interesting thing we can do for the users and kind of by extension us?” The world viral almost felt icky to us in those days. It felt kind of trendy and like impure.
We had a lot of what I’ll call like early twenties idealism about the way things should work. We thought, you know, “We’re not going to do these icky growth tactics. We’re not going to worry about SEO. We’re not going to worry about email addresses. We’re not going to worry about over categorizing our content.” It was just, “What feels good? What’s interesting?”
I think that was a good thing in the sense that our users could feel that, too. So, there’s always been this tone on Reddit of like this is the real deal, just kind of the raw organic real glimpse of people and humanity. It also meant, you know, as a business we’ve often found ourselves in the position of having catching up to do or maturing to do and I think that’s really what we’ve been up to the last couple of years.
Nathan: When you say kind of like the vision has changed, can you tell me about how that vision has changed from what it was when you Alexis started to what it is now?
Steve: Sure. So, I’ve mentioned a couple time, when we started it was, “Where can you find new and interesting things online?” As it’s grown and as a community the community had developed that aspect and has went from one community into many thousands of communities those communities play kind of varying roles in people’s lives. You know, some are still just for funny stuff, you know, internet culture, and some are for news and just kind of staying up to date, which is generally important to people.
Some are more serious, right, about, you know, helping people with addiction and people who are in debt or need relationship advice or going through hard times or maybe going through good times and have the ability to help other people. You know, people facilitating loans, organ transplants, and all sorts of stuff, right? Reddit plays roles in hundreds of millions of people’s lives.
So now, we have this opportunity when we look at this to provide that value for, you know, say everybody in the world, right? That’s my ultimate belief is that everybody in the world has a hold on Reddit somewhere and can get it this tremendous value out of connecting with other people. That’s what we’re chasing. I think the world will be a better place if we have a little bit more empathy, which is I think what Reddit deals in, but this vision wasn’t clear to us 12 years ago. You know, we were just kids trying to do something fun.
Nathan: Are you guys going to change up the business model? I know you guys have played around with certain things. Are you able to comment or talk to us about your thoughts and approach around the business model for Reddit?
Steve: Our primary business model is that. It’s been that way for a while. It’s been growing quickly the last couple of years. I’m actually very proud about this. We’ve grown revenue significantly. Jesus, this year it will probably be five X of where it was just a couple of years ago and we’ve done that without actually adding any more ads.
Steve: You know, just getting better at the business. Getting more efficient, more efficient in selling, better targeting, all that sort of stuff and I still think we have a lot of room to grow there, a ton of room to grow there.
So, while I believe there are many business models hiding inside of Reddit, we facilitate lots of ecommerce transactions, but I think the predictive power of Reddit is actually quite valuable. That is kind of a very well worn path on the internet and so I’ve told the monetization team, “Don’t be creative about business models.”
We can get Reddit to a sustainable place kind a following a fairly well worn path in terms of ads before we need to be creative. Now, I would love to be creative about it. It’s just we’re spending that creative energy on improving the product where I think we have even bigger gains to make. So, maybe in five years we’ll have different business models. We’ll probably always play with things here and there to test things out, but for the time being we’re selling ads and we’re getting better and better at it every day.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s awesome. When it comes to a startup founder starting out do you recommend focus on the users first or the business model first?
Steve: Users first. You should have an idea of what the business model will be. Really, we’re talking about a select type of company where this strategy makes sense, but if you’re talking about consumer web, especially something like Reddit, users first, because that’s very, very difficult. So, whether we’re talking about kind of users versus business model, I think when you’re making any decision, whether it’s a long term decision or short term decision, my strategy is always let’s solve the hardest problem first, right? Let’s uncover where the challenges are, you know, where the dragons are hiding in there.
So, even I like a small software project that might last a day, I always say let’s start with the tricky part first because we know we can figure out everything else later. So, for some businesses the business model is the tricky part and maybe you do want to figure that out first to contradict myself a little bit. If you’re building a company that has customers, I think of customers and users as kind of two different things a little bit to be fair. If your building a business that has customers, so maybe it’s more B to B, a great way to validate your idea is to see will somebody pay for it.
If that’s kind of the primary way you’re going to exist is by selling something that’s not adds, validate that business model first. That’s probably your hardest problem. If you’re going to sell ads we know that business model works, so you can probably focus on the other stuff and come back to it later.
Nathan: Do you ever worry about losing that attention? How do you maintain that attention?
Steve: I don’t worry about losing the attention. I worry about can we gain more of it. You know, can we make Reddit appeal to everybody? Can we make all of the wonderful things that happen on Reddit obvious to new users, right? Can we make the value prop of Reddit obvious to new users? That I think is actually our biggest challenge right now.
Yes, we have competitors. We can talk about competitors in kind of a strict sense of consumer websites and applications, but we can also talk about it was just kind of all media, right? Where do people spend their attention, their down moments throughout the day? Where do they get their news? Where do they get their fulfillment, have fun, and that sort of thing? Really, I spend little time thinking about competitors compared to how much time I think about; how can we make Reddit better? How can we make Reddit the best version of Reddit possible?
Nathan: One thing I’ve noticed is Reddit, the UI, like the bulletin style form kind of board, that hasn’t changed very much over the years, has it?
Steve: It hasn’t and that’s not a good thing. In fact, we’re rebuilding that UI right now. It’s a massive project.
Steve: Yes. We’ve learned so much. I think we’re much better product people than our desktop website might suggest, so we’re putting that skill to work right now because Reddit does need to evolve and kind of get up to standard in terms of kind of what you’d expect of a modern website.
If you look at our mobile apps, which have been out a little bit more than a year now, you can see a lot of that work at play. The mobile apps are viscerally more engaging and visually more appealing. It’s the same contend but with a new UI. I think the mobile apps are actually much more effective than the web right now, so we’re going to bring web up to speed as well.
I often joke that Reddit did not succeed because we have a ugly website, Reddit succeeds despite an ugly website because the content is so good and the users are so clever, funny, and interesting. If we put a better product on top of that we should grow even more.
Nathan: Yeah, I know. That’s crazy because I was just thinking about it when I was looking, just preparing, and I was like, “Geez, you guys haven’t changed.” It’s like still kind of pretty old school and I wondered if that was strategic.
Steve: Yeah. Well, you know, it started off old school.
Steve: Well, in the beginning it was strategic in the sense that I am personally kind of a utilitarian person. You know, I don’t have a lot of pictures hanging on my wall at home either. I don’t have a lot of stuff and the design of Reddit kind of reflected that.
That was kind of fine in the beginning to the extent that it really was all about the content. The content back then was all text and links, so a list of headlines made sense. But our content now is images, it’s videos, it’s Q&A stuff, right? There’s all sorts of stuff there that a list of blue links doesn’t convey effectively or as effectively as something else could. We want Reddit to be appealing to more than people just like me, right? Our user base is divers and it’s getting more diverse. The product should reflect that as well.
Nathan: So, Steve, there’s something I’d really like to delve a little deeper on and that was how you’ve just built this absolute beast of a movement with Reddit. Like, you know, you started at Y Combinator. There’s a lot of commonalities, I guess. You’re based out of San Fran in Silicon Valley. There’s a lot of commonalities.
I’d love to delve a little deeper, if there was one thing besides the product and besides the content that you guys did in the early days. Not that I’m looking for kind of like a hack or anything, but just kind of more to it. Like, you know, you built a successful company also with Hipmunk. What kind of things do founders need to think about or the way you’ve approached this product that has been really, really incremental to it’s success besides those other two things I mentioned?
Steve: It’s a very good question and I think it’s sometimes very difficult to distill that into a short answer. I’ll do my best. I can tell you a few things that have always been important to me as like decision making frameworks that are common across Reddit and Hipmunk. That is, can we justify everything that we’re doing?
Generally talking specifically about product but I think you can apply this to anything. Can we justify our reason for doing that based on first principles? I am always wary of copying people, right? Something’s working and then we just copy it at a surface level. I think that’s almost always a mistake.
It doesn’t mean copying is bad, but it means you should really copy the decision making framework that led to that success making thing and not that thing itself because you’ll miss the details. So, at Reddit this caused us to do some interesting things. For example, we had no categorization. Every other website on the planet that was similar to Reddit had tons of categorization and Reddit just didn’t have any.
By forcing users to categorize you’re forcing them to, one, take this extra step during the submit process, which is just kind of a chore and then, two, you’re going to limit the type of content you have, so very early on we correctly realized that flexibility was really important.
I can give examples of where that’s hurt us, too, for example. Like, we didn’t collect email addresses because I was like, “Well, why would we ever want email addresses? People only use email to spam people.” It’s turn out it’s also a really good reactivation technique for users who have stopped coming back to your website. I didn’t understand that then, so I couldn’t come to that conclusion on my own the. That was probably a mistake we made.
At Hipmunk it was the same thing. We were just trying to reconstruct this problem, you know, buying flights online. It just felt really painful, needlessly painful. When I would use our competitors’ products I would just get angry. I felt like, you know, we can kind a rethink this problem and build a better product here.
As it turns out, I think we made some really good decisions. I also think, when I think about some of our competitors, Kayak, for example… I’m going to contradict myself here because that’s the fun part about advice is there’s always contradicting advice. I would tell our team, I would be like, “When Kayak’s running an AV test that we’re also running see that they do because they’re not dumb. They are very intentional in their work, so if they come to a different conclusion than us, let’s look really hard at that because they probably had a reason for doing so.”
Nathan: Interesting. So, when it comes running both companies, like when you were running Hipmunk, when you were running Reddit, and now you’re back, it sounds like you’re pretty heavily invested in the product. You we’re making still a lot of big product decisions. So, as a CEO, do you think that they make the best founders, the ones that are very, very heavily involved in the product decisions, obviously, you have a product team, but for the most part that’s one of your biggest focuses a founder?
Steve: I think the best CEOs are ones who have a passion for what they’re working on. I think it’s not an option when you’re the CEO, in my opinion, because you have an obligation to so many people to succeed.
You need to have almost an irrational passion or belief in your mission to lead the company through difficult times when the correct approach might not be clear or that success isn’t guaranteed. I think founders kind of naturally have this because the projects become almost a part of their identity. I’m generally a believer in, “The best CEOs are founders.” There are exceptions to this though. You know, when you’re young and you don’t know yet the business tactics, like just the actual like how to be a successful CEO.
I can think of like a great example. You know, Larry at Google stepping aside to let Eric be the CEO for so long. I think that’s a pretty difficult thing to do as a founder is step down and bring in an outside CEO, but, you know, he grew, he matured, he got better and better at his job, and now he gets to retake the helm.
You know, for me, I would not be the CEO I am today without having had the experience I had at Hipmunk and the experience I had at Reddit the first time around, but I’m in a fortunate position now where I both have the passion and belief in the future of Reddit and have had a long enough career now that I’ve gotten to learn a lot of lessons, most of them the hard way. So, is it possible to have a CEO who’s not a founder and be successful? Of course. I mean Eric Schmidt I think is a great example. I do think they have to have a deeply held belief in the vision of the company to succeed.
Nathan: Out of curiosity, like, how often do you think about Reddit? Do you ever switch off or is it a constant obsession?
Steve: I switch off much less often than I think is healthy, but I find a good tactic for doing so is playing sports, exercising, and reading. Reading is a little bit tuff because sometimes my mind can still wonder but I’m definitely always craving things that require my complete attention so that I cannot be thinking about work.
That is the only time I’m not thinking about Reddit is when I’m doing something else that takes my complete attention.
Nathan: What kind of hours do you work and what do you thinks healthy?
Steve: What kind of hours do I work? You know, I’m in the office kind of business hours. You know, I’ll call it, nine to six or so, but like I said, I’m never, not never, rarely not thinking about Reddit. I’m constantly on my phone. For better or for worse, I can do like 75% of my job through my phone. Most of that’s email, but a lot of it’s in chat or talking to people or just in a notebook or whatever. That work kind of rarely stops.
How much is healthy? I feel very strongly that you should have a life outside of work. I’ve always believed that. I’ve also always believe that you should really be doing one thing at once, so if you’re a student, you should be a student, if you have a job, you should do that job. You shouldn’t have two jobs. Side projects, I think, are very difficult when you’re in an intense situation like a startup.
I think weekends are important, or at least having a day a week where you can really disconnect, and hobbies are important. Having that personal growth outside of work is really important. Now, all that is easier said than done, of course. I’ve found myself kind of going in and out of that and as with any situation where I’m not following my own advice I try to at least be intentional about it and realize that, you know, I’m making a trade-off. For example, the last probably quarter of work at Reddit has been very, very intense. I’ve fallen out of touch with friends and family. I’ve stopped exercising and as a result I’m sick right now. It’s kind of frustrating.
Nathan: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.
Steve: But I know that that’s not… Like, “Okay, look, I’m not a victim here. I live a very nice life and I have my dream job,” but I know that’s not sustainable, right? I know things will calm down and I’ll have probably a very lovely summer and kind a can repair all those things that I sacrificed.
I think it’s important to recognize that, “Hey, I’m making a sacrifice right now and it’s not particularly healthy.” Whenever I see other people going through it I always tell them the same thing, which is like, “Hey, you know, remember to take care of yourself and have a life because otherwise you’re going to burn or you’re not going to be mentally or physically healthy”
Nathan: I love that. All right, we have to work towards rapping up. Couple of last questions because I know you’ve got to go.
Nathan: I look at your accomplishments and many other would look at your accomplishments and things you guys have done with Reddit and stuff, and I think a large trap that I think a lot of founder fall into, I think myself included, is they tell themself, you know, “If I can get to this, if I can do this, if I can do that, things will be amazing.” For you, is it ever enough?
Steve: Great, great, great question. I mean, I don’t know. You’re calling that thing that I do constantly a trap, but I still feel that way. I’m just like, “Man, once we release the new website everything is going to be amazing.” You know, I have a half dozen of those right now and I’ve had that for like my entire career.
You’re right, it never gets amazing. I don’t know, you have moments of amazingness before you realize you have more work to do and there’s just, “Oh, that one other thing.” So, is it ever enough? I don’t know. I think the answer is no. I think that’s a big challenge, right?
Erin Swartz, he worked at Reddit for a little while in the very beginning. He and I used to have this inside joke where we were talking about any number, whether we were talking about money or users. We always used to say, “Well, you know, you know what they say they first millions the hardest.” Then, you know, we get to a million users and we would be like, “Well, you know what they say the first 10 million’s the hardest.” That was just constant. That was always the feeling.
I still feel that way right now, you know? The first three hundred million’s the hardest. It should get easier from here on out, but what we really want is a billion users. That’s the treadmill we’re on. I don’t believe that it’s healthy, but I have some to accept it.
Nathan: Yeah, look, thanks for sharing that. Because I just wanted to know, like, someone that’s achieved, you know, a founder that’s achieved what you’ve achieved, like, is it enough? Awesome. All right, well, look, you know, last question from me is, is there anywhere else people can find out more about your work Reddit that you’d like people to go to?
Steve: You know, I’m not really a promoter like that. Go to Reddit. You can check out my profile page on Reddit/uspez. Yeah that’s pretty much where I spend all my time is on Reddit and I suppose talking to folks like you here and there. Otherwise, if you find anything else out about me let me know because I’m usually a pretty private person.
Nathan: Okay, awesome. Well, look, thank you so much for your time, Steve. It’s been an absolute pleasure, man.
Steve: Likewise. Good luck with everything and congrats with your success so far.
Nathan: Thank you so much.