Reddit began as a little startup in a little Boston, Massachusetts, apartment. One of the biggest motivators of the now-tech top 50 company came from a very unexpected place: a hateful comment from an accomplished executive at Yahoo! But as history has shown, the best businesses are able to transform negative remarks into remarkable success.
Back in October 2006, Reddit was started with its founders Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman. Three months after the launch, the pair got the most exciting invitation young internet entrepreneurs could want - to come to Silicon Valley to speak with an executive at Yahoo! Fueled with excitement, Ohanian and Huffman promptly accepted the invitation and went out to the tech hub.
At the beginning of the meeting, Ohanian and Huffman were describing their startup to the Yahoo! executive when he abruptly stopped them. He asked what their traffic was like, receiving the response of about 11,000 users. Without pause and with a laugh, the executive then said the phrase that has stuck with Ohanian to this day: “You guys are a rounding error compared to Yahoo! What are you doing here?” At first, the comment took the Reddit founders aback. As Ohanian says in this video, “You invited us. Is that a thing that Yahoo! does? Just invite startups over to make fun of them?”
Upon returning home, Ohanian decided to do something that would forever change Reddit and how he viewed failure. In his apartment on a wall that he would see every morning, he posted a sign that said, “You are a rounding error.” Ohanian chose to use this hateful feedback as motivation to be better – to prove the Yahoo! executive wrong. The wall started with just the quote from the Yahoo! man but then grew as he added other notes, creating a wall of negative reinforcement. That meeting and that phrase have stuck with Ohanian to this day and he uses them as motivation to improve his business.
So what is Ohanian’s parting advice to startups and young entrepreneurs? “There are always going to be constructive critics who are amazing and make us better, and then there are going to be haters. Haters gonna hate. So you know what? Eat them for breakfast, alright? Use them as motivation - use them as fuel.” Don’t let hate be something that is detrimental but rather inspiratory and motivational for excellence -- and maybe a little bit of vengeance.
What about you? Leave your "Hate Can Motivate" story in the comments