After Reddit’s surrender to white supremacy this week, users and observers alike have been trying to figure out how exactly we got to this nadir. How could something so popular get so much wrong, over and over again? A new post by Reddit’s ex-chief suggests it’s all been an inside job.
In 2006, reddit was sold to Conde Nast. It was soon obvious to many that the sale had been premature, the site was unmanaged and under-resourced under the old-media giant who simply didn’t understand it and could never realize its full potential, so the founders and their allies in Y-Combinator (where reddit had been born) hatched an audacious plan to re-extract reddit from the clutches of the 100-year-old media conglomerate.
Together with Sam Altman, they recruited a young up-and-coming technology manager with social media credentials. Alexis, who was on the interview panel for the new reddit CEO, would reject all other candidates except this one. The manager was to insist as a condition of taking the job that Conde Nast would have to give up significant ownership of the company, first to employees by justifying the need for equity to be able to hire top talent, bringing in Silicon Valley insiders to help run the company. After continuing to grow the company, he would then further dilute Conde Nast’s ownership by raising money from a syndicate of Silicon Valley investors led by Sam Altman, now the President of Y-Combinator itself, who in the process would take a seat on the board.
Once this was done, he and his team would manufacture a series of otherwise-improbable leadership crises, forcing the new board to scramble to find a new CEO, allowing Altman to use his position on the board to advocate for the re-introduction of the old founders, installing them on the board and as CEO, thus returning the company to their control and relegating Conde Nast to a position as minority shareholder.
JUST KIDDING. There’s no way that could happen.
In other words, Wong is saying Reddit’s ongoing leadership crisis (and the public sacking of Pao) has been a deliberate attempt to put its original team back into power and subvert Conde Nast. Wong is almost certainly joking, at least in part. Maybe he’s just looking for some levity during a particularly dark period for the site. But it’s an odd joke and a suspiciously believable conspiracy to spin, given that it’s basically come true: Wong and Pao were indeed deposed, while Reddit’s originators, Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian, are firmly back in power, just as they were in 2005 while they created Reddit in a UVA dormitory.
Wong also has an ax to grind. He ran Reddit from 2012 to 2013 and waded through his share of community conflict: Gawker’s Violentacrez exposé and resultant community tantrum went down during his tenure, and Wong left the company after fighting with its board about office space (really). Wong also counts the recently toppled CEO Ellen Pao as a personal friend.
That didn’t stop Reddit’s current power structure from responding to his big reveal:
From Steve Huffman, Pao’s replacement as CEO, and co-founder: “We all had our roles to play.”
From Sam Altman, Y-Combinator chief and Reddit board member:
Cool story bro.
Except I could never have predicted the part where you resigned on the spot :)
Other than that, child’s play for me.
Thanks for the help. I mean, thanks for your service as CEO.
Even Ellen Pao herself remarked: “How is this funny? /s”