The first thing Alexis did when he returned to Reddits San Francisco office as executive chairman in November 2014 was introduce himself to the team. He thanked them all, including new interim CEO Ellen Pao, for their work at Reddit. Alexis, now 31, had been away from Reddit longer than he and Steve had worked on it full-time.
Running any company is stressful; running Reddit is stressful on another level. In less than two months’ time, Reddit had found itself at the center of a nude celebrity photo controversy, forced remote workers to relocate to San Francisco following a massive round of funding, lost one of its most beloved and longest serving employees and faced the public outbursts of another who had been fired. As CEO of Reddit, Yishan was criticized for his handling of most of those issues.
Yishan took over as CEO in early 2012 after Reddit was spun out into an independent company, knowing it would be a tough job. According to those who know him, Yishan felt a sense of purpose to make sure no one ruined the social news site he had been using since its early days. It was Yishan who was in charge while Reddit dealt with controversies over users posting jailbait, creepshots, hate speech, gun sales and participating in an infamous witch hunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.
In the end, those who know him believe he was undone more by a long commute and a sense of losing control over his family life for a website that was itself impossible to control and not his creation to begin with. He pushed to move Reddit’s office to Daly City, an area he argued was more affordable for those who wished to live near the office, but which one writer later described as the “Bay Area’s equivalent of purgatory.” Many employees hated the Daly City idea and the board disagreed with it too.
Alexis and Steve bootstrapped Reddit in a competitive market and sold it as quickly as they could for fear it might all fall apart. Under Conde Nast, the company that acquired it, Reddit’s team felt starved of resources. One by one, the founders and early staff quit. The difficulty of managing a large and sometimes controversial community fell to a newer group of employees who were less comfortable tinkering with the site than the founders who created it. Now one of those founders was coming back to fix Reddit with a vision to catch up on mobile, improve discovery, ensure more “safe spaces” for the community and generally make Reddit seem accessible to more people. But maybe Reddit can’t be fixed. Read more…