In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, corporations and their leaders across the country have issued statements resolving that, indeed, Black Lives Matter. One of these business leaders, 37-year-old Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, took things a step further. Ohanian stepped down from his company’s board and urged them to fill his seat with a black candidate. Last week, Reddit named Michael Seibel, the CEO of Silicon Valley startup accelerator Y Combinator, as the first black board member in the company’s history.
Oh, and Ohanian also said that he would use future gains on his Reddit stock to serve the black community, chiefly focused on curbing racial hate. He kicked things off with a $1 million pledge to Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp, which has a mission to “advance the liberation and well-being of Black and Brown communities through education, self-empowerment, mass-mobilization and the creation of new systems that elevate the next generation of change leaders.”
In an Instagram post, the tech winner said, “I believe resignation can actually be an act of leadership from people in power right now. To everyone fighting to fix our broken nation: do not stop.”
I’ve written about Ohanian before, and even if you’re not enmeshed in the tech world, you might know him from his reliable presence at tennis matches, rooting for his wife Serena Williams at the U.S. Open and elsewhere. It’s unclear how much Ohanian has in the bank, though last year, Business Insider reported that the power couple have a combined net worth of nearly $190 million.
So far, Ohanian’s nascent philanthropy is following a similar pattern to what we’ve seen from other younger tech donors. The couple does not yet have a formal family foundation, but Ohanian has sometimes served as an intermediary and/or advocate for specific causes. He also serves on several key boards. Here’s what you should know about this young donor’s interests and what to expect down the line:
Digital Rights is an Interest
Ohanian has partnered with online advocacy group Fight for the Future, which played a role in the strike against web censorship bills SOPA and PIPA. The organization, with Ohanian aboard, created the Internet Defense League, an internet “bat signal” of sorts. At one point, he was even set on testifying before Congress against SOPA, and fielded feedback from Reddit users, a move similar to those of other tech moguls attempting to move into the public arena.
Ohanian is also co-founder of the Institute on Higher Awesome Studies (IHAS), yes, a real organization that “seeks to increase awesomeness in the world by experimenting with new, community-driven ways to incubate, fund and promote awesome individuals and their projects.” IHAS is the parent organization of the Awesome Foundation, a loose association of autonomous chapters in the U.S. and abroad that distribute microgrants to support worthy projects in their communities.
He Supports Other Causes, Too
Ohanian seems to be drawn to platforms that enable individuals to rally around specific causes. That makes a lot of sense, considering the whole mission of Reddit is to allow people to form small, independent online communities based on shared interests. Along these lines, he also serves on the national advisory board of Donorschoose.org, an online charity that “makes it easy for anyone to help a classroom in need,” which is popular among other tech leaders including Craig Newmark.
Ohanian’s interest in supporting microfinance and social enterprise—another favorite theme among wealthy tech founders with a conscience—is also reflected in his involvement with Kiva, a global nonprofit that supports both. Ohanian has made close to 100 small loans through the platform, and was a Kiva Fellow in Armenia in 2010—this no doubt represents personal stakes for Ohanian, whose grandparents came to the U.S. as refugees after the Armenian Genocide.
More to Come
So far, Ohanian’s philanthropy often tracks with experiences in his own business and personal life. But I’d say there’s a decent chance that his giving will branch out further. Serena Williams’ giving has also included social justice, as well as global causes involving girls’ education in Africa. Considering Ohanian’s ties to Armenia, more global work may be in store for this couple down the line.