Q & A with Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit and host of Business Dad
by Mo’ Lanee Sibyl on March 28, 2020.
About a year after his daughter was born, Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit and Initialized Capital, was on stage at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco and was asked a question that took him aback: how he was handling balancing being a new dad with his career. The question was asked by Katie Bethell, the founder & executive director of PL+US, one of the leading paid family leave advocacy groups. Since Olympia, his daughter with Serena Williams, was born no one had asked him that question; yet, he knew working moms were asked this very question all the time. This prompted Alexis to seek out conversations with dads about how they find balance and navigate the complexities of being a working parent.
Business Dad is Alexis’ new podcast that asks dads at the top of their game professionally, “how do you balance it all?” This is an entirely new and powerful thread of conversation for many fathers. Alexis was kind enough answer a few questions about his podcast.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
You already have a full plate with Reddit and Initialized Capital. Why start a podcast?
Having a podcast allows me to have longer-form, and more free-flowing conversations, which I think is helpful given the nature of this topic. There are some amazing parenting communities on Reddit (a personal favorite is r/DadReflexes) but podcasts allow for a different kind of communication with an audience. Every venture capital (VC) firm has a podcast now, so followers of initialized() had been asking for something they could subscribe to—we just wanted to do something different.
What makes Business Dad different from other father-focused podcasts?
I think what sets this podcast apart is our focus on how dads navigate work/life balance and how our home- and work-lives intersect; it’s not about one or the other. We also have some really awesome and well-known guests who open up about their experiences as parents in a really candid and different way. We’ve heard many of them talk about their careers before—as athletes, business leaders, journalists, etc.—but rarely about their struggles to balance their families and careers.
At what point did you decide to speak so openly about the challenges and triumphs of fatherhood? And when did you decide there needed to be a platform to explore these issues?
I’ve always been pretty open about sharing my life on social media, and that didn’t change when Olympia was born. I shared a lot about my experience taking paternity leave and being at home with her and my wife for sixteen weeks. During that time I heard from a lot of fathers from all walks of life who told me about their experience with taking leave. Unfortunately, a very common story I heard was either that employers didn’t offer paternity leave or that fathers felt that they would risk losing their job if they took advantage of a paternity leave policy offered by their employer. After being exposed to this and learning more about some of the glaring statistics and reality of paid family leave in this country, I decided that I wanted to be more involved with advocating on this issue and talking about fatherhood in a deeper way. I wrote this New York Times op-ed and then everything really started taking off.
What was your relationship with your father like? And what parenting tips from him are you currently recycling to raise your daughter?
My dad has been one of my biggest role models. He led by example when he started a small business (a travel agency) that struggled through the internet age as online competitors ate market share; he did his best to be there for his family even when it was exceptionally hard. And then especially when I saw how he supported my mom when she got sick.
My favorite parenting tip that I inherited from him was his Sunday tradition of making breakfast for our family. I love being able to make pancakes with my family when we’re all in the same place on a Sunday, and always do my best to put away outside distractions so we can be together. I actually interviewed my dad on the final episode of Season 1 of Business Dad.
How’s the campaign for paid maternity leave going?
In the United States, 1 in 4 women go back to work less than two weeks after giving birth, so we still have a lot of work to do. We need high-quality federally-provided paid leave that includes mothers and fathers, including adoptive parents, as well as leave for caregivers. Paid leave shouldn’t be an elite benefit and in order to ensure everyone has access to it, we need this to happen at a federal level.
Got any podcast recommendations? (apart from yours, of course, 😁)
A few of the podcasts I listen to regularly are:
- Girlboss Radio with Sophia Amoruso
- How I Built This
- Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard
- Still Processing
- The Twenty Minute VC
I’ll also browse the Chartable Top 100 from time to time to see what’s trending.
Mo’ Lanee Sibyl, B. Pharm, PhD is the chapter leader of the PBC chapter in Oklahoma City and the host and producer of The More Sibyl Podcast. She is a Nigerian-born, US-educated, Korean-speaking intellectual.