Yishan wanted to move the office from SF to Daly City. The board pushed back but said we'd agree to it with certain data (we wanted Yishan to figure out how many employees would stay with the company through the move, get a comparison to other market rents, etc.--all questions I think a board should ask when thinking through a major commitment).
This is certainly not what I was expecting to be dealing with so quickly after investing in reddit, but we'll make the best of it.
I am a firm believer that most media out there is not extracting enough value from their audience, or "under-monetizing", to use a ridiculous term. However, Reddit truly is different. I simply can't imagine someone with Ellen's professional upbringing will be the one who figures out how to retain the spirit, activity, and engagement of Reddit, while satisfying that 10x, $500mm valuation.
This ain't sexist, this is anti-elitist.Cutting and pasting monetization templates from other media properties, and building projected revenue models off of traffic numbers just can't work here. It's not Buzzfeed or Business Insider.
I was suspect when Erik Martin left (had the pleasure of meeting him in NYC, he lived and breathed what makes Reddit wonderful), and this really seems to solidify what I guess should've been pretty obvious.
I genuinely hope Ms. Pao holds things together, and the return of Alexis helps things out. The more I've learned, it seems Alexis was already gone by the time Reddit really took off and has been writing and speaking ever since. Curious how his operational prowess shows through the new chairmanship role.
Rant done. We're praying for you Reddit.
reddit has doubled in traffic literally every year since Steve & I launched it. Granted, it was smaller in 2010 when we left, but I've been an advisor since (and gotten up to a few other things since - like helping Steve launch hipmunk and investing/advising in a 100 or so startups) but the core reddit product is for better/worse still the same as it was when we left.
I'm excited to work with Ellen, Dan, and the entire reddit team to develop reddit with the vision Steve & I had in creating it, but with the benefit of 10 years of experience & learning from it.
Finally, why should we hold a law degree someone has obtained 20 years ago against them? (Fwiw, this is a background quite similar to Peter Thiel: years in "the elite", until finding a better home).
> Alexis Ohanian, who cofounded reddit nine and a half years ago, is returning as full-time executive chairman (he will transition to a part-time partner role at Y Combinator)
> There is a long history of founders returning to companies and doing great things.
I wouldn't spend too much time worrying about Ellen Pao leading reddit in the long term.
Also from today's reddit blog post by Alexis
> Instead, I joined the board and have done everything I can to not be a helicopter parent, but rather support reddit and all the amazing people who make it work as best I can. But reddit is and will always be my baby
It could work out very well for Reddit.
I am hopeful for Reddit's future because of its community.
I've been using Reddit for over 8 years, through many transitions, and I still go to it everyday to read and interact with many friends I've met there.
I believe that everyone currently working on Reddit knows why it's great, and is interested in making it even better.
I believe in Reddit's team, and I believe in Reddit.
Of course time will tell. Reddit is full of great little communities (and some really messed up ones). Let's hope they can keep things good for the users and not do a digg.
Early November: "jk, we're moving to Daly City."
Even though Daly City is a BART away, the fact that this decision happened in 1 month is absurd.
On another note-
Office location can be the most personal aspect of business to an exec processing the decision. A territorial undercurrent is in play.
Up in SF, moving the office one mile can add 30 minutes to some people's daily commutes each way.
Meanwhile, moving from one office to another within Sunnyvale won't change much considering there are many ways to get in and out of there.
Moving from one city to another can be highly disruptive.
I was trying to stick it out and wait for the culture and mood (which had been fantastic beforehand) to get back in the groove, but our best people started to leave one by one, then one of the founders of my current company reached out to me personally, and it was too hard to pass up.
Everyone in the office was immediately for it. However, the CEO and a few other key employees were thinking further out in the southeastern suburbs, and everyone else assumed that meant into the city, centrally located, with cheaper rents.
We ended up staying in the office park that no one really liked.
A company I worked at in the 90s moved their office from downtown Chicago to the suburbs, seemingly so the executives would have a shorter commute. As a consulting firm, most of the employees were younger, didn't have families, and lived in the city and so ended up leaving the company when their commute changed. They also had trouble recruiting because of the new location. Having the only office in the suburbs didn't last long and they had to re-open a downtown office.
All this drama about relocating office a couple subway stops seems ridiculous.
I understand the argument about exacerbating commutes (even though it sounds crazy for a short-distance move) but I think this one is quite weak.
Let's do the math.
There are 24 hours in a day.
You should be sleeping for ~8 of those leaving 16.
Assuming you are supposed to be at the office for 8 hours (pipe dream, but let's just go for it) that leaves 8 hours of time for other stuff.
If you previously had a great 15-30 minute commute then you would have 7 hours of free time to work on side projects and do things you want to do. That would be a pretty sweet normal life.
Adding an extra hour to the commute cuts your free time down by ~30%. That is a big deal.
I also find it very helpful to include any time spent commuting as "working time" when considering where to work. You should also consider the increased cost to commute from a more like this. An extra hour of driving 5 days/week represents a non-trivial amount of money. So the salary needs to compensate, or the time at the office needs to go down.
No matter how you look at this, a move like this is asking all of the employees on the short end of the stick to effectively take home less money (not exactly a pay cut, but the end result is the same).
Edit: oh and I'm not from SF, I live in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. This has nothing to do with SF.
The bay area has something like 15 million people.
Do the math.
One either has a shitty rent/house payment or a shitty commute.
2013 US Census estimate is 837,442, which is considerably more than 500,000. 
> The bay area has something like 15 million people.
The 9-county Bay Area has approximately 7.1 million people as of 2010. 
NYC by comparison has ~2.5x in the metro for every 1x in the City.
 19.9 million vs 8.4 million.
As a side note, how is reddit on "asynchronous working" (if that's what remote working is called these days). How would the board have felt about the move if Reddit was more ready for being location-agnostic?
Edit: it seems I misunderstood your comment (and probably the geography of SF.) So if I understand it Reddit already was remote-friendly but both CEO and board wanted to have everyone in same office (which office being the point of contention). May I ask why you were going the "unusual" route of from remote to centralised - is Melissa Mayer right?
Edit: William Whyte in collected articles (Exoding Metropolis). Noted downthread as in a Joel Spolsky article. I am always late to the party :-)
I am reminded of Motorola (oh, how the mighty have fallen) years ago, when they decided to open up manufacturing plants in Libertyville and Harvard IL.
What were the deciding criteria?
Communities with good amenities (parks, schools, etc.)? Nope, middle of farm-ville Illinois. Nothing wrong with that, I'm from a small town.
Good access to existing talent? Nope. Far away from Chicago and the other tech employers in the region.
Easy access to transportation (planes, trains, automobiles)? Nope. Way off the highways.
Close proximity to the CEO's house? Yup.
Daly City is a suburban hellhole. If “cities” like Daly were desirable places to live, Provo, Utah and Tacoma, WA would be IT meccas.
The traffic in that region guarantees an ungodly commute by car for anyone who wanted to stay in SF and drive to Daly for work (1 hour commute = $40k in pay worth in happiness http://www.npr.org/2011/10/19/141514467/small-changes-can-he...). The public transportation is… lacking.
I can’t speak for Yishan’s motivations, but if I were on the board, I would push for his replacement simply due to the talent attrition that would inevitably occur if he got his way.
The guy grew the company 5x. I don't think attrition is the issue.
I assume he left because it wasn't his company anymore, it was run by the board. If the board can override his will as CEO and accept losing the CEO over office location, that by default means the board did not really value him. I would expect that hurts. Some things you can't prove with data, these are subjective decisions that fall into the realm of a CEO's responsibilities to look out for his team. It wouldn't be so far fetched to believe that Yishan felt that the board did not allow / trust him to do his job.
It's almost certainly not really just about office location.
Any real world class metropolis like Hongkong, Shanghai, Tokyo or New York would blow SF out of the water in the "cool, fun, sexy" department.
Compare Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, or New York City to Daly City and then tell me where San Francisco falls on the scale.
The post-war American suburban drive was in large part driven by economics and policy. Mortgage subsidization from the 30s with the Home Owners' Loan Corporation and the GI Bill in the 50s made loans available to mass consumers, while the HOLC's discriminatory redlining policy and the deindustrializing of cities (driven chiefly by lowered shipping costs) caused dense urban areas to become less desirable.
Mixed in with this you also had suburban-oriented urban planning (lots of highways, little public transit investment), brand new car driving infrastructure, low energy costs, lots of cheap land to expand to and in the 70s and 80s rising urban crime.
If you were looking to live somewhere, you had lots of incentives to prefer the suburbs. Today, most of these trends (energy cost, crime, job markets) have changed course.
On the other hand, getting to a point in SF from the freeway and parking usually takes at least 30 minutes (in addition to the 30+50 minute drive from the starting point in the South Bay or Peninsula). SOMA area is reachable by Caltrain, but Caltrain is unreliable, doesn't run as frequently nor is SOMA the only place where people have offices (and walking to further reaches of SOMA, or the area of Market, or FiDi is an often dangerous - especially at night - 20-30 minute walk).
Daly City is reachable from SF by BART, but that supposes you live near a BART station in SF and the Daly City office itself is close either the Daly City or Colma BART station. In general I'd say it's easier for an SF resident to get to certain parts of Daly City (those accessible by part or by San Mateo county buses running from SF are easy if you live near BART) than it is from someone in South Bay to get to SF. Driving is very easy if you live near 280/35/19th Avenue -- getting to Daly City from Mission especially is not particularly difficult).
That brings the cultural issue: different people prefer to live in SF vs. South Bay or Peninsula (some live in one place whereas they'd prefer to live elsewhere, of course). To hugely (but completely meaninglessly) over-generalize you can imagine the Peninsula as the OSI stack: physical and network layers are further south, middle-ware is in the Peninsula (Oracle in Redwood City), and presentation (end-user applications like AirBnb) are in SF (again, this is only loosely so: there are web app startups in South Bay and there are systems and middle-ware companies in SF). Intuitively it makes sense: I can't imagine starting a Foursquare in San Jose (there isn't a critical mass of people -- not all of them geeks -- cloistered around any given landmark to gain sufficient traction).
In many types of companies, you want both: which is why companies always seek to locate in either transit accessible parts of South Bay/Peninsula (Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Mateo downtown areas), run buses, locate in SoMa, or have multiple offices (this sounds like a "no-go" for Reddit, but Square, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, and my own employer -- Cloudera -- all do this). Yet, if a company has a very strong SF-oriented identity (at least for its Bay Area office), a compromise location (especially if the compromise isn't just an SF office near 4th and King) could definitely upsetting existing employees who might also feel that they are no longer as valid as potential new employee the company wants to hire from South Bay.
It's not uncommon for a startup's initial userbase to be geographically far removed from the company's headquarters. Facebook's was in the Ivy & NESCAC colleges in New England even after the company moved to Palo Alto. AirBnB's was in NYC. Twitter, I've heard, took off in Austin after SxSW. Orkut got Brazil despite originating in Mountain View. WhatsApp first took off in the Ukraine and then India, also despite being based in Mountain View.
I don't know why this is - intuitively, I'd expect it to be where the founders are, because that's who they can directly talk to. But the data doesn't seem to bear that out. Maybe it's because of random chance - if you model a successful startup as a cluster of users who happen to have an unfulfilled need and an entrepreneur who happens to stumble upon the solution to that unfulfilled need, then it makes sense that many initial userbases will be geographically separated from the company simply because there are more people far away from you than people close to you.
(Background: I'm deep in South Bay, but that's taste and preference not an absolute view I want to impose on others).
Was that board's decision, or Wong's?
Apparently it is "you might have to wear a jacket".
Also -- sample size of 13 -- 70+% of the people I know who bike commute daily have been hospitalized. I also know someone who did 6 months in a nursing home after some bitch ran a red light, hit him, and cracked his pelvis; he won multiple surgeries and the inability to stand up for months.
My mom routinely does 100 km trips and she's in her seventies.
It's not nearly as clear-cut as you made it seem. He was going around telling people Reddit fired him for no reason even though he was doing good work, which wasn't the case. Then he speculated he was fired because he raised concerns about revenue.
The only question is whether Reddit told him why he was fired when they fired him. If they didn't, well, whatever. But to go onto a public forum and speculate like that probably isn't the smartest decision.
If Yishan hadn't stepped in with a correction, then it would harm their future prospects as a hot place to work. Employees go where they think isn't lame. I'd have second thoughts about trying to join Reddit if I'd read "Yeah, Reddit seems to fire people for no apparent reason and has problems with employees communicating concerns to management."
On the other hand, I feel terrible for David, even if he got himself into this. Now people will unfairly prejudge him to be a slacker, bashed on Yishan's comment, no matter how hard he works in the future. The only way he can hope to change that is by working hard to get stuff done, combined with the extremely annoying process of making a portfolio demonstrating that he continuously gets stuff done.
He always seemed prone to saying things that were of questionable judgment. I have no idea how he was at running the company, but I suspect Reddit will be better off having someone else speak for it at least.
Right now you can do poorly at a programming job without it affecting your entire future. That's important because people have down periods in their lives. It happens.
If you get fired and go out to a bar and tell people that you got screwed by the scummy company, that's pretty normal. And why not let someone feel better about themselves? There's no reason for anyone else to believe their stories. Feeling like you got screwed is better than feeling like a failure. Depression can ruin your life if you don't find ways to cope, even if they're irrational.
Let's say he even convinces someone not to go work for Reddit. That sucks, but the potential employee should've realized that of course the former employee who publicly admitted he was fired is going to say something bad about the company. It's just one side of the story.
I was recently shocked to accept that only 17k people voted on the Obama AMA, even though 3M people viewed it. The disparity between participants vs lurkers on a site like Reddit is so large that it's hard to fathom. How many people saw Yishan's response? There are 4k upvotes. Applying the Obama AMA ratio suggests 700k people read it. Realistically it's probably closer to 40-100k, but still, what if it was common for everyone to go on the internet and badmouth employers and employees and so on and 0.1M people get to watch? A website like glassdoor, but for companies to go and rate their employees for all the other employers.
Yishan's reply to David generated over 1250 responses. David's comment saying "I was laid off" in total generated just shy of 5k comments. How likely is it that out of 40k people who viewed this, 5k of them left comments? It seems entirely possible about half a million people watched the CEO of Reddit lay the smackdown on a former employee who didn't even really say anything too out of line. Distasteful and in bad faith? Sure, but it's not like he was saying Reddit is an awful place to work. Envisioning a future where this is commonplace and people jeer from the sidelines like http://i.imgur.com/kQxF02o.png isn't a reality I'd like to live in.
That said, your comment is precisely why people generally avoid bad-mouthing former employees, and why smart employees avoid bad-mouthing their former employers. Worst case, it blackballs a person or organization forever. Best case, it just makes everybody look bad. Better to keep your mouth shut and let other people draw their own conclusions.
I thought Alexis et. al. originally started a company doing something else at the beginning of their application and acceptance to YCombinator, and Paul Graham had the idea for reddit and convinced them to do it instead of their original plan.
When Aaron Swartz was fired (edit: used to read quit) and the other founders of reddit tried to remove his founder status I remember being convinced by their arguments and being disappointed in Swartz.
When I later read the thing about it being Graham's idea it really changed my mind--the other founders' original idea was their own sort of Infogami (Swartz's original startup), and while they switched to developing reddit a little before Swartz, they ended up holding a much weaker exclusivity claim.
And Swartz was fired, not quit. He went to Germany then didn't show up for a couple weeks when he got back. 
They'd lose a ton of sf employees though; it's a shit commute for them.
Here it sounds like the CEO wanted a freer hand, and left when the event signaled a change in governance. (You can't take $50mm and not expect questions)