Alexis Ohanian was one of the founding partners of Reddit in 2005. For those of you not familiar with Reddit, Wikipedia describes it as, “a social news and entertainment website where registered users submit content in the form of links or text posts.”
He also published a book, “Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed,” where Alexis shares his ideas (and doodles – a reoccurring theme) about harnessing the power of the web. His personal mantra is “Making the World Suck Less.”
But let’s be honest. This is I HAVE CAT. And my objective was not to analyze or even discuss Alexis’ entrepreneurial successes. More prestigious journalists have covered that ground ad nauseam. There were only two topics I wanted to discuss with him: His cat Karma and the fact that he, like me, is Armenian.
I knew from attending Purina’s Better With Pets summit that Alexis had a black cat named Karma, but when I tried to read up on her* the only mention I found was at the very end of every online article, ““He (Alexis) proudly doodled the logos for all three of his startups and loves his cat, Karma.” (Next time I’ll have to ask him why she didn’t get an Armenian name.)
*Full disclosure, I called Karma a him when speaking to Alexis – whoops! In my defense, the necktie threw me off!
That definitely wasn’t satisfying enough for the cat lover in me. From the way he spoke about her at the Purina event, she seemed like an important part of his life, and one that required further exploration and recognition.
Thankfully our mutual love of cats and a shared ethnicity worked to get me an interview with him just this past week. All I can say is that he is one of the most affable, gracious and polite guys I’ve spoken with. Sorry ladies, he’s taken!
Onward to the interview! Only the cat material made it in. Perhaps I’ll do another post about our Armenian-ness should there be a great demand for it!
How did cats first enter your life? I grew up with animals. My parents always had an adopted cat even before I was born. In middle school I campaigned for a dog and got one, so we became a two species household.
You’ve made your Dad’s cat rather famous through your Twitter Feed. Can you tell us a little bit about him? You never mention his name. I call him Barron Mustache. It just suits him. He’s kind of a jerk. He was an outdoor cat for most of his life and would always get into fights. His real name is Moonlight. Doesn’t really fit him.
How did you get your cat Karma? I got her when she was just a kitten. All the cats we’d adopted growing up were adults, and I really wanted a kitten this time. I called up shelters In NYC looking for a black kitten and Animal Haven in SoHo called me back saying they had a black girl kitten. Her brothers had already been adopted.
Why did you decide on a black cat? I knew about superstitions, and that black cats and dogs are the last to get adopted. But let me say that black cats are good luck. I’ve had nothing but good luck since I got Karma.
What was your thought process when getting a cat? Did you give any thought to how people might perceive you? I’ve raised a few eyebrows on occasion, but not really. But I am a large man with a cat. Don’t know if that has anything to do with it.
What is it you most appreciate about Karma? She comes to the door when I get home. She loves belly rubs and cuddles. All the other cats I had growing up were more typical – some more affectionate than others. But Karma’s a dog-cat. I’m debating getting her a cat leash.
We went to the Jersey Shore and I wanted to see what would happen if I let her out (under my supervision). Once she hit the grass she ran back inside to the wood flooring like, “what was that?!”
Does she do anything funny or unusual? Well, when we’re at home and sitting at the dinner table she likes to sit on one of the 4 chairs with us. We had a friend over the other night and she just sat there, wanting to be part of the conversation.
I always leave my laptop on the dining table, it’s where I usually do most of my work. Karma will sit in the chair in front of the laptop. It looks like she is checking your email!
She also does this thing we call ‘sea-ottering’ (photo above) where she rolls on her back and pulls her paws up like a sea otter. This is her way of letting us know it’s time for a belly rub.
Is there anything she does that drives you crazy? A bad habit? No she’s perfect. Ok, sometimes she scratches the sofa but that’s what the water spray is for.
What’s her favorite place to hang out in the apartment? She actually loves her cat carrier, which is on the top of a shelf she loves climbing. We call it her mobile home.
Does she sleep with you at night? Usually by my feet. She likes my girlfriend more, though.
Does she have a favorite treat/snack you reward her with on occasion?Greenies!
Does she have a boyfriend? Not that I know of…
Assuming you travel quite a bit, have you considered getting another cat friend for Karma? I’m pretty sure it’s going to have to happen. My girlfriend will probably pick out a cat and I’ll vet her for Karma.
Have you heard the theory that the reason there are so many cats online is because so many Geeks have cats. Do you think this theory has any merit? I have certainly heard this, I think there is something to it. But also, dog owners have a lot more opportunities to share their dog. They go on a walks to show off their dog, they go to the dog park to show off their dog. Cat owners never get the opportunity to show off our cats. I think the internet gives them that opportunity.
Thank you so much for your time Alexis, just one final question. Why does Karma wear a necktie? She’s a business cat, she does what she’s gotta do.
Note: All photographs provided directly by Alexis, taken from his Twitter feed or taken by me with the exception of the first image which is from Alexis’ about.me site.