Alexis Ohanian wants to have a good answer when his daughter asks him what he does for a living.
Alexis Ohanian, who cofounded of Reddit is married to tennis star Serena Williams. The two have a two-year-old daughter, Olympia.
Ohanian left Reddit’s board in early June in the wake of nationwide protests on racial justice after the death of George Floyd by police, noting that the decision was spurred to by the need to answer his Black daughter when she asks “What did you do?”
As he left, he urged the company to fill his spot with a Black candidate. Shortly after, Reddit added Y Combinator partner Michael Seibel to its board.
“That was definitely a turning point for me,” Ohanian told Business Insider of the national conversation unfolding in June. “It really got me looking inward and thinking about all the things that I need to be doing a better job of.”
That includes rethinking how he approaches investments.
“Stepping down, that was one frankly just small step of protest and self-improvement for me,” Ohanian said. “I want to know that in the work that I’m doing now — which is being that first check, that first advocate that first adviser, that first mentor to founders and CEOs — that I’m doing as deliberately as I possibly can.”
Ohanian is moving on from Initialized, Axios reported in June, to focus on “pre-seed” investing. Ohanian cofounded Initialized Capital in 2012, and the firm manages $500 million in capital.
Ohanian is factoring his daughter Olympia into how he vets future investments
Ultimately, the hope, he said with future investments will be to have a good answer when his daughter Olympia grows up and asks him around the dinner table how he makes his money.
“At some point my daughter’s going to learn about what her mom and her dad do,” Ohanian said.
At that time, it’ll be easy to explain the impact Williams has had on the world. “That’s my competition,” he said.
To be sure, he still wants to make money, just by picking companies with more purposeful ambitions. But from 2020 on, he said, he wants to be able to make the case for why a particular company he invests in will be improving the life of his daughter and other kids once that investment becomes a multibillion-dollar company.
“I do think there are companies that are just going to excite me more now because they’re not just another mobile game,” Ohanian said, an area he’s invested in in the past.
A new generation of founders
Founders are a big part of that.
“This is just as much dictated by founders themselves,” Ohanian said. “A big part of this is impressing my daughter, but just as big is the fact that the market of founders are actually really moving in the direction of being more purposeful.”
Ohanian said that founders are coming to him looking to have a diverse group of investors. That includes often committing to having at least half of the investors on their capitalization tables be women, or setting a percentage they’d like to have be investors from underrepresented background.
“This is coming from the founders and CEOs now,” Ohanian said. “I wish I had been that CEO in 2005. I wasn’t, and who knows what could have gone differently? But I have an opportunity now.”
Ohanian said he’d put Ro CEO Zachariah Reitano in that camp. On Monday, Ro raised an additional $200 million from investors including Initialized in a round that valued the healthcare startup at $1.5 billion. Ohanian and Initialized were early investors in the company.
“He’s so earnest about solving this problem for every American,” Ohanian said, referring to Ro’s business, which connects people to doctors who can prescribe medications for a growing number of conditions.
Read more: Buzzy healthcare startup Ro built a huge business selling Viagra and hair loss treatments online. The CEO shared how allergy pills and ‘digital health clinics’ will fuel the next phase of growth.
“The ambitions here are real and sincere,” Ohanian said. “When this company IPOs one day and Olympia asks me about it, I’m going to have a giant smile on my face because I can tell her why this was so important to back from day one even when it seemed very, very far from a sure thing. And I’d like to be able to do more of that.”