Saturday, May 12, 2018

Business Bio by Alexis Ohanian

I think our children can benefit from the biographies of businessmen.  Alexis Ohanian is an internet millionaire who wrote a book describing how he got rich:  Without Their Permission.  I read it and shared the highlights with my son, which I share now with you so you can share them with your children.

He chose to go to school out of state, going to the University of Virginia instead of going to school in Maryland.  He started a business, Reddit, with his room mate Steve.

Here are the key points: (1)  His room mate Steve had the technical skills to code the website and Ohanian did not have those skills.  (2) Steve did not throw Ohanian over-board like Mark Zuckerberg disposed of so many people.  (3)  Ohanian made the contributions he could, like drawing the spaceman logo for Reddit. (4) Ohanian's biggest contributions were in sales.  He pitched the business to a company called Y Combinator, which provided funding.  (5) Eventually Ohanian pitched the business to the Condé Nast publishing company, making Steve and Alexis Ohanian rich.

And if you are a technical wizard, like Steve Wozniak of Apple, you still need a salesman to make money from your invention.  Sales is a challenging business.  Inventions only make money with sales.  No sales, no money.  You can take that to the bank, or the poor house as circumstances dictate.

Finally, I like to describe to my son the stories of businessmen when their lives appear in the Wall Street Journal Obituaries.

Here is an example from today's newspaper:  Robert Klein Set Up Firm to Help Lenders Protect Homes Going Through Foreclosure by James R. Hagerty, Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2018 (May 12 in the hard copy edition).  The online article has much more detail than the hard copy.

Here are highlights from the obit:

Robert Klein’s father once told him: “God blessed you with a brain and cursed you with a mouth.” Working for a boss would be difficult.

So Mr. Klein, a high-school dropout, was always his own boss, starting as a New York taxi driver and later running his own fruit-and-vegetable wholesaling business in Cleveland. In 1990, he founded Safeguard Properties in the obscure business of mortgage field services. Such firms do foreclosure-related chores for lenders, including changing locks on abandoned homes, sealing broken windows and handling basic repairs so houses can be resold

He started with one employee and grew to around 1,000 as Safeguard expanded nationwide and became one of the largest companies of its type.

Notice he was a high school drop out, yet he provided jobs for thousands of people.  There are more details in the article, such as the business becoming a legacy for the family.