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This article is written by Matt Hunckler is founder of Verge.

What do you do when a person at an iconic establishment in your industry trashes your business? You use it for motivation to become a top 50 website in that very same industry. This is exactly what happened to Reddit founders Alexis Ohanian and Steve Hoffman. Here is the story of when they were invited to chat with a Yahoo! executive in Silicon Valley.


The beginnings of Reddit are humble and very modest to be sure. They began their business venture in a small Boston, Massachusetts apartment. About three months after they had launched the site they got an exciting phone call from Yahoo!. They were invited to come out to Silicon Valley to meet with an executive and discuss Reddit. Of course, the two accepted and flew out to California.

Upon arriving to their meeting with the impressive executive they immediately dived into talking about their new website with great excitement. But then the executive abruptly stops them and asked, “What’s your guys’ traffic anyways?” After explaining that it has only been a few months and that they had about 10 or 11 thousand users – the executive laughs.  He’s next response was a game changer for Ohanian. The Yahoo! man then said, “You guys are a rounding error to Yahoo!. What are you doing here?” Nevertheless, the rest of that meeting did not go well.

Once back at their apartment Ohanian made a sign to put up on a wall he saw every morning. The sign read, “You are a rounding error.” This wall soon became a wall of negative reinforcement that was used for motivation. The pair wanted to see exactly whom they were proving wrong.

To this day Ohanian has not revealed who the mysterious motivator man was but is still extremely thankful that that experience happened. As Ohanian explains in this video ( featured below), “There are always going to be constructive critics who are amazing and make us better, and then there are going to be haters. Haters gonna hate. So you know what? Eat them for breakfast, alright? Use them as motivation – use them as fuel.” It’s all about proving them wrong be pushing your startup to be successful far beyond what anyone could imagine.

Matt Hunckler is founder of Verge, a 2,500-member community platform for software entrepreneurs.  Matt also has a passion for magic and drawing and a knack for marketing and experience design.

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