"Without Their Permission" by Alexis Ohanian

Review by Borodutch

I don't know how I came across this title. I'm almost sure I've seen it somewhere on a bookshelf and decided to try it. Overall, the author touches on the following three points:

  • Pre-acquisition story of Reddit
  • Entrepreneurial advice
  • Freedom of the Internet

I enjoyed the book partially because of the friendly tone of the author. Alexis's humbleness reads through the pages and sounds through the audio. The amount of self-criticism and awareness is something to aspire to. However, the book's value comes from the three points above, on which the author did a great job describing how to succeed (or how he succeeded) in them!

First, I'm always naturally thankful to all the successful entrepreneurs who exited their businesses and shared their stories without reducing them to "We started the company and then lucked out by getting acquired." In the end, it is always way more than that, as there are nearly no overnight successes. I found it inspiring to read about the early struggles of Reddit and how meticulous the author was in some aspects of it.

Second, the main entrepreneurial advice of the book can be narrowed down to giving a damn and only hiring people who give a damn. If the team cares about the product, there will be nearly no misunderstandings and misalignment. In case someone needs to pull an all-nighter (I'm always against that, but what if) — everybody is happy to do this. This isn't achieved only by hiring the correct people but also by incentivizing them well.

Third, the saga of SOPA and PIPA — or about the country-wide protests in the USA against them. Alexis was one of the people spearheading the effort to fight for Internet freedom against the entertainment industry lobbyists. And they won! This is precisely why we have "more free" Internet today. However, the fight is far from the end. The lobbyists keep nudging the US government to limit the Internet, preventing decentralization and privacy technologies from proliferating. For instance, trying to end end-to-end encryption protects the right to conversation privacy. The author's short address at the end tells what authoritarian future we might be leaving to the next generations. Spoiler: it's very orwelly.

Should you read this book? I don't see why not. In the sea of millions of books, this might inspire you to start your entrepreneurial journey and educate the readers on the legal issues of the Internet. Shoot Alexis an email about how you liked his book — he seems humble enough to appreciate the feedback!