EDIT: A friend of mine is getting married tonight, and I have to get ready to head to the rehearsal dinner. I will log back in and answer a few more questions in an hour or so when I get on the train.

EDIT: Back!

EDIT: Ok. Going offline for wedding festivities. Thanks for the questions. I'll do another AMA sometime if you all want!

Comments: 1738 • Responses: 43  • Date: 

GraharG790 karma

Are you considering getting Victoria back? she seemed pretty good at her job.

samaltman770 karma

I honestly know almost nothing about that situation, sorry.

EDIT: Obviously I know about what happened when she left. I mean that I don't know about any future plans.

Xaguta364 karma

Does /u/spez have full hiring and firing powers of Reddit?

samaltman415 karma


pinterestthrowaway2729 karma

Seriously, what is your plan for monetizing Reddit?

At some point (Pao made it seem like it's months from now) the VC funding will run out.

The money made from Gold and from ads simply is not enough to keep up a site of this size.

Is the plan to monetize AMAs? Perhaps have sponsored posts on the front page? There has to be some plan to keep this site going, just give us some type of hint so we won't be blindsided like we have been with every other change in the past.

samaltman816 karma

reddit has more than $50MM in the bank, which will last many many years.

At some point the business needs to be profitable. Monetizing AMAs does not seem like the right way to do it to me, but again, Steve's call. Ads will work but it'd be great to figure out something better that actually makes reddit better.

tianan472 karma

Why did you bring in Ellen Pao to be CEO? (You as the board collectively, not saying Sam Altman was personally behind it)

samaltman677 karma

The previous CEO resigned on the spot. Ellen said she would do the interim work, and I am very thankful she did. She walked into an incredibly difficult situation and move the ball a good bit down the field for reddit.

She made some mistakes, for sure, but I think she did remarkably well in a very tough situation. And Steve is happy to be taking the baton for her here.

phyphor258 karma

There are suggestions that Ellen Pao was brought in to be the sacrifical scapegoat, making unpopular changes in order to be the lightning rod for the ire of the internet mob.

What can you do to put those rumours to bed?

samaltman351 karma

It's simply not true--not sure how to better put it to bed.

ladybro410 karma

How do you think we can best prepare ourselves for the advance of AI in the future? Have you and Elon Musk discussed this topic, by chance?

samaltman520 karma

Elon and I have discussed this many, many times. It's one of the things I think about most.

Have some news coming here in a few months...

TheSweetestKill365 karma

What does being a "board member" mean exactly? What are your responsibilities? What do you do?

samaltman615 karma

Most board members? Very little that's helpful :) You could ask Ellen if I've been a good one--I hope so!

Your job as a board member is to hire and fire the CEO, approve the annual financial plan, and help the executive team set the strategic direction.

Bad members don't do a good job of those things. Very bad board members try to do the CEO's job.

mamaBiskothu184 karma

Do board members get paid ?

samaltman396 karma

Not usually at private companies (and not at reddit, but in my case I own a lot of reddit stock) but usually yes at public companies.

boomfarmer86 karma

What do you do when you're not boardmembering?

samaltman190 karma

I spend almost all of my time running YC. It is an intense job.

pavpatel353 karma

How did Ellen's resignation come about?

samaltman572 karma

She resigned. Thankfully, she did it a thoughtful way that gave us time to hire a successor and have a smooth transition.

theli0nheart316 karma

About how many emails do you send / receive per day?

samaltman582 karma

I receive about 1200 and send about 200. When people ask me what my job entails I just say "email".

bernie16wb194 karma

Care to give some insight on how you manage that? Apps you like (I'm assuming you use Outlook), add-ons, tips for staying sane?

samaltman358 karma

gmail with a lot of labels and filters. i also write extremely short emails, and honestly just spend a lot of time doing it. i'm also quick to forward things to other people.

gradschool_dude286 karma

Hi, Sam. A simple quick question, where did this sudden burst of GREAT communication suddenly come from? I am referring to your announcement of Steve Huffman returning. It was an amazing post, and not something we have seen from recent reddit communications over the past month and a half.

samaltman664 karma

Well, I wrote it, so thanks for the complement I guess.

My style is generally just say what's going on and to do it before the lawyers and PR people can slow my roll.

caractacuspotts185 karma

Given the power of the vocal minority - think gamergate, 4chan, the vitriol levied against Ellen Pao, twitter abuse, [insert other incident here where "the internet" knee-jerks] - in the current modern communications environment, how can communities like reddit ensure and protect freedom of expression? Is a service like reddit where downvotes en masse can instantly hide unwanted views the best place to do this?

samaltman248 karma

This is an incredibly good question.

Free speech is great and terrible. We need freedom of expression; we need compassion. Part of the reason I voted to hired Steve is he is one of the most thoughtful people I have ever met on this intersection.

I think figuring out how technology can encourage empathy is one of the more interesting and important open research problems in the world right now.

SicknessRising182 karma

What's the best part of your job? What's the worst?

samaltman300 karma

The best part is constantly being around incredible people working on new ideas. It's hard to think of a more mentally stimulating job. I personally think the most fun part of starting a company is the first part, and so I love that I get to do that all the time.

The worst part, by far, is rejecting companies that want funding from us. It sucks :(

littlecleetus155 karma

How do you plan on fixing some of the communication issues between mods and administrators in your new role?

samaltman279 karma

That's up to the reddit team and Steve. Part of being a good board member is letting the management team run the company.

However, I think this is critical and would not have voted to hire Steve if I didn't believe he will make this a top priority.

rubthemtogether137 karma

You've been left bankrupt by a gentleman thief. Someone gives you $100. What do you do with it?

samaltman265 karma

buy a beat up old used iPhone and a prepaid SIM.

risknippe133 karma

Were you surprised by all of the vitriol directed at Pao from the Reddit community? Not in a "how did you feel about Pao" sort of way, but more of a "was this something you expected to see, or have past experiences led you to have a higher standard for Reddit's behavior" sort of fashion.

samaltman230 karma

I knew there would be a lot, and I was still surprised how much there was.

cofounderbailed121 karma

Not sure if you're planning on answering anything startup related, but here goes anyways. In short, my cofounder decided to bail about 2 weeks into working on our startup full-time, after a few months of (admittedly inconsequential) part time work. YC heavily discourages single founders for good reason, so what would you suggest to someone in my position do now? Prioritize getting customers, or prioritize trying to get a cofounder? None of my friends are too into what we were/I am working on. Do I try to sell all of them on it? Do I try "cofounder dating" events? (Seems like a recipe for disaster) For how common cofounders leaving in the early stages is, there's not much advice on how to deal with it out there.

samaltman207 karma

Prioritize getting customers. If you start to build a great business, you may attract a great cofounder. Trying to "force" a cofounder almost never works--I'd stay away from cofounder dating stuff.

karmos120 karma

You recently joined the boards of YC companies Helion Energy and UPower, both of which are working on bringing new nuclear power generation technologies (fusion and fission, respectively) to market. Technological challenges aside, do you think negative public and political perception of nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster will be a major obstacle to these companies' success?

samaltman158 karma

Yes--in fact, I think that's the major challenge. It's easier with fusion, but it still feels uncomfortable to people.

However, I think the appeals of cheap, clean, safe energy will eventually win. It's too important.

zaikanekochan117 karma

Is there anything in the works for dealing with inactive "squatter" mods? Also, how do you prefer your eggs to be cooked?

samaltman169 karma

That's a question for Steve; he is the CEO.


leonardofed110 karma

Quick question: startups or corporate companies, which one in terms of learning is best for a new grad?

samaltman176 karma

A startup because you get to see much more and can gain more responsibility more quickly.

Vultatio108 karma

Hi Sam. I'm just curious as a generality.

How much influence does the board exert on the operations of Reddit?

I know some companies are more or less fully directed by their board in scope and direction, and other boards are completely hands off, and let the CEO do whatever they want. And of course there are all levels in between.

Was just wondering how much involvement the Reddit board has.

Edit: An example of what I'm asking is all the conspiracy theorists here saying Pao was just a temporary fall guy for the board to implement unpopular policies and then resign, keeping the blame with her and away from the board and site in general. I think this is complete horseshit, but it is the basis for my question of the influence of the board at Reddit.

samaltman201 karma

Not very much.

I think good board members work with the CEO to set strategy and goals for the company, but leave it up to the CEO to implement them. Of course, whenever CEOs ask for help, I try to do anything I can to help.

I almost never take board seats, though. The list of things I'd rather do than sit in a board meeting is long. reddit is just special.

Vultatio95 karma


You might not want to answer this, but can I ask about the speculation that the board directed Pao to monetize the site, and that's where a lot of the unpopular changes have been coming from?

samaltman193 karma

No; in fact we agreed as a board not to focus too much on monetization for now. Someday we'll need reddit to be profitable, but we want to do it in a thoughtful way.

justinc47473 karma

Over the last 10 years at Y Combinator you have seen a lot of motivated and ambitious entrepreneurs with good ideas. Some of these succeeded, some failed.

In your opinion what are the most common traits between those who succeeded? This could be in the entrepreneurs themselves, their business model, and commonality you see in ventures that go on to succeed.


samaltman116 karma

Determination, focus, clarity of vision, ability to hire great talent, and choosing a rapidly-growing market.

bayerleverkusen72 karma

What plans do you have for Reddit going forward?

samaltman193 karma

Steve and the team will set the plans. I just reallyreally hope they make a mobile app :)

undothewinnings69 karma

What is your favorite beer? And where is your favorite place to drink it?

samaltman117 karma

On a farm in the midwest on a hot summer night.

TheOuts1der57 karma

As a board member -- what do you actually do, besides ask Steve to come back?

samaltman88 karma

Not very much, honestly. Almost all of my work time is spent on other stuff. I will try to be a sounding board for him if he wants to talk, and warn him if I see a big strategic issue coming.

patrickh3147 karma

What are your views on the future of tech disrupting politics from an engagement perspective? Do you think Brigade or Countable can do what the others who have mostly failed in that space have tried to do?

samaltman43 karma

I sort of think it's the best hope for democracy working long term. I don't yet know what the right solution is.

faisalalshk42 karma

Any plans to expand the Y combinator model to outside the US?

samaltman52 karma

We already fund companies from outside the US, and lots of them. I think there were founders from about 40 different countries in our last batch.

HyperionCantos39 karma

Do you still write any code?

samaltman137 karma

Not always, but when I do I prefer dos equis.

oarphasa36 karma

I'm friends with two past YC co-founders. Both of them held a title similar to CTO and implemented the majority of the company's initial technical IP. This IP wasn't just back-end system design but included novel machine learning and optimization technology, and the companies were both offering ml/optimization as a service.

Both of these co-founders were fired by their other founders and their boards. In both cases, the other founders were not /particularly/ non-technical-- one co-founder had a scientific PhD and the other had a CS degree from a top school. In one case, I had worked with the CTO previously, and my take was that he was fired over mostly mild culture issues that I could see resolved easily at a larger company. In both cases, the boards seemed to struggle dearly with the CTOs' technical interests & communication abilities.

What advice can you give to ml/optimization start-ups to avoid this "fired CTO" problem? Do you think these start-ups underestimate the non-technical value (e.g. for recruiting) of a strong scientist?

samaltman20 karma

It's really hard to make a general statement about this, the specifics matter so much. I think the best advice I have is to start a company with a CEO you really know well and have a trusting relationship with, and then talk frequently about how things are going.

TossedRightOut31 karma

Unfortunate that half the people seem to be confusing you with Steve.

What other things is Y Combinator working on right now that you're particularly excited about?

samaltman31 karma

Figuring out how to fund lots of startup per year is really exciting to me.

Honestly, the most exciting thing is not any particular startup, but that YC as a sort of meta-company can have such an impact on stuff, and that the YC network is so helpful that companies we fund have a big advantage.

Langlock24 karma

I've been quite floored over the years what a fun place this has been and I'm glad Steve is back on board. What right now excites you most about the future of Reddit?

samaltman42 karma

It's such a powerful community, and it grows exponentially more powerful with more users.

I am most excited for a mobile app.

Sure wish I wasted less time here though.

jmaclure1120 karma

Does it worry you that by rejecting thousands of startups each year from YC, you likely end up discouraging some good founders with good ideas from continuing to work on their companies? I realize you always tell rejected companies to keep at it, but is there more you could do to mitigate the real impact of rejection?

samaltman34 karma

Yes. We are working on some new stuff, but honestly this is high on my list of worries.

That's part of the reason I do stuff like the startup class:

rubthemtogether19 karma

Which Ninja Turtle would you most want to be?

samaltman28 karma

Leonardo obviously. Turtle power!

reboticon18 karma

You have been here 8 years but all of your comments are from AmA except two about business. Do you have another account or are you just really too busy for reddit?

samaltman28 karma

When there is a mobile app I will make some comments. It's just too hard in mobile safari.

But I might use an alt account--everything in my life is now so public that it's sort of nice to be not recognized on reddit.

SomeKittens12 karma

With the popularity of YC soaring ( ), do you think there's still room for the outliers, or do you primarily focus on getting the pick of the litter?

(Followup: has the application/accept ratio gone up or down over time?)

samaltman16 karma

Totally room for the outliers. That's where we make most of our money and have the most fun; we try not to lose sight of that.

Related new thing coming soon.

SharpKeyCard11 karma

What's one thing you'd like to see on Reddit? Be a feature, a tool, an anything.

samaltman26 karma

A mobile app please please please.

Dimination9 karma

It seems everyday now there is a new startup trend. Social networks spawned like crazy in the mid to late 2000s. Even more recently there has been a trend in delivery applications (e.g. Uber/Lyft/Instacart). What do you think the next big startup trend will be?

samaltman12 karma

I think the enterprise startup trend will go a lot further. I think this would be a good time to start a new social product that is mobile-focused. I think biotech, AI, and energy are likely to big.