The Surprising Connection Between Waffle House And The Founding Of Reddit

Before he founded social site Reddit and married tennis great Serena Williams, Alexis Ohanian was just a regular guy struggling through law school. Once intent on becoming an immigration lawyer, Ohanian did a complete career U-turn. Although it's not totally accurate to say that this change of course was inspired by Waffle House, the breakfast juggernaut nevertheless played a part.

The connection was made when Ohanian was recently queried by ReadWrite about what exactly inspired Reddit. His reply? "Well, failure. When I was a junior at the University of Virginia I was on track to be a lawyer, and I was obsessing over my GPA and all that stuff. And then I went to a Waffle House," Ohanian said. "I walked out of an LSAT prep course and into a Waffle House and realized I wanted to not be a lawyer, and that I'd better come up with something else."

Those must have been some seriously incredible hashbrowns.

The actual idea for Reddit came some time later, and as a team effort with other partners, but without the Waffle House epiphany Ohanian might have stayed in law school. Who knows? Maybe Reddit would never have come to be.

More about the Reddit and Waffle House connection

If you've never been on Reddit, it's billed as "the front page of the internet." In other words, it's a social site that allows members to submit content to any of a huge collection of forums. The content is then discussed, voted on and rated by other members. Content typically includes links, pictures, videos, news, and other bits of interest. The site has about 80 million unique views every month.

Although Reddit's success is impressive, Waffle House was changing how things are done way before Ohanian's "aha" moment. Founded in 1955, the Atlanta-area eatery has since expanded to thousands of locations in 25 states. It's known for round-the-clock breakfast food (as it's open 24/7), but serves lunch and dinner fare as well. In fact, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Waffle House is such an icon that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) prepares for weather-related emergencies using the "Waffle House Index." If the index is green, area Waffle Houses are fully-functioning with a complete menu. If it's yellow, the menu is limited. A red index score equals a closed store, so disaster is imminent, and it's time to really freak out.

In addition to being innovators in their own right, the two companies quite literally come together on Reddit. The r/wafflehouse group has more than 3,600 members, and r/WafflehouseFreakout (devoted to posts about freakouts happening inside stores) is pushing 2,000.

Perhaps it was being in the presence of true innovation that inspired Ohanian, or just a belly full of good food that did it. Either way, we all win.