Here's Why Reddit Turned Down an Acquisition Offer From Google in Its Early Days, According to Cofounder Alexis Ohanian

Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman were both 22 years old and had only recently graduated from the University of Virginia when Google offered to buy their new company — a website called Reddit. Ohanian and Huffman had raised $82,000 at that point and earned the confidence of Chris Sacca, Google’s then-special initiatives lead.

But the possible 2005 Google acquisition didn’t happen.

On Saturday, Ohanian explained why on Instagram, illustrating that Reddit’s early decision to turn Google down ultimately came down to the scope of the offer and Google’s plans for Reddit within its broader ecosystem.

Sacca flew Ohanian and Huffman, who were the only two people working on Reddit at the time, out to Google headquarters. He introduced them to people at the company and had them eat at the Google cafeteria.

“Google is a dope place to be in 2005,” Ohanian said. “There were lots of companies that wanted to be like Google and it was tempting.”

At the end of the day, Google’s offer was “just not significant” and essentially an acqui-hire, or a way to bring Ohanian and Huffman on as Google employees, according to Ohanian.

Related: Reddit Traffic Nearly Triples in 8 Months, Posts Rise to the Top of Google Search

Google wanted to combine Reddit with YouTube, which Google intended to bring into the fold of its products at around that time, and have Reddit power YouTube comments.

“So imagine that,” Ohanian said. “YouTube comments could have been Reddit comments.”

Reddit has grown by leaps and bounds since 2005. The company made its public market debut in March to a multi-billion dollar valuation.

Related: Reddit Debuts on New York Stock Exchange, First Major Tech IPO Since Pinterest in 2019

Though Reddit may have initially rejected Google’s offer for an acquisition, the relationship between the two companies remains strong. Reddit signed a $60 million deal with Google in February that allows Google to train its AI on Reddit content.

Reddit traffic has nearly tripled in eight months, skyrocketing from 132 million visits in August 2023 to a projected 346 million this month.

Ohanian stepped down from Reddit’s board in 2020. He has recently weighed in on the potential TikTok ban in the U.S., advocated for paternity leave, and talked about work-life balance as a CEO.

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