Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian stepped down from his role at “the front page of the internet” earlier this year to focus on his venture fund, Initialized Capital. Changing gears from social media (of which he is generally skeptical) to investment and business development, Ohanian appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert this week to sound off on everything from blockchain technology to his marriage to tennis superstar Serena Williams.
Ohanian co-founded Initialized Capital in 2012, and the fund notably counts Coinbase and Instacart as some of its highest-profile investments. After Colbert made his way through fluffy pop culture interview fodder with the 34-year-old entrepreneur, he asked him about cryptocurrency. Predictably, Ohanian had more than a few things to say.
“It’s a fuel for a potentially new internet. Things like bitcoin and cryptocurrency are an opportunity for us to have store of value that is not backed by a single country. I think for a lot of us that may seem kind of silly, because we trust that the U.S. is still going to be a successful country in 10 or 20 years.”
“If we can make it through the next three, I think we’re going to be fine,” Colbert suggested, to many audience chuckles.
“There’s a very real need,” Ohanian continued. “I’m actually Armenian, and there was a major bloodless revolution in Armenia, which was fantastic. But in so many states, there is uncertainty about government and money, and people see their life savings disappear. There’s a very real value to having a currency that, as volatile as things like bitcoin are, they are still potentially less volatile than some of these states that see hyperinflation and everything else. We take for granted the fact that we have bank accounts, and we think we can move this money here and there. But for so many people in the world to have the security of knowing what’s yours is yours—and because it is now digital and can now be transferred with you wherever you are going—is actually a pretty empowering thing.”
Ohanian’s extemporaneous comment left a moment of tangible silence in the theater, with audience response landing somewhere between “wow, this will change the world” and “we have no idea what he’s talking about.”
This is the second time in recent weeks that cryptocurrency has figured into Colbert’s show. In late March, the television show host announced a $29 million donation from cryptocurrency giant Ripple to DonorsChoose.org, the largest donation in the organization’s history.
Colbert made the same joke then as he did with Ohanian: “Please don’t explain blockchain to me.”
The relevant portion of Ohanian’s interview begins at 5:28 below: