Aaron Swartz was one of the 4 people on the Reddit team, and although he wasn’t one of the original founders you should definitely know who he is. One of the funny things about “Web 2.0” is that everyone is so green that nobody remembers who the innovators were in the period between the dotcom bust and now, aka, the years that I learned everything about technology that I know currently. I’m 23 years old and Aaron Swartz was born three years after me, but his life’s trajectory has been going exponential since he was pretty young, young enough that I looked “up” to him even though he was younger than me.
Aaron only attended high school for one year, and since he was so far ahead of the game, he left and started taking college classes alongside a pseudo-homeschool curriculum. It was about this time or a little bit afterwards that he co-authored the RSS 1.0 (RDF) specification for the W3C at the ripe age of 14/15. Yes, the foundations of RSS/RDF were built by someone not old enough to drive. It was about this time (I was 17/18ish) that I learned of Aaron and started paying attention to what he was doing.
In 2002 (finally old enough to drive!) Aaron befriended legendary copylefter Lawrence Lessig and then became the Creative Commons’ RDF lead soon thereafter.
Similar to his high school experience, he only stayed one year at Stanford University before enrolling in Paul Graham’s well-known Summer Founders Program, aka, Ycombinator. It was around this time that Aaron was working in stealth mode on a startup (that I was anxious to find out what it was!) and after some brief flirts with venture capital firms about Idea A (Infogami I believe), he decided to merge with two other people and pursue Idea B which was Reddit. The same Reddit which was purchased this week by Condé Nast for an undisclosed amount.
I find that the “story” I’m most interested in is the 24-48 hours after you sell your company for 7 or 8 figures, because that’s the time period I fantasize about when I’m neck-deep in code that’s misbehaving, or pushing pixels that won’t look right no matter what I do. Out of any entrepreneurial article on the face of this planet, the ones where people say they’re “going on vacation” or “might start an investment firm” after selling their company, Aaron’s posts on the subject are the most brilliantly honest and fascinating:
For all of Aaron’s talents, I think that writing might be his best asset:
“When I woke up the next morning, my head was fuzzy. And while I saw the costumes strewn about the floor, the girls brought home who slept in our living room, the odd emails asking me what I’d do next, I still felt funny. For a shining moment in the morning, it felt as if this whole acquisition thing might have simply been a dream.”
Congrats man, you deserve it.