Alexis Ohanian: Making The World Suck Less With A Book And Twilio SMS

Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, has one simple goal: make the world suck less. He believes the internet can help anyone and everyone accomplish this goal. Alexis wrote his first book, Without Their Permission: How The 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed, to focus on harnessing the power of the internet as an open and democratic platform

He’s now in the midst of a 5 month long book tour across the US. And after every talk, appearance, and meet and greet, Alexis puts aside time to talk with fans and book lovers. The problem was the lines. No one likes waiting in line so Alexis and his tour compatriots developed a new line system with Twilio.

To deliver fans an upvote-worthy experience, Alexis and Garry Tan used Twilio SMS. Now, fans of the Without Their Permission tour can reserve their spot in line, waiting to meet Alexis, via text.

We spoke to Richie Seigel, Alexis’ “Strategy Dude” and founder of Seersucker Magazine about the tour and their Twilio app.

What sparked the idea for the app: a need for it, a desire to use the internet to make more things awesome, or something else?

Since we were planning a book tour, there had to be a book signing at the end of each event. But traditional ones are slow and boring, so we wanted to repurpose the time people spent waiting in line. So we decided to create a deli-counter-like system that people could text to virtually get in line, and when it was their turn we would text them to come up to the table. This allowed a mixer/networking event to happen simultaneously, where students were talking with each other and hopefully formulating plans for their first or next foray into the tech world.

How have users/fans of Alexis responded to it?

People, especially the event planners, love it because it takes a strain off of them and it makes the vibe of the event much more relaxed. Internally, it allows us to use data on how long Alexis takes per person (he can be a little slow, which is great for the people he’s talking to but not so much for everyone in line!), which allows us to adjust accordingly.

How many people have used the app?

Easily over 1000 at this point.

What’s the most memorable experience you and/or Alexis have had on tour so far?

Early on, students started hovering around the computer, trying to figure out their place in line because they were anxious. At Cooper Union, in NYC, all the students started asking each other their place in line (since we told them) and they lined up anyways. So then we stopped telling people what number they were in line, because we wanted people to relax a bit!

Anything you’d like to add?

It’s amazing how such a little and not so technically complicated program can change and really improve the dynamics of an event. The app is pretty crude, but it does what we need it to, which was the point.

Find out where Alexis Ohanian is on tour here