Trailed by a four-man camera crew from the Verge, an online tech channel, Ohanian hovered over a cubicle and interrogated an employee, Rafael Gonzaque.
"Do you have friends who are not in the startup game who love their jobs as much as you do?" he asked.
"No," Gonzaque said, before adding, "Maybe fashion."
It was a perfect response for Ohanian, the smiling 30-year-old evangelist of the New York tech scene, and a relentless cheerleader of the utopian promise of the Internet.
Having been a co-founder of Reddit, the behemoth social news site, at 22 with his roommate from the University of Virginia, he cashed out 16 months later, when the company was sold to Conde Nast for an undisclosed sum. He went on to join Hipmunk, a travel site, and was a co-founder of Breadpig, which raises funds for novelty items (he calls it "Newman's Own for nerds").
When he's not concocting startups, he spends his days as an angel investor to feel-good sites like Upworthy, serves as an adviser to young techies and is an unflappable champion of the Internet's ability to make the world more awesome.
That, essentially, is the subject of his new book, "Without Their Permission," for which he is on a tour of 77 colleges to spread his gospel of enlightened entrepreneurship.
It won't be his first foray on the public stage. During the anti-piracy fight of 2012, when Congress considered a pair of bills that critics said would censor speech and stifle innovation, Ohanian gave a barn-burning (if cheery) speech at a protest in Manhattan, bearing sympathy cards "to hand deliver to our senators here in New York, mourning the death of the Internet."
Ohanian's telegenic advocacy set off chatter that he might run for office, with Forbes magazine dubbing him "The Mayor of the Internet." (Bro in Chief is more apt.) It's easy to see how he could pivot into campaigning.
"He's a classic politician," said Steve Huffman, his partner in founding Reddit.
Like a good politician, Ohanian is happy to add to the speculation.
"If I were to run, I'd run for representative, and I'd do it explicitly with the requirement that it's only one term," he said.
But for now, he is more interested in spreading good vibes in the tech world, particularly its East Coast wing. On a recent Wednesday, he arrived at his brunch spot near his Brooklyn Heights apartment, accompanied by his girlfriend of two years, Sabriya Stukes, a Ph.D. student in microbiology. They met in college, Stukes said, when she wandered into his dorm while he was playing video games.
"I asked him where my friend was," Stukes said. "He said, 'I don't know,' and then went back to playing video games."
Ohanian, wearing a Nooka watch and (another) gingham shirt, said he moved to Brooklyn Heights because his father, who runs a small travel agency in Maryland, once dreamed of moving there. Repeating an oft-told tale, Ohanian said the first thing he did after selling Reddit was to upgrade his father's season tickets to Redskins games.
"The thing that I don't usually tell," he went on, "is that after that I called my mom and told her, 'What do you want?' Because this was a person who never wanted anything." His voice caught in his throat. "And she said she wanted nothing."
"It all happened in a span of a few months," Ohanian said, still sounding shellshocked.
His mother's failing health was part of the reason he accepted Conde Nast's offer; she died less than two years after the sale. Ohanian left Reddit, though he remains on its board, and spent months volunteering for a microfinance group in Armenia, where his father's family is from.
Ohanian had another brush with tragedy this year when Aaron Swartz, a 26-year-old programmer who had briefly worked with him and Huffman at Reddit, hanged himself in Brooklyn. The partnership had been uneasy.
"It was very clear after a month or so of him working with us that he wasn't terribly interested in working on Reddit," Ohanian said.
Swartz's mood swings alarmed his collaborators. In 2007, Swartz wrote a blog post imagining his own death, titled "A Moment Before Dying." Upon reading it, Ohanian called the police, who broke into Swartz's apartment. Swartz laughed the whole thing off.
"I was very sensitive to the warning signs," Ohanian recalled, alluding to the ex-girlfriend who had attempted suicide. Soon after, Swartz was forced out of Reddit, and he fell out of touch with his former colleagues. Ohanian heard about his death from a mutual friend.
"It just makes me sad," he said. "There's no satisfactory explanation for it."
What the two had in common was their zeal for the transformative potential of the Internet, though Ohanian's version is decidedly sunnier. In his book, he extols the idea that "all links are created equal" - that any college student with Wi-Fi can, in tech parlance, "disrupt" an entrenched industry. The uprising against the anti-piracy bills, he explained breathlessly, shows how online networking can accelerate social movements.
It was Reddit users, after all, who started the idea of an Internet blackout, which spread to Wikipedia and other sites on the day of the protests.
"It's not the technology that does it," he said. "People are always the ones who are making it work. But now you're giving them a platform."
But what about the darker side of information sharing? In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing this year, Reddit users falsely accused a missing Brown University student, raising questions about the value of crowdsourcing. Ohanian insisted that people, not platforms, are to blame.
"When I get a prank call, I don't blame AT&T," he said. "I blame the person who prank called me."
The incident did not dim his belief in technology.
"As long as people are using the Internet, people are going to do stupid stuff and people are going to do bad stuff," he said. "And by the time that robots are sentient, they're going to enslave us anyway, so it won't matter."
Spoken like an optimist.
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