Ever tried to meet your hero? No? Well how hard did you really try? Local entrepreneur and proud Tectorian, Dylan Benson, decided he wanted to meet his hero. His hero just happens to be Alexis Ohanian, and for those of you living under a rock this past decade, Alexis is the co-founder of reddit, one of the most successful and notorious websites in the world. Dylan, however, managed to combine just the right amount of moxie, skill and random acts of kindness to make the meeting a reality.
Roughly 3 ½ years ago Dylan started spending time on reddit, quickly becoming involved enough to create subreddits with his friend Aaron to showcase their favourite content. As Dylan got more and more into the site, he realized its potential for social and community minded interactions.
Perhaps the most compelling of these social interactions came during Dylan’s first Reddit Secret Santa Experience. What’s a reddit Secret Santa Experience you ask? Well, Dylan was given a name, an address to send the gift to, and nothing else. Most people would have simply chosen a generic gift, and while he soon realized the difficulties involved with buying a gift for a complete stranger, he decided to press on. Dylan spent an inordinate amount of time combing through years of posts this anonymous user had made. Eventually, he came across one of this man’s posts detailing the childhood memory of losing his beloved Casey Jones action figure while out one day with his mom. Perfect. Dylan found the action figure online and quickly sent it along to his Secret Santa recipient. He was proud to have found a somewhat relevant gift, but had no idea what was about to happen.
Not too many days later, Dylan received a phone call describing a tearful conversation the recipient had just had with his sister. It turns out there was far more to this story than Dylan had been made aware of….. The man’s mother had since passed away, but that day still held a strong memory for him, not as the afternoon he lost his toy, but rather as a testament of his mother’s love for him. He could barely put into words how touched he was, and how much the small gift would forever mean to him. That day, two people who had never met in person, sealed a lasting friendship.
The Secret Santa Story doesn’t end there, however. During his quest to find a meaningful gift, Dylan came across numerous users who were frustrated with online gift giving sites. The sites seemed to offer very little assistance in finding gifts appropriate and meaningful to those they were purchased for. Dylan, an entrepreneur at heart, recognized the opportunity at hand. That moment sparked the creation of SomethingInTheMail.com, a successful Tectoria based website owned by Dylan and his two partners that strives to produce ‘The Ultimate Secret Santa Experience – Year Round.’
Shortly after the Secret Santa experience, Dylan joined the Alexis Ohanian Fan Club. And while he realizes how goofy it sounds for a grown man to join a fan club, Dylan did so because of how engaging an online presence Alexis was. (Often responding to fans, and involving himself in their conversations) Dylan received his Welcome to the Fan Club email, and responded in a unique way, mentioning a past blog post of Alexis’ surrounding a grilled cheese sandwich. Sure enough, Alexis responded to Dylan’s email personally.
Inspired, Dylan approached Alexis’ agent and began negotiating terms regarding a possible speaking engagement here in Victoria. Dylan also reached out to VIATeC’s own Dan Gunn for assistance. Dan was excited about the opportunity of bringing Alexis to Victoria for the Thinklandia festival, and swiftly stepped in to help. Together they were able to secure Alexis as a speaker, and to top it all off, Dylan was given the honour of introducing him.
Never one to miss an opportunity, Dylan used the ten or so minutes he had with Alexis to pitch the Startup community here in Tectoria as an ideal extension of ‘Small Empires’ (the name of a show Alexis hosts.) Needless to say, Alexis liked the idea and agreed to keep a dialogue going. (Dylan continues to work with Brandon Gains on making this project a reality, and we’ll keep you posted with any new information.)
Dylan’s story showcases the benefits of perseverance, creativity, and ingenuity. Thankfully, however, the Tectoria community is chalk full of similar tales, so we encourage you to swing by this blog whenever your day calls for a little extra inspiration.
By Steve Hof