What You Don't Know About Serena Williams' Husband, Alexis Ohanian

Any Serena Williams fans would likely recognize her husband, Alexis Ohanian. In some ways, he's her biggest fan of all. Before her retirement, he could usually be seen in the stands loudly cheering her on or holding their daughter, Olympia, during her matches. And you've likely seen what an adorable couple they make together on the red carpets. But while marrying the world's greatest tennis player is a claim to fame in itself, it's far from the only impressive thing about Ohanian. As an entrepreneur and investor, he made a name for himself in his early 20s when he co-founded Reddit, the community-based site that was valued at $10 billion as of August 2021.

Between his family background, how he started out, meeting Williams, and where he is now, there's a lot more to Ohanian's story than meets the eye. We've compiled the most interesting facts about his life and how he became the husband, father, and success story that he is today.

He's the Brooklyn-born son of immigrants

As the Brooklyn-born son of German immigrants, Alexis Ohanian has a strong appreciation for where he came from and where he is now. He told the Financial Times, "I have a bit of a crush on the Statue of Liberty ... I look at that every day and keep in perspective — coming from a family of immigrants — everything they went through to give me the good fortune I've had."

His family background has given Ohanian a unique perspective and compels him to speak out when he sees injustice. In an open letter posted by the Armenian National Committee of America, Ohanian said, "I am the son of an undocumented immigrant from Germany and the great-grandson of refugees who fled the Armenian Genocide." Looking through his family line, Ohanian explained that it was all shaped by immigration and new opportunity. With that in mind, he does his best to help immigrants who are seeking visas. "If you've never seen people taking the pledge of allegiance for the first time as U.S. Citizens, it will move you: A room full of people who can really appreciate what I was lucky enough to grow up with, simply by being born in Brooklyn," he wrote. "It thrills me to write reference letters for enterprising founders who are looking to get visas to start their companies here, to create value and jobs for these United States."

Alexis Ohanian wasn't the best student

You may imagine that someone so successful later in life was a star student, but according to Alexis Ohanian, that was not the case. During most of his school years, living in Maryland where his family had moved, he didn't have any real interest in his school subjects. "I felt pretty ambivalent about the whole thing," Ohanian told Inc.

To him, school was just taking away from time to do what he really cared about. And what he really loved was spending time online doing all kinds of things, like "creating clans in Quake II or starting a web design nonprofit. In school, I was just a kid. Online, I had authority," he said (via Inc.). He noted that his parents didn't mind the amount of time he spent online, although he added, "they didn't know I was emailing total strangers." Ohanian loved video games and building things in the virtual world. He told the magazine he was worried that when he went to college, no one would play video games. But when he arrived, he was relieved to see Steve Huffman, his roommate and future Reddit cofounder, playing Gran Turismo 2.

He had an epiphany in a Waffle House

Despite his lack of interest in schooling, Alexis Ohanian did his best to follow an academic path and become a lawyer. It wasn't until he was prepping for the LSAT that he realized that wasn't what he wanted for his future. He told Inc. that during his junior year of college, he was in an LSAT prep course when he couldn't take it anymore. He recalled flipping the test over, walking out, and going to a Waffle House. "That's where I had what I call the Waffle House epiphany: I didn't want to be a lawyer. I wanted to make a dent in the universe," Ohanian said.

With that epiphany, he realized he wanted to be an entrepreneur and continued forward with that goal. But he didn't have the idea for Reddit right away. He and Steve Huffman's first startup attempt was called "MyMobileMenu," a mobile food ordering venture. Although that dream didn't pan out, it got them started making connections, including Paul Graham, who eventually helped them get started on Reddit.

Alexis Ohanian co-founded Reddit in 2005

Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman came up with the idea for Reddit when Y Combinator, a startup accelerator, turned down their original idea for MyMobileMenu. Paul Graham, the co-founder of Y Combinator, said they liked Huffman and Ohanian, but not their idea. "You guys need to build the front page of the internet," he said, via Inc. Magazine. With that direction in mind, Huffman and Ohanian spent the next three weeks developing what became Reddit. Ohanian described the simple concept to Inc., saying, "It was just web links and text submitted by users, with Interesting or Uninteresting buttons."

Everything was going well, but about a month into creating Reddit, Ohanian received shocking news. His then-girlfriend had fallen from a fifth-floor balcony and was in a coma. Fortunately, she got out of the hospital a few months later, but not long after that, Ohanian got a call from his dad saying that his mother had brain cancer. Though shocking and tragic, the news did give him some perspective. "Waking up every morning with a company is a lot of pressure. But when you're aware of what other people are waking up with, it's a whole lot easier," Ohanian said. He continued to push himself to make Reddit a success so that his work and his mother's support "was not in vain."

He sold Reddit when he was 23

Just 16 months after launching Reddit, Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman sold the site for around $10 million, according to CNBC. Ohanian was only 23 at the time. He described to Inc. Magazine how quickly the company was acquired, saying it "started with a Halloween party." Ohanian and Huffman met a reporter who introduced them to a freelancer for Wired who then told their editor about them. That editor's husband happened to work in business development at Condé Nast. After hearing about the company, he set up meetings to buy out Reddit.

The quick acquisition of Reddit was a huge and exciting surprise to Ohanian. Although he was open about the big impact the sale had on his life, he kept the exact price to himself, telling Inc., "You can Google it, and you'll find it was between $10 million and $20 million." After he got the money, the first person he wanted to call was his mother. She was sick with cancer at the time and has since passed. Ohanian described his feeling in telling her the news, "To be able to call her the morning after the money was in the bank ... meant the world to me."

Alexis met Serena Williams by chance in 2015

Alexis Ohanian and Serena Williams' relationship seems like a real-life romcom, starting with their surprise meeting in 2015. The two of them were staying in the same hotel in Rome, where Williams was playing in the Italian Open later that day. Williams and Ohanian retold their meeting to Vanity Fair, admitting that at first, Williams saw her future husband as nothing more than an irritation. She was ordering breakfast with members of her team, and they were expecting more people who were going to sit at a nearby table. When Ohanian took the table, Williams' group started telling him there was a rat, hoping to scare him off. When Ohanian told them he was from Brooklyn and rats didn't scare him, Williams invited him to sit with them.

Though they exchanged numbers, it wasn't obvious that they'd become the power couple they are now. Williams even thought he was more interested in one of her friends. But a few months later, she invited him to watch her compete in Paris. Ohanian wasn't sure if the invitation was genuine, but he decided to go, saying, "Even if she blows me off and we don't even hang out, I'm still going to have an amazing time in Paris." Fortunately, Williams exceeded his expectations, and the two of them explored Paris for hours before her tournament. From that point on, their relationship and connection only grew.

Williams and Ohanian were shocked when she got pregnant

While Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian are now proud and happy parents to their daughter, Olympia, they weren't planning to get pregnant when it happened in 2017. Williams told Vanity Fair that she was shocked when the pregnancy test was positive. She recalled her heart dropping and thinking, "Oh my God, this can't — I've got to play a tournament. How am I going to play the Australian Open? I had planned on winning Wimbledon this year." When Ohanian came to meet her in Australia, she handed him a bag with six positive pregnancy tests, and he was just as shocked by the news.

Despite the initial surprise, the pair took to parenthood wonderfully. Ohanian takes pride in his role as a father. As PageSix reported, on "Third Hour of Today," he said, "It's easy to be a proud father of that little baby." Although he and Williams weren't planning to start a family as soon as they did, Ohanian saw himself as lucky, saying, "It's been life-changing, and it's something that I never knew I wanted it badly until I had it ... And then it just changed everything."

He's just fine being known as Serena Williams' husband

As the founder of Reddit, Alexis Ohanian is a huge success in his own right, but since marrying the star athlete Serena Williams, he's often thought of first as her husband. The internet entrepreneur seems happy to let his wife take center stage. He's always been a huge supporter of Williams' tennis career and can be seen in the stands cheering her on throughout her matches. In 2021, he solidified his spot as her biggest fan, wearing a shirt that said "Greatest Female Athlete" with the word "female" crossed out, so it instead read "Greatest Athlete." To make it even clearer who he was referring to, the T-shirt included a picture of his wife (via Popsugar).

During a Twitter exchange with a fan, he shared his thoughts on people referring to him as "Serena William's husband." He later posted a screenshot of the exchange on his Instagram, which said, "I'll be a self-made billionaire one day and most people will still know me as Serena's husband (or Olympia's dad) and that's fine by me." In the post's caption, Ohanian went on to say, "TBH I'm hoping to be known as @olympiaohanian's papa." It's clear he loves his role as supportive spouse and father or, as he prefers, "papa."

Alexis Ohanian wants his daughter to see him working

Though he's happy to be thought of first and foremost as Serena Williams' husband and Olympia's father, Alexis Ohanian still follows his own passions — including his career in business. Speaking on the Imposters podcast, which was later quoted by People, Ohanian said he sees being a businessman and a father as two big pillars of his identity. "I spent most of my life, most of my adult life, really focusing on just the career part, the first part, and then four years ago [I] became a dad. Things shifted. And that is the lens through which I look at basically every decision," he explained.

Ohanian doesn't see his business aspirations as something that conflicts with parenting, because he thinks it's valuable for his daughter to see him working. "I want to be doing my absolute best work for however long I can so that my daughter can see me doing it, doing it in a way that I'm proud of, that's she's proud of," he said (via People). "I want her to see me put in work in something I really care about and being passionate about something and caring about something."

He continues to invest in startups

After his startup success with Reddit, Alexis Ohanian has continued supporting businesses he believes in as an investor. According to CNBC, he's invested in startups like Impossible Foods and Sorare. Speaking to CNBC Make It, Ohanian shared how his investing career started. "I was really lucky. I sold Reddit at 23 and we made more money than my folks had made their entire working lives, and I thought, I don't want to screw this up," he explained. In an effort to be smart with his money, Ohanian said he hired a financial advisor to manage it for him.

Now, Ohanian believes that hiring someone to invest his money was a good "crutch" to get him started, but that it's important to him to do his own research and know exactly where his money is invested. "You don't want to stay indebted to someone else's expertise," he said, later adding, "This is the advice I would give to anyone, which is, take the time, and there are so many amazing resources online now, to do the work, to understand this stuff yourself before entrusting it to someone else."

Alexis is an advocate for paid paternity leave

Becoming a father was a transformative experience for Alexis Ohanian, and he deeply valued his time with his family right after Olympia was born. That time was especially important because his wife, Serena Williams, experienced nearly fatal birth complications. In the time after their child's birth, she was healing from surgery as they both learned how to parent. In an op-ed for The New York Times, Ohanian wrote, "Nothing could have dragged me away from my wife and daughter in those hours, days, and weeks — and I'm grateful that I was never forced to choose between my family and my job."

That experience made Ohanian see the value of paid paternity leave. While he was lucky to have it, many American companies don't offer new fathers that benefit. Ohanian has since become a strong advocate for paternal leave. Speaking to Good Morning America, the Reddit founder explained that he's working on meeting with senators on both sides of the aisle in hopes of making paid leave a legal requirement. "I use 16 [weeks] as the example that we use in our office ... and that is the bare minimum when you look across the world," he said. "If there is a new child entering your life, you should be able to spend time with them."

He and Serena Williams want another baby

In 2022, Serena Williams announced her retirement from tennis. After proving herself as the greatest player time and time again, she still loves the sport but is walking away for her family. In a piece she wrote for Vogue, Williams explained that she and Ohanian want to have another baby. "I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family ... If I were a guy, I wouldn't be writing this because I'd be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labor of expanding our family," she said. Though it was a difficult choice, it felt like the right time.

After Williams shared her plans to stop competing, Ohanian took to Instagram to share his support. He wrote, "I've seen over the last seven years how much y'all love my wife ... Plenty of folks have told me 'how Reddit changed their life,' but the scale & impact of 'how Serena changed my life' stories absolutely dwarfs it."

Alexis resigned from Reddit's board for his daughter

In 2020, Alexis Ohanian announced he was resigning from Reddit's board. Following his resignation, he requested that the board replace him with a Black candidate, and also pledged future gains on his Reddit stock to initiatives to support the Black community. Speaking to CBS This Morning about his resignation, he said, "I didn't arrive at this easily. It was absolutely a hard decision." However, thinking about his daughter ultimately pushed him to step down. "I realized I needed to look at myself ... and see what I could do to help contribute some real positive change so that I could look my daughter in the eye when she's a little bit older and she asks me what I did to help make this country and this world a little bit better for her and for a whole lot of people who look like her," Ohanian added.

Serena Williams has helped him see his blind spots

Speaking further about his decision to step down from Reddit's board and offer his seat to a Black candidate, Alexis Ohanian admitted he might not have made that decision if he wasn't married to Serena Wiliams. By seeing her life and experiences up close, he became more aware of the double standard they faced. "I have never walked in a room and not felt 100% confident to be there, not felt 100% welcomed there," he told CBS This Morning

Before meeting Williams, Ohanian said wasn't as aware of what a privilege that was. But he quickly saw how his wife was not given the same treatment. Ohanian explained that their relationship opened his eyes to blind spots he's had, saying, "To have that front row seat, not just to her greatness, but everything she has to endure ... that made the education come really quickly."