Erik Martin helped make Reddit huge, then he left. What’s next for an Internet master?

Erik Martin left his position as general manager of Reddit, one of the world’s largest Web sites, a few months ago. Now, the Brooklyn resident ponders his future. (Yana Paskova/For The Washington Post)

Erik Martin left his position as general manager of Reddit, one of the world’s largest Web sites, a few months ago. Now, the Brooklyn resident ponders his future. (Yana Paskova/For The Washington Post)

A day before he was to speak at Harvard, Erik Martin was walking his 5-year-old mutt, Mog, down a few Brooklyn streets to a park.

Martin is in roomy blue jeans that fall over faded blue Nike sneakers. A few weeks ago, he was managing Reddit, one of the largest Web sites in the world. Now, he’s unemployed.

The longtime manager of one of the world’s most successful start-up Internet companies leans down to bag Mog’s droppings. The next day, he’ll speak on a panel about journalism for social change at the Igniting Innovation Summit on Social Entrepreneurship in Cambridge.

Time magazine named Martin to its list of the most influential people in the world in 2012, when Reddit was less than a fifth of its current size. The site, said to be valued at $500 million, boasted more than 174 million unique visitors in September 2014, just weeks before Martin announced his resignation as general manager on Oct. 13.

“If the Web’s most powerful images are the ones that go viral, then Erik Martin oversees the most infectious petri dish around,” Time said of Martin in 2012. “Since its founding in 2005, the site has avoided the influence of corporate brands and self-promoting celebrities, instead favoring the sometimes questionable taste du jour of its hive mind.”

Martin’s transition from Reddit could reflect future generations of entrepreneurs with varying interests as the Internet enters its “second generation,” a time when young people coming into the workplace have had access to the Internet for their entire lives. His leadership at Reddit helped shape the model of Internet freedom we experience today.

“ ‘A.D.D.’ is a very good term to describe what is going on in the Internet world,” says Kathleen Allen, a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California, about tech entrepreneurs. “Even if they make it big, they tend to start something new. It’s a lifestyle sort of thing.”

So what’s the next step for Martin, a 37-year-old barbecue-loving, early-’90s rap connoisseur and media guru considered an expert on communication in the digital age?

“It’s called Assholes on Demand,” he says with a slight giggle.

It’s called Assholes on Demand.

The rest of this article can be found here as it appeared on page C1 of The Washington Post.