That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea by Marc Randolph

Summary

  1. Marc describes the formation and foundation of Netflix, his role, and the evolution of Netflix from DVD store/rental to dominant international media company. “Goal is to puncture myths but also reveal what they did and why it worked, turning Netflix from an unlikely idea into the media behemoth it is today – not let’s or principles but hard won truths (like distrust epiphanies)”

Key Takeaways

  1. The daily car rides with Reed and Marc seem enviable – what an amazing gift to be able to share ideas and have them destroyed without it impacting the relationship 
  2. From the beginning, Reed was intent on focusing on a business with recurring revenues that scaled massively 
  3. In one of the brainstorms with Reid, Marc brought up a VHS delivery service. After doing research it became clear that the tapes and shipping was too expensive, but once DVD’s came out, the whole equation changed and the business model now seemed viable 
  4. One of Marc’s guiding philosophies is to have his team loosely coupled but highly aligned – show the team where you want to go but not how to get there. Treat people like adults, trust them, give them a vision to go all in on
  5. It was expensive to acquire all the dvds at the beginning, trying to claim they have every dvd ever made, but they reframed it so that this expense was really cheap advertising. A dvd costs $20 but the reputation for having every dvd is priceless 
  6. Instituted a Tuesday date night with his wife where he would leave work at 5pm no matter what to spend time with her and no kids 
  7. Learned many of his leadership lessons from his time outdoors and exploring nature 
  8. Focus and doing your core competency extremely well is a matter of life and death for a startup 
  9. Environment of freedom and responsibility coupled with radical honesty is the foundation of Netflix’s culture
  10. They were struggling getting people to rent DVDs although being at success selling online. Eventually they tested out the idea of a subscription service with no late fees and an automatic sending of the next DVD in your queue when you return the old one. Mark would never have thought this was the path Netflix would have taken but it was immediately successful, so they ran with it 
  11. Nobody knows anything. This isn’t an indictment, ira a reminder. If this is true, you have to trust yourself, try things, and be ok with failing
  12. Randolph’s rules for success 
    1. Do at least 10% more than you’re asked to
    2. Never state as fact something which you don’t know 
    3. Be curteous always, up and down 
    4. Never complain 
    5. Don’t be afraid to make decisions when you have the facts 
    6. Be open minded but skeptical 
    7. Quantify whenever possible 
    8. Be prompt 
  13. You have to love the problem rather than the solution. This will keep you engaged and motivated even in difficult times 

What I got out of it

  1. Nobody knows anything so you won’t know whether an idea is good or bad until you try it. Marc’s enthusiasm is palpable even through the pages and the car ride him and Reed shared for years where they discussed and batted down ideas with radical honesty seems like an incredible gift