The co-founder of Netflix explains why there is no such thing as a good idea.
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5 min read
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I recently had the pleasure of interviewing serial entrepreneur Marc Randolph, known as the co-founder and first CEO of Netflix, for my most recent episode of How Success Happens.
Listen to Marc & # 39; s full episode on How Success Happens podcast
When he and Reed Hastings started Netflix, they could never predict what the company would one day or how different it would be just a decade later. In fact, the business started almost by accident when Marc & # 39; s company was acquired by Pure Atria, whose founder Reed Hastings lived close enough to Marc that carpooling (and some ideas trampling around on the drive) only made sense. After a few admittedly strange ideas (personalized shampoo?) And talking about a new thing called DVDs, the idea of renting movies through the mail started to make sense.
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It's been over 20 years since Netflix was founded and Marc still remembers how many people told him the idea would never work – so much so that he wrote his book and podcast, That Will Never Work titled. And during my conversation with Marc he made one thing very clear: distributing films by mail was not a good idea.
Marc told me that after 40 years of founding a company and coaching fellow entrepreneurs, he found out that there really isn't a good idea. He said that any idea breaks down under the weight of facing a real problem, but once you realize this you can start testing the idea and unpacking the reasons why it isn't working. This is what has driven Marc through every step of his entrepreneurial journey – a passion for solving problems, meeting up with intelligent, passionate people, and figuring out something. After all, when he started his first business, "entrepreneur" wasn't even a household name, and as he will say, nothing you did to get rich. You really had to want to do something new.
As we discussed testing ideas, Marc & # 39; s face lit up and he told me a story about how he and Reed decided to see if the idea was even possible for Netflix, considering how fragile these are Discs were. After mailing a CD on site (DVDs hadn't even hit the market yet), they were thrilled that it got there in one day for the price of a single stamp. Was the test perfect? Of course not. There were a million ways DVD rental could fail, but that was when the idea went from concept to reality. This single test was invaluable. In addition, Marc began his career about 15 years earlier in the mail order department of a sheet music company. It almost feels like he's closed the loop, leveraging his experience in a completely different industry and creating a brand new one.
While we were talking, I couldn't help but notice how proud Marc was of the company he had helped build, and I asked him why he decided to leave. He stated that, true to his passion for problem solving, in the early stages of a business he is happy, discovering, overcoming and wearing different hats within an organization. As Netflix grew, it became clear that the company was in its early stages and that it had become the kind of company that Reed had always loved to run. It would make them both happier if Reed took over and Marc had to take a step back, so they did.
Even after the recording was finished, Marc & # 39; s success barometer was a response for me. I've spoken to countless people who attributed their success to money or fame, but Marc was different. Marc measures his success by how happy and fulfilling a project makes him. One of my first questions was, given the struggles Netflix faced in the early days, had he ever thought about quitting? His immediate answer: No. It's just not in his DNA. That kind of passion and enthusiasm is contagious and in his new podcast That Will Never Work, Marc brings his unique mindset and decades of experience to mentor those who are just beginning their entrepreneurial journey. He explains that he didn't create the podcast to be known, but that he created it so that he could share his wisdom with more people than just a handful of companies he advises. That and because it's fun. After all, every episode has a brand new problem to solve.
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