It was January 1997, a normal carpooling day for Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings, at that time colleagues from the software development company "Pure Atria" in Silicon Valley. Hastings was the CEO, while Randolph was the vice president of marketing. The software company was in the process of being taken over, which meant that both Randolph and Hastings would soon be out of a job. Hastings, then 37, was planning to go back to school to study, while Randolph, then 39, wanted to launch the idea that would soon conquer the world. On that January day, during their 1.5 hour drive from Santa Cruz to the Valley, Hastings suggested brainstorming and pitching the most unlikely ideas. One of these ideas was "Netflix", today the sixth largest Internet company in the world by revenue, with over 15.7 billion dollars (2018 figure). Netflix has gone from being a movie rental company to a streaming and production company of award-winning original content, with approximately 151 million subscribers worldwide growing constantly.
Can you tell us how it all started?
MR: While we were both almost jobless, I said that I was ready to launch my next company and Reed, being the entrepreneur, replied: we'll find a great idea, you can manage it and I will finance it. For the next six months, while shuttling between the house and the office, I suggested a series of extravagant ideas such as customized sports items, surfboards, baseball bats, and then shampoos, toothpastes, dog food. Reed always replied: it will never work.
Then you rented a movie in the mail ...
MR: One morning, we were sitting down for coffee in Santa Cruz and we were talking about the possibility of sending a DVD in an envelope. So we went down to a music store, bought a CD and sent it to Reed's house with a " First Class" priority mail stamp. When we received it intact, we realized that we had found something interesting.
Silicon Valley loves the typical entrepreneurial story born from brilliant intuition, the idea that changed everything, the light bulb that lit up in the middle of the night. Was this the same for Netflix ?
MR: There is a popular legend on Netflixthat the idea came to Reed after paying a $ 40 penalty for returning " Apollo 13" late to Blockbuster. That he asked himself, "What if there were no more penalties for being late?" and boom, the idea of Netflixwas apparently born. But it wasn't a flash of useful and perfect genius that we suddenly had. Epiphanies are rare. And when they seem to give rise to success stories, they are almost always oversimplified or totally false. We like them because they continue to feed a romantic concept of inspiration and genius. We like to imagine Isaac Newton sitting under the tree when the apple fell and Archimedes immersed in the bathtub.