As the first CEO and cofounder of Netflix, Marc Randolph knows a thing or two about turning a simple dream into a success story. In his internationally best-selling book, That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and The Amazing Life of an Idea, the Silicon Valley mogul shares tips, tricks and secrets that he’s learned in his four decades as an entrepreneur.
However, the book — now available in paperback and featuring a new afterword — isn’t just for those who want to make a splash in the business or tech world. “It’s for anybody who has an idea that they want to try and make real,” he told to Us Weekly. “I also was trying to dispel some of the myths about what it’s like doing a startup. I wanted people to see really what it’s like when you’re really trying to take a crazy idea and make it real.”
Randolph is no stranger to taking crazy ideas and making them a reality. Case in point: After founding MacUser magazine, he and his team launched Netflix in 1994 — then a 12-person startup — from their offices held in an old bank building. “There was dirty green carpet on the floor,” the New York native, 64, recalled of the companies’ humble beginnings. “We couldn’t afford furniture, so we went down to Costco and bought card tables and beach chairs from home.”
Eventually, Randolph helped turn the mail-order DVD service into the streaming giant with 200 million subscribers that now produces its own TV shows and movies — but it wasn’t without a little trial and tribulation. “What you learn is that there’s no such thing as a good idea,” he explained. “This great idea we had for doing video rental by mail — the idea that everyone told me that will never work, that my wife thought was a terrible idea — well, surprise, surprise: They were all right. It was a terrible idea, but by testing it [out], you begin to figure out why it’s a bad idea and you get insights into new things to try.”
Randolph also dishes out valuable advice on his top-10 Apple podcast, “That Will Never Work,” in which he speaks with aspiring entrepreneurs about topics ranging from how to raise money, forming boards to mental stress. In truth, it’s surprising Randolph has time to help mentor others considering his busy schedule. (In addition to being on the board of Cheeze Inc. and hosting a podcast, he’s also a judge and investor on Entrepreneur Magazine’s Elevator Pitch web series.)
Though he has a lot on his plate, Randolph believes it’s important to pay it forward like those who have done the same for him. When asked about the best advice he’s received over his impressive career, he answered: “The most important thing you can do is start. I think all of us [have] a built-in hesitancy about doing something that may not work or that could embarrass us. It takes a lot of pushing to realize that if you’re always trying to study the problem and think this through and make sure it’s going to work before you do it well, then you never start.”
He told Us, “What separates the people who are successful entrepreneurs from everyone else is they start. They think less and do more.”
As for what the brain behind Netflix is currently binging? The answer might be surprising. “I’m not a entertainment geek, I don’t spend my days debating who the best French directors are,” he says, laughing. “I watch garbage — and love it.”
That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea is available now.
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