The Incredible Story Behind Netflix You Didn’t Know | Netflix Co-Founder Marc Randolph

The Incredible Story Behind Netflix You Didn’t Know | Netflix Co-Founder Marc Randolph

Summary:

The following article was inspired by a Mindvalley University Live Online talk with Netflix Co-Founder Marc Randolph. Marc is an American tech entrepreneur, speaker, environmental advocate, and the best-selling author of That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea.

Netflix Runs the Show

If you live on planet Earth, odds are you’ve heard of Netflix. And with more than 192 million subscribers as of June 2020, the cord-cutting entertainment leader has fixed its stay as a major player in the streaming world…

And it’s just as well. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, it could be argued that Netflix has been a saving grace for the (very bored) human race.

What else is there to do in the lockdown bar we refer to as Netflix and chill?

business idea
Mindvalley Live LA 2020 (Taken before Covid Lockdowns)

From Concept to Company

Netflix is one of the most successful businesses of our time — a mass-media monster that made binge-watching a global way of life.

They’re huge, and they’re getting even bigger.

But it hasn’t always been this way.

We were joined by Netflix Co-Founder Marc Randolph at Mindvalley University Online to give us the inside scoop on the company’s humble beginnings. Marc says, ‘People assume that Netflix has always been this successful. It isn’t true. We were tiny. We struggled.’

Netflix was born way back in 1998, but not as we know it. A far cry from the advanced streaming technologies used today, Netflix actually provided its services to customers by sending out physical copies of movies, shows, and video games to their home addresses.

Through its successful startup and rapid technological advances, Netflix then converted its business model from copy handouts to the at-home ad-hoc streaming that we know and love today.

Since Netflix, Marc has founded or co-founded six other successful startups, mentored hundreds of early-stage entrepreneurs, and as an investor has helped seed dozens of excellent tech ventures. Most recently, he co-founded the analytics software company Looker Data Sciences, where he now serves as director.

So was Netflix just one of many of Marc’s straightforward success stories? Absolutely not. But it certainly has been his most successful one.

When Marc Met Reed

Marc and his to-be Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings began their entrepreneurial love story behind the wheel. The duo began carpooling to a completely different company they were employed by at the time, brainstorming business ideas and bonding as friends.

And then the really fortunate thing happened, which is that both Reed and I were fired.

After being fired from a company that no longer ‘had room’ for them, the business duo got very curious about collaborating and studying the science of selling things over the mail. But it wasn’t just movies. They sent out shampoos, dog food, baseball bat – you name it, they’d sell it.

After a ton of trial and error, the duo finally birthed a small home entertainment delivery service that would eventually evolve into the most sophisticated entertainment home-streaming brand on the planet. But first, they had to pick a name, and there’s a pretty hilarious story that comes with it.

Netflix

Why the Name ‘Netflix’?

How did they come up with the name behind the brand?

It’s so hard to name a company’, Marc says. ‘It’s brutal…You can get the domain name, you get the Twitter, you get all these things, and all of a sudden you realize it means ‘go screw yourself’ in Turkish or something. So that’s out the window…

Out of sheer bad taste, they first settled on the name ‘Kibble’.

That’s right. Kibble.

The advice I got was to pick a beta name so bad, that when the time comes to really choose the name of your company, you’re not tempted to use it.

Realizing that using a brand name linked to canine gastronomy definitely wouldn’t cut it, they went back to the drawing board to come up with some other, more appropriate titles.

The new business team grabbed a whiteboard and made two columns – in the left column were names that were synonymous with the internet such as ‘web’ and ‘net’. On the right side were names that reflected the service they provided, like ‘video’, ‘movies’, and ‘flicks/flix’.

Netflix was one of the combinations on the list, but apparently many members of the team dismissed the idea. According to Marc, it was the ‘flicks’ part that put them off as it could be interpreted as a rather… unsavory choice.

‘Some of us were old enough to remember the dawn of the video age…and, uh, porno was referred to in those times as ‘Skin Flicks’. And with the cool use of that ‘X’, it sounded bad.’

The room was split, so they had a ballot. After hours of deliberation, Marc happily reported that the majority still voted for ‘Netflix’. 

‘You know, Netflix sounded a little porny, but it was the best we could do.’

And it worked. It still works. More than 20 years later the brand has become synonymous with streaming, maintaining its relevance and popularity by innovating and pivoting as the entertainment industry continues to shift and change.

Getting Down to Business (and Personal) Growth

So there you have it–the incredible success story behind Netflix straight from the co-founder’s mouth.

As you’ve seen, the road to success is rarely smooth. With the development of any kind, bumps and grazes are to be expected–after all, they’re not called ‘growing pains’ for nothing.

Both Marc Randolph and our founder know this to be true. That’s why Vishen was inspired to create quests at Mindvalley on how to keep growing despite the pitfalls (whether it’s business or personal) and rise above anything life throws at you.

So grab a pen and paper and strap in. Great change starts with you.


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Written by
Amy White