Marc Randolph, Co-Founder of Netflix: Behind The Curtains

Marc Randolph has founded and co-founded over 6 businesses, one being the BI tool Looker and another being the $146 billion dollar behemoth, Netflix.  Today, Marc coaches startup founders and helps them unlock what’s holding them back. This is a peek behind the curtains of the man who’s a master of startups.

Marc Randolph Interview

Key Lessons

  1. Balance is key – rules must be unwavering:  Marc has been happily married for over 30 years and has a long record of successful businesses – it’s rare for someone to find the narrow space within the overlapping Venn diagram of the two. I asked how? Early on, Marc realised that he was in a marriage with his company and his wife; in order to keep the balance and make sure his professional life didn’t overrun his personal life, he put in practices. One rule he installed was that once a week, without exception, he would leave work at 5 pm, get a babysitter for his kids, and have a date night with his wife.  People had to learn to deal with him being unavailable on that day after 5 pm. Another discipline was to be completely present with his family when they were eating, no newspapers or mobile phones. 
  2. Stop over chunking, just get started: As a startup mentor and coach, Marc sees a lot of brilliant and smart founders and the one area Marc provides the most value to these founders is helping them remove their limiting beliefs – helping them with the programs they run in their mind that prevent them from executing, challenging the reasons they tell themselves why they ‘can’t’. The problem is, people often “build castles in their head”, as Marc calls it. They need to get their idea out of their mind, and just begin; no first draft is ever great, but at least you have something to work with and work on. Making the problem too big or complicated intimidates action; just get started and when you do, you realise the thing that’s been holding you back usually is not real.
  3. Listen to your customer and try everything: Netflix launched in 1997 when Blockbuster had a foothold in the video-rental industry. It took two years to find the ‘turning point’ to their failing idea and it It took seven years for it to become a mass success. The business only broke through when they solved two key customer pain-points: first, they got rid of due dates and late fees, they mailed you a movie and you could keep it for as long as you want, then you can mail it back, second, they removed the pay-per-movie model and changed to a subscription model – people could watch all the movies they wanted for a monthly fee. Although Marc had a background in mail-order businesses, it was the collective insights and experiences of his team, who kept on trying different ideas (and not just discussing the idea) addressing key customer pain-points, that allowed them to break through. 
  4. Aim to be functional, not perfect: You can spend weeks and months on trying to perfect something you’ve built, only to find out the results don’t help your business. That same lesson can be learnt a lot faster if you implement and test quickly and iteratively. Build something to the degree it solves the function required, not to your idea of perfection.
  5. Shifting before disruption takes more than foresight, it takes cultural and top-level belief: In many cases, even with Blockbuster, the disruptive technology or force is recognised by the CEO of the incumbent. However, in order to shift attention would mean slashing existing revenues and profits for what ‘might’ occur. This is a very difficult decision for a business leader to make, also this decision can rarely be made alone, there are board members and shareholders who can prevent the shift – as was the case with Blockbuster. It would’ve taken a lot of courage and belief for all of Blockbuster’s decision-makers to take their best people away from their $6 billion dollars a year business, and move them to their $6 million dollars a year business because it ‘could’ be the future. 
  6. No matter how much money you make, or how successful you become; you need to have and follow your purpose, or you’ll never feel fulfilled. After leaving Netflix, Marc took time off to discover what he wanted – he discovered that it wasn’t earning more money, or sitting on boards or starting businesses which provided that emotional congruency anymore, it was helping people who were starting up their own companies to remove their limiting beliefs, the mental obstacles that held them back from achieving their own great success. 

Want Marc as your Mentor? Althoug he is at capacity, you can always pitch him (you never know), to do so or find out more about him, go to his website

Got feedback for the show? Let me know Instagram at @FabXIII

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