Marc Randolph | From Co-Founder and First CEO of Netflix to Selling to Google for $2.6 Billion
Marc Randolph
Smart Business Revolution

Marc Randolph is the Co-founder and first CEO of Netflix. He is a seasoned entrepreneur and advisor, and he has founded over a half dozen successful startups and mentored scores of other early-stage entrepreneurs throughout his career. Since his retirement from Netflix in 2003, Marc has become a sought-after international speaker who shares his wisdom with entrepreneurs around the world. 

Marc is the author of the internationally best-selling book That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea. He is now the host of the That Will Never Work Podcast. In addition to Netflix, one of his more recent companies was Looker Data Sciences which was sold to Google in 2019 for $2.6 billion. 

Marc Randolph, the Co-founder and first CEO of Netflix, is John Corcoran’s guest in this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where he talks about his entrepreneurial journey and the founding of Netflix. He also shares his experience working with Reed Hastings, meeting Jeff Bezos during the early days of Netflix, and writing his book. Stay tuned.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • The story of how Marc Randolph learned to ask for help from strangers 
  • What led to the founding of Netflix? 
  • How Marc’s previous work experience helped him start and grow Netflix
  • Where the name ‘Netflix’ came from
  • What Marc learned from working with Reed Hastings and meeting Jeff Bezos
  • How Marc’s family heritage has influenced his career
  • Marc’s feelings about the current Netflix, his thoughts on the name ‘That Will Never Work,’ and the future trends that excite him
  • How an event at Richard Branson’s island inspired Marc to write a book
  • The people Marc acknowledges for his achievements and success
  • Where to learn more and get in touch with Marc Randolph

Resources Mentioned:

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:14

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right. Welcome everyone. John Corcoran here. I’m the host of this show. You know, every week I get to talk to such interesting CEOs, founders, entrepreneurs, all kinds of different companies, ranging from YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, Lendingtree, Open Table, ACTS Software, and many more. I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects using podcasts and content marketing. Also, you know my story, I’m a recovering political hack and recovering lawyer, spent years working in politics, including as a speechwriter, stents work in the Clinton White House and for a California Governor. It’s been two years practicing law and 10 years ago, I discovered this medium of podcasting. I’ve been doing it ever since. And my guest today actually is a new convert to podcasting. And I say the more the merrier. I wish everyone would start a podcast because of so many great things that have flowed to my life. And I know that he’s going to benefit so tremendously from it. 

And his name is Marc Randolph. He was the Co-founder and first CEO of Netflix, a little company you may have heard of before. He’s a seasoned entrepreneur and advisor. He’s founded over a half dozen successful startups and mentored scores of other early-stage entrepreneurs throughout his career, which is actually what he’s doing on his new podcast. It’s really cool, you’ll have to check it out. Since his retirement from Netflix in 2003, Marc has become a sought-after international speaker sharing his wisdom with entrepreneurs around the world. He’s the author of the internationally best-selling book That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea, excuse me for butchering that and now he’s also the creator of the That Will Never Work podcast. And in addition to Netflix, one of his more recent companies was Looker Data Sciences, which was sold to Google in 2019 for $2.6 billion. 

Marc, such a pleasure to have you on here. And I want to take you back to a story that you told, I heard you tell. And I know, when I was in college, I was involved in some different political campaigns where I’d go knock on doors, door to door. And I think that was so formative for me. It’s such a great experience taking that raw rejection. I tell people all the time, go door to door, suffer rejection early on. And you told a story about you having to go out on the streets and survive and ask people for handouts. And in retrospect, it made raising money in Silicon Valley not that hard. Can you tell us a bit about that story?

Marc Randolph 2:59

Well, you’re certainly well, first of all, thanks, John, for having me on. And thanks for the shout-out on my new podcast here, which is all new territory for me. And it’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? That someone who basically had their biggest accomplishment being helping people spend more time in front of a screen is now doing something which is all audio. But life is strange that way. But the story that you’re referring to took place many, many years ago, when I had a summer, I had summer jobs. I’m kind of a big outdoors person and mountaineering, backpacking, and climbing. And so I spent my summers too much this summer, I’d worked out west, leading outdoor climbing trips. But then one month a year I would go and work for a school in Connecticut that uses the wilderness as more of a rehabilitation format. You know, they call it I for adjudicated youth, I think was the term but we call it a kind of informal hoods in the woods. And the way it would work is you take kids out of the inner city who basically pretty much never stepped off a sidewalk in their lives, and you put them out in the woods, you’d have them canoeing and climbing and rappelling and hiking. And of course, they’d feel out of their element. And it gave you a chance to show them this disconnect between what they believed was impossible, and what in fact was possible, and how they could apply that back to their lives. So anyway, the training for this one element of it was they wanted to have us be able to understand that feeling of being out of your element and of course they couldn’t put us in the woods because we were all totally comfortable there. So they flipped it and which is why one afternoon found me being pushed out of a van with no wallet and no watch and no money and no ID in the middle of Hartford, Connecticut with the promise They would come and pick me up three days later. And the only thing I had was a phone number written on my arm and a sharpie, which I could call if I got in trouble. But of course, I would rather shoot my arm off, then I used that phone number. But anyway, it was great. First, you know, I was out in the city, I was having no problems wandering around. And of course, being a 20, something young man began getting hungry, and decided I needed to eat. And my first strategy was, I went to the food court. This is a little embarrassing, but this is not a bad strategy. Actually. Yeah, I would hover. And I watched someone get up from their plate and walk away without busting their tray. And I’d swoop in. And I’d finished the half-eaten food on their plate, and I call it doing the seagull. But after a while, I said, Okay, I’m going to try and cut out the middleman here. I’m going to rather than scavenging me try and get some money, and I’ll buy my own food. And I came up with the idea that I would panhandle. And I thought, How hard could panhandling be? And the answer, of course, is really hard. There is something about having to walk up to someone and make this naked ask, or you just want money, and you have really nothing in return to give them. But, you know, as you were saying, having a door-to-door job, you very quickly learned to adapt. Yeah, wow, that person held the door open a fraction of a second longer, that person almost smiled for a moment, and you internalize what you did to get that reaction. And it took me probably an hour and a half just to get up the courage to finally approach someone. And then numerous tries before someone finally gave me something. But over the course of the afternoon, I got better. And the fascinating thing was that eventually what worked for me was being transparent, being honest, that going up to someone and saying, you know, could you help me out? I am really hungry. And they can see it in my face. And it was a connection. And it ended up working. And it was something I took with me because we’re always asking for things. We’re always asking for help. And many times the ask is disproportionate, what you have to give versus what you’re asking. And I found out as you refer to is that once you have spent a full afternoon panhandling for 50 cents on the streets of Hartford, Connecticut, it’s really not that tough asking for 25 or $50,000 for a startup. Hmm,

John Corcoran 7:50

yeah. Now, what’s really interesting is you had spent, you’d worked for other companies, but you really wanted to start your own company. And there’s the stories out there about Netflix starting because Reed Hastings had gotten a large overdue fee, which isn’t exactly true. And you kind of make the point in your book, that that’s not exactly it’s not like this kind of sudden incident that leads to a shock of lightning idea, but it’s rather more hard work. And it was actually a series of carpools. So I love that. Tell us that story.