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That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea by Marc Randolph

My Rating of “That Will Never Work : The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea” by Marc Randolph: 8 / 10

Netflix is a great story! I’ve read a few books now that cover the journey this organisation has taken. This one is written by one of the co-founders and takes you from the initial idea through to IPO. As a result, you get unique insight into a fantastic story of a start-up to multi-billion dollar multi-national. Netflix has all the ingredients of start-up, disruption, transformation, new business models, IoT, AI and much much more. Although Marc Randolph touches on some of them, you get his insight and thinking into the journey that he and Reed Hastings took in the mid-90s through to the early 2000s.

Not all of the above is detailed in his book, however, you will get insight into the mind of Marc Randolph as well as his relationship with Reed Hastings. Marc wrote and narrated the book and I appreciated his openness and opinions of events throughout his story. For example, it was Reed that convinced Marc that he had to take over and for Marc to step down. Reading the intricate details on how that happened, the IPO events, the meeting with Blockbuster in Dallas and others was fascinating and something I haven’t come across with the other books I have read before.

If you’re looking to read a book to better understand today’s Netflix then I suggest you pick something else. This book stops just after the IPO in 2002; as we all know a lot has happened since then! That said, uncovering what it is like to create a start-up organisation, culture and product then this book is a must-read.

Three Key Takeaways (+ one bonus)

  1. For every good idea, there are a thousand bad ones. And sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference.
  2. No business plan survives a collision with a real customer. So the trick is to take your idea and set it on a collision course with reality as soon as possible.
  3. Real innovation comes not from top-down pronouncements and narrowly defined tasks. It comes from hiring innovators focused on the big picture who can orient themselves within a problem and solve it without having their hand held the whole time. We call it being loosely coupled but tightly aligned.
  4. And for something fun, here were all the names the team debated before coming up with the company name of Netflix:
    • TakeOne
      • TakeTwo
      • SceneOne
      • SceneTwo
      • Flix.com
      • Fastforward
      • NowShowing
      • Directpix
      • Videopix
      • E-Flix.com
      • NetFlix
      • CinemaCenter
      • WebFlix
      • CinemaDirect
      • NetPix

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