That Will Never Work:
The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea
You’ve heard the Netflix founding story, right? About an entrepreneur who gets fed up with video rental fees, has a brilliant idea about DVDs-by-mail, and launches a company that revolutionizes the entertainment world? It’s the stuff of startup legend.
Except that’s not the whole picture. The full story is a lot more complicated, involves a lot more people, and makes for a much better story.
“An engaging and insightful glimpse into the first few years at Netflix“
— Reed Hastings, CEO Netflix
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That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea
That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea is the real-life, totally improbable story of the early days of Netflix, told by co-founder Marc Randolph, against the backdrop of Silicon Valley’s late ‘90s “era of irrational exuberance”.
Instead of a flash of insight, the whole thing begins with a long series of potential business ventures, dreamed up by Randolph and his business partner Reed Hastings every morning as they carpool to work: customized baseball bats; a shampoo delivery service; custom formulated pet food. Even after hitting on the idea that will eventually become Netflix, it takes months for them to recognize the promise it holds…and much longer to figure out how to make it happen.
Today, the success of Netflix might feel like a foregone conclusion, but Marc’s story shines a bright light on all the times it nearly doesn’t work–and all the people who help make sure it does. There are investors who believe in the idea as fervently as he does, and others who have to be convinced (including his own mother). There are skeptics pointing out crucial flaws, and a core team of brilliant optimists charging ahead despite the odds.
Along the way, the story offers a real education in the craft of the startup venture, with plenty of insights that remain relevant and applicable today, in Silicon Valley and far beyond. Often, that insight comes from surprising places, from wilderness backpacking trips to panhandling for change on a Hartford sidewalk. And a lot of it, like Netflix’s now legendary company culture, comes from gut instinct and a huge amount of trial and error.
That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea manages something few memoirs achieve, by telling an honest, vivid story about fascinating characters under intense pressure, while illustrating universal truths about entrepreneurship, innovation, and the power of grit and determination. If you’ve ever been curious how a great idea becomes a world-changing company–if you’ve wanted to take a ground level seat and watch the whole story unfold–this is the book that can take you there.
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Marc Randolph swings by. Marc is an American tech entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Netflix.
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