That Will Never Work: Netflix’s co-founder Marc Randolph details the journey of the company in this tell-all tale

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Published: November 24, 2019 12:17:54 AM

The book, That Will Never Work, is divided into 18 small chapters, besides an epilogue that details Randolph’s lesson for successful start-ups. Randolph dismisses some of the myths regarding the creation of Netflix.

If you would like to know about the journey of Netflix, this is the book.If you would like to know about the journey of Netflix, this is the book.

Founders’ stories are always interesting. They try to regale you with their successes, their failures and that eureka moment. Some founders project themselves as near god-like, achieving Herculean tasks that no one else could have done — there is a hint of humility too in being herculean — others are more down to earth in detailing their failures and strengths. Most of all there is a common theme: “we fell, we dusted ourselves and, like a phoenix, we rose again”. Marc Randolph’s journey as the co-founder of Netflix is no different. He falls in the latter category — the not-so bragging types — and details each aspect of Netflix’s development in the book. What’s interesting, though, is that Randolph’s is not a boring tell-all tale. It’s not too interesting either. Each chapter symbolises a problem, followed by a lesson. The book makes for a fun read if you discount the mechanical way of writing. There are some important lessons, but none that you couldn’t have found anywhere. If you would like to know about the journey of Netflix, this is the book.

The book, That Will Never Work, is divided into 18 small chapters, besides an epilogue that details Randolph’s lesson for successful start-ups. Randolph dismisses some of the myths regarding the creation of Netflix.

Much like Apple’s story of the apple in their logo being a tribute to Alan Turing, Netflix’s story begins with Randolph’s other partner Hastings incurring a $40 overdue rental on a DVD. Randolph, in all earnest, explains his role as an overeager entrepreneur trying to convince Hastings of an idea.

The author explains how they started acting on the idea of a rental company and when the model pivoted to a monthly fee design, a subscription service. The more important feature, though, is the evolution of Randolph from being the CEO of the company to becoming its president. After failures from Amazon and Blockbuster, Randolph jumped over to expanding the business, when self-realisation hit that he’s not cut out for the task. This kind of analysis is what most start-up founders, especially successful ones, will shy away from. Randolph details the struggle when he realised that he was not cut out to be the CEO of a growing enterprise and had to make way for Hastings. The decision did reap benefits at a later stage.

One of the most difficult decisions for any person is to know when to quit. Quitting ahead of the game is important. Randolph’s account is a testament to this. For a founder to strike the right deal at the right time is most important. Had Netflix been bought by Blockbuster, you would never have seen a subscription-based model for videos. Similarly, had the Amazon gig worked, the company would have been wiped out by Amazon itself.

This stark realisation is the thing that most founders crave for. If you are looking for a book that details how you can make money, I would suggest you go for a self-help book. Randolph is just detailing how Netflix was made, it has got nothing to do with how you make your start-up. You can always learn from his experiments, but that is where the buck stops. Netflix’s story can’t certainly be yours. There is no eureka moment.

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