Marc Randolf’s Accounts of His Time with Netflix and Working as a MentorDecember 10, 2020
By April 2020, Netflix had over 193 million subscriptions globally, with 73 million coming from the United States. The company develops and distributes content from various countries, except China, North Korea, and Crimea. While it now holds a revenue of 20.16 billion, the company was once a small startup established in 1997 by Marc Randolf and Reed Hastings. Marc Randolf is a crucial figure in the company having co-founded and served as its first CEO before stepping down in 1999. Randolf is okay with the fact that he is an invisible figure in the company and also his choice to leave before Netflix grew into the streaming giant we know today.
Growth of Netflix
Randolf recounts the growth of Netflix from a startup that employed eight people in 1997 when DVDs entered the United States market in his memoir, That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea. Randolf and Hastings considered selling the company to Amazon in 1998.
The two co-founders met Jeff Bezos and received an offer of about $14 and $116 million. Netflix was a year old, and Randolf found the bid quite reasonable, but Hastings objected. They weighed the advantages and disadvantages of selling the company to Amazon. While DVD sales were lucrative, 3% of the company’s revenue came from rentals, and Netflix would have to compete with Amazon if they declined the offer.
Selling Netflix would solve these problems or at the very least become part of a company with deeper pockets. However, they were on the verge of something big, so the duo turned down the offer and doubled down on rentals. Although Amazon outperformed them when it joined the DVD market, the decision not to sell paid off eventually.
Randolf stepped down as Netflix’s board member and the president to sell his stocks without frightening the shareholders. Investors and banks do not typically view a company’s top executive selling massive shares positively. He could also use the time to do what he wants, like mentoring other entrepreneurs and spending time with his family.
Randolf realized that he enjoys the early stages of companies and is also good at it. He likes chaos and working on multiple things simultaneously. He missed brainstorming Netflix ideas in Hasting’s car and working out of diners.
Working as a Mentor
Randolf tried to work as an advisor for companies but sooner realized that several founders only wanted to have his name on their pitches. Mentoring presents him with the excitement associated with startups without living the 24/7 lifestyle.
While does not invest in companies he mentors, he made an exception with Looker. He has served as the company’s mentor since it was founded in 2012, funded during the seeding stages, and became the first employee.
Randolf typically works with two or three founders at ago because he takes time to understand them deeply on a professional and personal level. Being friends with his clients allows him to serve them well, plunging in when crisis strikes.