Six entrepreneurship tips from Netflix founder

Netflix and chill. That’s the weekend plan most of us love looking forward to, especially post-pandemic.

Apart from helping us unwind, Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings, the co-founders of video streaming giant Netflix, also inspire the entrepreneur in us.

Marc Randolph, a business entrepreneur who works with and grooms various organisations and students, has authored a well-received book titled That Will Never Work.

In this book, he imparts essential business lessons—from idea generation and market testing to community building and failure. He elaborates on key practices like optimism, persistence, and creativity that are pre-requisites for a business to take the route towards success.

A platform that brewed gradually under a sticky web of bad and unsuccessful ideas, Netflix currently boasts of a whopping 220.67 million paid subscribers worldwide.

Sixteen years after leaving Netflix, Marc wrote this book because he wanted to share the crucial lessons he’d learnt repeatedly during his tenure with Netflix and prior to its formation. He had reached a point in his entrepreneurial journey where he understood what it took to start a company from level zero and take it to the incredible heights of success that Netflix has reached today.

Marc also wrote his book because back then, every time he discussed a business idea with his peers and kin, he was often told “that will never work”.

We’ve compiled six of the most important entrepreneurial lessons Marc covers in his book. He believes that these are lessons that can be applicable to any aspiring entrepreneur with an idea.

Find the courage to take risks

It’s a known fact in the business world that taking risks is fundamental to all new ventures.

However, according to Marc, entrepreneurs need to have a high tolerance for such risk-taking if they want to keep improving and developing their businesses.

Startups have the advantage of experimenting and risk-taking, which established corporations do not. While the latter are compelled to go by strategies that have worked for them, startups have the bandwidth to test their product and assess its viability since they have much less to lose than their seasoned counterparts.

Have a robust capacity to generate ideas

When you start your company with one idea, it’s not enough if you’re aiming to reach greater heights of success.

“An aspiring entrepreneur needs at least hundreds or thousands of ideas,” Marc says, “which need to be sought constantly.”

He further ruminates that entrepreneurs may have several disruptive ideas in their heads but most times, they don’t strategise on ways to begin executing these ideas. Instead, they are more focused on why these ideas will not work.

“If you want to build a business, you need to be persistent,” he stresses.

Startups need to invest resources and skills into making these ideas a reality, come what may. That brings us to the next valuable learning in business Marc offers in his book.

Know that communication is key

Without a solid business strategy, regular performance assessment, and financial forecasts, you’d be like an octopus on skates! You won’t know where you’re headed.

Marc emphasises the fact that businesses need to have designated organisational structures and a sturdy growth trajectory in place, to communicate successfully with investors.

Understand your target market

Every idea that an entrepreneur generates and executes may not make the cut.

“First, get creative and get a feeler to find out whether anyone cares about your concept.” If they do, then you need to study that section of your target market, its demographic, and needs thoroughly.

When your ideas fail, you need to take rejection as a form of constructive criticism and keep working on your shortcomings. However, understanding your target audiences and keeping up with their ever-changing taste will not entirely avoid mistakes but will definitely help reduce them.

Take failure in your stride

Recalling a pivotal incident in his entrepreneurial journey, Marc writes about the time when Netflix approached former video renting giant Blockbuster for a potential business partnership. Though this was a failed attempt for Marc and his co-worker, it was for the best is what he concludes.

“We offered a price and were rejected instantly. But we took it as a challenge and decided to defeat Blockbuster,” he recalls. 

Disrupt, innovate, and create

According to Marc, we are living in an age of disruption, innovation, and creativity. So entrepreneurs need to be aware of potential market shifts and develop mechanisms to stay on the bandwagon of innovation.

In his words, “If you don’t know how to disrupt yourself, someone will come along and disrupt you for you.”

Marc further reiterates that successful entrepreneurship is never about having good ideas.

“It’s about building a system, a process or a culture for testing lots of bad ideas. The key to being successful is not how good your ideas are, but about how good you are in finding quick, cheap, and easy ways to try your ideas.”

He urges upcoming entrepreneurs to have courage in their journey of building a business. It is of absolute importance to build a team that understands and is aligned with your vision. But what’s more important is to work with people outside your organisation, who share your values and goals, Marc says.

That Will Never Work is a must-read if you have an entrepreneur aspiration. We hope these insightful learnings about entrepreneurship by Marc Randolph help you build the empire you’ve always dreamed of!