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

by: Marc Randolph (0)

In the tradition of Phil Knight's Shoe Dog comes the incredible untold story of how Netflix went from concept to company-all revealed by co-founder and first CEO Marc Randolph.

Once upon a time, brick-and-mortar video stores were king. Late fees were ubiquitous, video-streaming unheard was of, and widespread DVD adoption seemed about as imminent as flying cars. Indeed, these were the widely accepted laws of the land in 1997, when Marc Randolph had an idea. It was a simple thought—leveraging the internet to rent movies—and was just one of many more and far worse proposals, like personalized baseball bats and a shampoo delivery service, that Randolph would pitch to his business partner, Reed Hastings, on their commute to work each morning.

But Hastings was intrigued, and the pair—with Hastings as the primary investor and Randolph as the CEO—founded a company. Now with over 150 million subscribers, Netflix's triumph feels inevitable, but the twenty first century's most disruptive start up began with few believers and calamity at every turn. From having to pitch his own mother on being an early investor, to the motel conference room that served as a first office, to server crashes on launch day, to the now-infamous meeting when Netflix brass pitched Blockbuster to acquire them, Marc Randolph's transformational journey exemplifies how anyone with grit, gut instincts, and determination can change the world—even with an idea that many think will never work.

What emerges, though, isn't just the inside story of one of the world's most iconic companies. Full of counter-intuitive concepts and written in binge-worthy prose, it answers some of our most fundamental questions about taking that leap of faith in business or in life: How do you begin? How do you weather disappointment and failure? How do you deal with success? What even is success?

From idea generation to team building to knowing when it's time to let go, That Will Never Work is not only the ultimate follow-your-dreams parable, but also one of the most dramatic and insightful entrepreneurial stories of our time.

The Quotes

People want to be treated like adults. They want to have a mission they believe in, a problem to solve, and space to solve it. They want to be surrounded by other adults whose abilities they respect.

What they really want is freedom and responsibility. They want to be loosely coupled but tightly aligned.

“If you really want to build an estate, own your own business. Control your own life.”

The Reviews

I enjoyed this book thoroughly. The book follows a format that works: it's a zero to one story that ties in business lessons and life lessons (similar to Ray Dalio's 'Principals', or Phil Knight's 'Shoe Dog'). The story itself is fascinating - it captures the grind, the fun, and the adventure of building something. In the final portion of the book Randolph really opens up - he speaks to why he started something, and why he left his baby. Ultimately he left this reader thinking... what are all the things I want to do that people have said "that will never work?" And which of them should I take steps towards trying.Would recommend to anyone with an idea (business or otherwise). Resonated especially strongly with me as a young person, early in my career, trying to find my passion and determine how much risk is appropriate at this point in my life.

Some history on Netflix from one person’s view, but it is extensively an autobiography and a rationalization of decisions by an early founder who made an impact in the early days but bowed out with cash and left it to others to zoom to dominate world class. Like many entrepreneur treatises it is full of advice and ego, enclosed in an envelope of tailored humility. I’ve started a couple companies and appreciate all the twists and turns, but timing and luck play the largest role in most endeavors.After an early success I once pontificated for six months, then after a couple failures humility returned. Been there, done that, and am embarrassed that I once “knew it all”.Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog captured my interest enough to read it twice, I had to struggle through this Netflix one. The author is probably a good guy, and he made significant things happen. But, he would not do well in a career as an author.

Marc is a hero to me. Mark started a business from just an idea , not many business make it and netflix is still open.I like the way Marc and Hasting worked together and how much Marc cares for people. I am inspired by what Marc has done.He started a business ,is married and has great kids. Marc has made the world a better place. He helps people. Marc was fired from his own company and did not act like a baby he seem to understand his role is a founder not a manager. After I finished reading the book I decided I have a new friend, Marc.IIf you have started a business reading books like this can give you the hope to keep going, when people around you tell you IT WILL NEVER WORK No body knows anything.

One of the best business (or any) books I've read. Randolph's writing style and "voice" are funny, clever and this book is a fast read. Want to learn how Netflix started, all the crazy ideas they had (before Netflix) and get an inside view of what it took to build this tech and media giant - get the book. The flow of the story, the authentic and often times, humble admissions by the writer gave me the feeling that I was there, that it was real and it took a lot of hard work to pull this off. Highly recommend this book for entrepreneurs, students and I even bought one for my kid.

Really well done. The author, Marc Randolph, reads the CD version and does a great job. Lots of insights about the early days of Netflix and startups in general. The original name of Netflix was "" Great story there. Marc also includes many interesting stories about life outside the office. Marc's podcast "That Will Never Work" is also worth checking-out.

Some books I start and never finish. Other books I finish but there are parts I have to wade thorough. This book was a joy from start to finish. Not only did I enjoy the story, but I found myself wanting to meet the author in person. As a San Jose resident, I knew many of the places and car rides he mentioned - and that added to the enjoyment.Well done, Marc!

Good book, starts kind of slow, and spans both good and tenuous times those in the tech industry know well. There are some superb quotes, findings, and tips - just maybe not those that Marc Randolph thinks are important.This isn’t a Michael Lewis or even John Carreyrou book.He sprinkles humility and family throughout the book, which is great, and isn’t a spendthrift - also fine. I guess in today’s world, he’d be driving a Prius or Civic and not a Tesla, also okay.But I found it interesting that highlights from other users/readers are plentiful in the beginning - weirdly so - then completely stop 1/3 of the way through.Is it because readers think that he’s an arrogant douche? Might be.I really don’t look forward to ever meeting him. He’s a startup guy. He’s a product and innovation guy. I know people like him, and get along well. But completely ignoring 9/11 and everything that did to the New York area - and other reasons that Silicon Valley had its metaphorical face rearranged from 2001-2004 - kind of sickens me.Great, Netflix. But grow up a bit, dude.

Most Fun Business Book all year!I tore through this book- I could not put it down. As a long-time NFLX investor, I've always been fascinated by this ever-evolving company, it's unique culture and strong leadership.I was always a Reed Hastings fan- now I am a Marc Randolph fan!His candid, fast-paced, and genuine telling of the early days of NFLX is compelling. Although it is full of business lessons, it is never preachy or arrogant like most books of this type.Marc Randolph, with humility and grace, tells us the quirks, stumbles, and victories along the way of the early days at NFLX. What a gift this book is to us readers- it is a little bit of magic to be transported, and along with him and his small team in the early days.This book is a must read for investors, business people, and anyone trying to do something hard that is unconventional.

Excellent book detailing the journey of Netflix from concept to global giant. Most people don’t know that over the years they had great years and also had years that almost put them out of business. There are no overnight successes in business but the book shows that if you have a great idea, financial backing, a great team of dedicated employees and some luck, the sky is the limit.

That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea
⭐ 4.6 💛 2212
kindle: $14.99
paperback: $13.88
hardcover: $2.80
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