December 1, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Swaziland: Business: Internet: Movies: Entrepreneurship: Inc.: Reed Hastings discusses "Smart Risks"

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Reed Hastings discusses "Smart Risks"

Reed Hastings discusses Smart Risks

"I joined the Peace Corps after graduate school and went to teach high school math in Swaziland, out of a combination of service and adventure. It was an extremely satisfying experience. Taking smart risks can be very gratifying. Guessing right is a skill developed over time. Not all smart risks work out, but many of them do." Businessman and Internet Visionary Reed Hastings of California, the founder of Netflix, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Swaziland.

Reed Hastings discusses "Smart Risks"

Q&A: Reed Hastings, Netflix

The founder of Netflix on developing a passion brand, and sustaining it as passions change.
From: Inc. Magazine, December 2005 | Page 119 By: Patrick J. Sauer

Every day, a million red envelopes, carrying a million DVDs, circulate through the veins of the United States Postal Service, spreading cinematic joy. (Fargo to Fairbanks! Bustin' Loose to Tuscaloosa! The Onion Field to Vidalia! The Battle of Algiers to Kennebunkport!) It's all thanks to Netflix, brainchild of Reed Hastings, who in 1997 saw a way to combine Americans' love of movies with their love of not getting off the sofa even to go to the video store. Netflix launched its Internet-based subscription service in 1999 and signed up 239,000 movie lovers in the first year. Today it has nearly four million subscribers who choose from 50,000 titles. The company, which went public in 2002, expects to report $687 million in revenue for 2005.

Hastings survived a serious challenge from Wal-Mart in 2005--the giant blinked first, or yawned--and now his focus is Blockbuster. Hastings likes to point out that Netflix is already four times bigger than Blockbuster in the online segment and is continually investing in marketing. You may have noticed the ubiquitous Netflix pop-under advertisement; it's the reason the company was second in online advertising dollars spent last year.

Netflix was originally a single rental service, but the subscription model was one of a few ideas we had--so there was no Aha! moment. Having unlimited due dates and no late fees has worked in a powerful way and now seems obvious, but at that time we had no idea if consumers would even build and use an online queue. It was still a dial-up, VHS world and most video stores didn't carry DVDs, so we were able to sign up early adapters. By the time there were enough DVD owners, we had gotten better and better and broadband had grown.

I founded Pure Software in 1991 around a debugging tool for engineers; I was an engineer myself. We doubled our revenue every year, but my transformation from engineer to CEO was when Morgan Stanley took the company public in 1995. We went from one great niche item to a broad portfolio of products, significantly improving the quality of software. We were then acquired by Rational Software in 1997 for $750 million, which gave me the means to start Netflix.


I joined the Peace Corps after graduate school and went to teach high school math in Swaziland, out of a combination of service and adventure. It was an extremely satisfying experience. Taking smart risks can be very gratifying. Guessing right is a skill developed over time. Not all smart risks work out, but many of them do.

I got back into education after leaving Pure Software, helping the passage of California Proposition 39, which lowered the threshold for voters to pass a school bond from two-thirds to a 55% majority. I also spent three years as president of the state board of education. I'm currently funding a study at Stanford of 300 schools, examining why there are so many variants in similar student demographics. It's not a level playing field in K through 12 and we have to make it more equitable and successful to enhance what should be the strength of society, public education. I am an active supporter of the charter school movement. California is steadily adding 60 to 80 a year, which is healthy.

I have a home theater and watch a lot of movies, but my wife and I still go to the theater a couple of times a month because I like to get the popcorn and sit in the dark with an audience.

I don't want to get into production. There are passionate, talented filmmakers out there and I would pollute the craft.

I'm happy where I am. It's been eight years at Netflix and I feel it's just beginning. I have no need or desire to be acquired. We're making money, haven't used cash for three years, and have no problem with scale sufficiency. Being an entrepreneur is about patience and persistence, not the quick buck, and everything great is hard and takes a long time. If we can transform the movie biz by making it easier for people to discover movies they will love and for producers and directors to find the right audience through Netflix, and can transform public education through charter schools, that's enough for me.

When this story was posted in January 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Why blurring the lines puts PCVs in danger Date: October 22 2005 No: 738 Why blurring the lines puts PCVs in danger
When the National Call to Service legislation was amended to include Peace Corps in December of 2002, this country had not yet invaded Iraq and was not in prolonged military engagement in the Middle East, as it is now. Read the story of how one volunteer spent three years in captivity from 1976 to 1980 as the hostage of a insurrection group in Colombia in Joanne Marie Roll's op-ed on why this legislation may put soldier/PCVs in the same kind of danger. Latest: Read the ongoing dialog on the subject.

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Don Mosley to receive Pacem in Terris honor 17 Oct
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Story Source: Inc.

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Figures; COS - Swaziland; Business; Internet; Movies; Entrepreneurship


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