How Netflix founder finds inspiring ideas

This is the big question I have for this interview: How do you decide what to do with your life? And I have the perfect guest to guide me through that question.

Marc Randolph is the co-founder of Netflix. I want to talk to him about that, and why he’s now in podcasting. Today, Marc is the host of That Will Never Work where he works directly with entrepreneurs who have been told “that will never work,” helping them turn their early or struggling businesses into sustainable companies.

The podcast is in all major apps, just search for Mixergy.
You can also use our RSS Feed RSS feed.

Marc Randolph

Marc Randolph

That Will Never Work

Marc Randolph is the host of That Will Never Work where he works directly with entrepreneurs who have been told “that will never work,” helping them turn their early or struggling businesses into sustainable companies.

roll-angle

Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses for an audience of entrepreneurs. And joining me is someone I’ve wanted to have on as a guest for fricking years. largely because I was fascinated by his story.

And for a long time, I felt that it was just undertold. Um, his name is Marc Randolph. And when I told my wife today that I was going to get to interview the founder of Netflix, she said, oh, Reed Hastings. I said, no, Marc Randolph said, you sure you didn’t get to know? I go, no, he is. I feel you’re called the co-founder.

I believe Marc, that you are the founder of Netflix. Anyway, I want to hear the story of, of Netflix a little bit. And my biggest interest is mark. How do you figure out what to do with your life? Like how do you figure out that Netflix is the thing you want to spend time on before that it feels like you understood that direct marketing was a passion after you create Netflix?

How do you figure out what to do today? You’re podcasting, which is kind of interesting to me because. Fricking loved your book that will never work. And your podcast name is called, that will never work. So how do you figure out what to do with your life is my big goal here. And then maybe we can tell some of the story of Netflix and some of the stuff that happened before.

And I could do that. Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors, neither of which my guest has heard about. And maybe you didn’t hear about the first one it’s called lemon.io. It’s a great place to go and hire developers from Eastern Europe. I’ll tell you later why you should go to lemmon.io/mixergy. And second is HostGator.

You’ve heard me talk about why I host with them, but I’ll talk about those later first market Tabby here.

Marc: Thank you, Andrew. It’s a pleasure to be here.

and dispel all kinds of rumors and, and make your wife comfortable that yes, in fact,

Andrew: That I wasn’t snowed.

Marc: the right Netflix guy.

Andrew: I wonder mark, did you feel for a long time that maybe you were being overshadowed by Reed Hastings, the investor friend who then ended up being the leader of Netflix and drew a lot of attention?

Marc: No, that’s the wrong emotion. I wasn’t, I never felt overshadowed. You know, this thing about co-founder or founder is kind of this overblown title, because it’s really hard if you actually think about it, to say, what is a founder who is a founder who gets to wear that title? And because, you know, the, the patrimony of a business is incredibly complicated.

It’s involved. Lots of people. Is it the person who was there at the very beginning, or is it the person who comes up with the idea which takes an oh six or seven year old company, but totally brings it in a new direction that makes it work. Is it the key. So in other words, I’m rambling about this, but it’s because I don’t get too bent out of shape about it.

I mean, Reed and I have traditionally called ourselves co-founders because in many ways the two of us were there in the car. When we first kind of came up with an idea, uh, the two of us were the ones who kind of looked each other in the eye and said, Let’s do this. Um, and I think if there’s going to be a definition of what counts as being a founder or co-founder, um, I think that’s a good one.

So in that case, I would put Reed and I kind of on an equal, equal footing.

Andrew: Let’s go back then to that period, you were about to start a new phase of your life, I guess you were working for. Bunny that was acquired by his company by Reed Hastings company. Right. You then, um, said, I’m going, my next thing is going to be to start a business. And then you and read on a drive would just bat ideas around what are some of the bad ideas that you kicked around that in retrospect, you think I’m glad we didn’t do that.

Marc: Well, you know, it’s true. You framed that, uh, pretty well, which is that this is not like all of a sudden I woke up one morning and went aha, Eureka, um, streaming video, you know? No, it doesn’t happen like that. Uh, it was. Simpler, um, Genesis, which is basically, uh, the company that I was working for, which was the company that.

Reed Hastings had founded and was CEO of, was being acquired.

And so both Reed and I were going to be out of. And for me, it was obvious. At least to me, it was obvious that I was going to start another company because Netflix was actually number six. So there was this habit of, well, of course, I’m going to have to finish one onto the next. Um, and

Andrew: But, uh, but if I understand it, right, this was pure atria was the company that he founded that you were working for the up until then. It was always you mark working for someone else, right. Leading a charge for them. But you weren’t, if I’m understanding right. An entrepreneur or starting something on your own, or maybe I’m

Marc: No. I, I, I challenge that too. I think an entrepreneur does not need to be half to this singular person who goes out and against all odds by themselves raises no, an entrepreneur is basically someone who is trying something that hasn’t been done before. Uh, and that can be done inside of a much larger company that can, be done inside a department that can be done if I’m going to start a club or I’m going to do a nonprofit.

Um, and so I had. Launch something by myself. That was a venture funded company. Like Netflix was with all these previous companies that I been a part of founding. I would absolutely say we’re entrepreneurial journeys and in some ways were more and more difficult than starting Netflix. Pardon me?

Andrew: It ma can we dip into one? Is, is Borland international, the place where you were, where, where you had the biggest entrepreneurial creation or was it somewhere else?

Marc: No, I would, in fact, well, that’s a, that’s a good one. It can’t, it, this is like saying which of your kids is your favorite, but it’s like Berlin, for example, uh, was within a large company. This was taking a company, which in that case was basically selling things entirely through computer stores and saying, I think there’s a way to sell directly to end users and eventually building up, um, A huge organism company within Borland that sold direct to consumers.

So, yes, that was a big one, but we started with resources that a large company has. I didn’t have to invent the product. I was just basically inventing the way it gets sold. If you go back further. I mean, it’s probably the hardest ones were things like launching. We launched a company called Mac user magazine.

Uh, and then again, I launched a mail order company called Mac warehouse and then another one called micro warehouse. Those were in some ways harder because that was spun out of whole cloth. You know, there was nothing before and you had to go down and say, how are we going to differentiate ourselves? How are we going to fill orders?

How are we going to acquire customers? You had to invent the whole thing

Andrew: These are mail order based companies. I’m wondering mark, if you could take me a step back before, how are we going to create, uh, how are we going to fulfill orders? How are we going to get customers? I wonder if you could take me back a step and say, how did you even know that that was going to be a thing?

I mean, you’re talking about these catalogs. I remember them growing up. They were treasured by Mac people. They were really, uh, ex uh, software people, really excited about them. They were the best way to order, uh, products. If you were. City that didn’t have a wonderful computer store, which most people didn’t.

I’m wondering, how did you even know this is the idea that we’re going to pursue? How do you come up with those ideas?

Marc: direct marketing was kind of my. Career, if you want to say that tech entrepreneurs, my second career, I was a direct marketing guy. I was a junk mail king. You know, I did catalogs. I did mail order. I did magazine circulation, all this

Andrew: And from what I understand, you fell in love with that because your dad got you a job at cherry lane music company. Back when you were, I think in college, you got excited about that. And then you said, this is, this is where I want to spend my time.

Marc: Yeah, it was a bizarre thing. The job that I got at this company was my first job, kind of my second job out of college. And I was basically, you know, a gopher I was following my job was to follow the CEO around with a pad and keep him honest and keep the people who committed to him. Honest. I mean, now they have it’s called chief of staff or some glorified role, but I was a gopher, but.

It was a music publishing company with all these different divisions. And one of them was a mail order division. And for some reason I was fascinated by that. And at the time it was incredibly primitive. Uh, and I, for reasons I don’t even understand now told the CEO. I want to work and do that. And he goes, okay, that can, no, one’s going to wants to do that.

But if you want to do it, you’re on. And it spoke to me, I think possibly because direct marketing is so left brain and right brain. It has a very much a creative aspect to it. You have to write, you have to convince people. You’ve got to use remote empathy to understand how someone’s going to perceive something when they get it in the mail or see it in TV, or see it in a magazine advertisement.

But then. It has this very analytic element to it, which is everything’s measured, you know, after the fact just six decimal points, why the blue envelope is better than the red, but I love that. And that kicked off this whole career. So I did the mail order division. Then when this company launched a magazine, it was like, uh, we have all the editorial folks need.

We have all the art direction folks. Uh, we need someone to do the circulation. And I thought I’d have to fight for that job. Lo and behold, it was one of those, everyone who wants to do a circulation, uh, take one step backwards and there I was standing forward. Um, uh, but anyway, so I did magazine circulation.

We launched a magazine, uh, within this company and then kind of the bigger break came when I was hired by. Company to launch a new Mac magazine and did that. And then you guys along, I, it’s very hard for me to answer questions in a pithy quick way. So I got to apologize here, but you’re kind, kinda talking about how this all, uh, came about.

And it became, because at the magazine we were launching Mac user magazine, we’re struggling to make it economically work. And we noticed that these mail order companies are placing huge. It’s in all they at magazines, like they’re buying 15 page inserts in the computer magazines, and we knew enough about mail order to know.

Usually that doesn’t work so easily either they’re stupid or this is so profitable for them. They’re making them. Right out the gate and they could afford to do these big advertisements. So of course, when we sold the magazine to Ziff Davis, we said we’re brand off, get us into the catalog business. Uh,

Andrew: the catalog companies are buying pages and pages of ads, they’re either stupid and burning money or they’re making a lot of money and we’re stupid for not getting in it. You decided the latter had to be true and you got into it.

Marc: Yes. And it.

and it was, it was a really interesting time. I mean, that was the mechanism for how people were buying computer software. They’re buying Dell was launching, then people were buying computers that way. It was kind of this age of realizing. You can sell almost anything. Um, I mean, one of the big, this is kind of geeky, but one of the big things that we pioneered at Mac warehouse that I pioneered there was overnight shipping.

That was a brand new thing, which was, uh, enabled by the rise of federal express and then DHL and the other services. And so it was. I wonder if we can use this system designed for mail and deliver products. And we blew people’s minds when you order something at two o’clock in the afternoon, and it shows up on your desk the next day that never happened.

So, you know, you, you get she has to innovate even there was innovation, believe it or not, you know, even prior to the internet coming along. But, you know, when the internet came along, that was the transition and that kind of leads us right back to the Netflix story is I

Andrew: to the Netflix story, um, I’m sorry. I usually would want to just let you tell the story and then draw our own conclusion, but I’m hoping you can help me here because otherwise it’s going

Marc: I’ll relax.

Andrew: it. Help me understand then what do I take away from this point in your life about how you came up with the ideas that were worth spending time on?

If I were going to say I’m going to follow mark Randolph’s path, he’s clearly done it multiple times. What do I do? Is it that I just dabble until I find the thing that I love and then look for the quirky wins that I could get excited about and spend more time on that. Is that the thing I take away?

Marc: Yeah.

Yes. I mean, that’s a simple way to express it. It’s it’s first of all, it’s being patient. You know, it’s these days, these days, kids, these days, you know, they’re also, they all figure they have to know what they want to do by the time they’re seven. Uh, you have to focus, you have to major and, you know, relax, you know, you’ve got gotta, you have to be receptive to finding things that resonate with you.

And if you preconceive what those things are, They’re going to go right by you. So, number one is you’ve gotta be open to finding things that fascinate you, you have to be curious. Um, and when something interests you. you have to pursue it. And I don’t mean quit your job or drop out of school to pursue it.

I mean, figure out some way to dabble in it. Do an experiment, indulge your curiosity that does not need to meet some hurdle of this is big enough that. it could eventually, you know, like live off it, just do something.

Andrew: What’s one

Marc: that’s the pattern over and over and over in my life is just be

Andrew: Can you give me one, can you give me one example in the early days, we’re still talking about you in college, soon, afterwards, picking up on things that excited you, was there something that you were doing that didn’t excite you, that we can get a sense of how to drop things that don’t work?

Or was it just that you happened to end up at this job at cherry lane and then things took off from there.

Marc: No, no. And listen, I’ve had. You know, jobs have crappy parts to them too. Uh, what you’re trying to find is the balance between wanting to do and need to do, and

Andrew: What’s an example of a crappy job that you had to say, I’m going to pass on.

Marc: So, you know, it’s not, I’m sorry. I got to keep, I take this interview seriously, Andrew. So I’m I got to correct you when I think you’re going off in the wrong direction here. When I say some things, you know, there’s there’s need to do and want to do you go, I have this incredibly great idea of something I want to test.

I want to try. I think, I think we do a green envelope with a window in it. It’s going to completely beat our old model. That’s exciting. I can’t wait to see the results, but someone has to spec out the exact, the art department needs to know exactly how big the envelope is, what thickness paper let’s approve the color.

I hate all that stuff. I hate all the transactional details behind making my ideas come alive. And you know, now, even in the last, you know, 20 years, I’ve surrounded myself with people who do love that. And it’s a great partnership, but early in my career, Do that part of it too. I mean, back in the, now, you know, we went around analyze results.

You use this really cool. Well, first of all, you know, you, you go, you use, you know, optimize lead prior to that, you actually had to learn how to use a spreadsheet. I was doing this before?

there were spreadsheets. I mean, I was sitting there a long hand with a calculator. That’s not necessarily. Fun, but it’s part of the process.

That’s what I mean by life as this mix of need to do and want to do. And we just want to make sure your job isn’t. I come to work and spend all days taking numbers at a column a and putting them into column B that’s. At least that’s not. Some people love that elegance and that completeness, not me.

Andrew: Mike. What about before? Did you, so for me, I remember I started a magazine, like I said, everyone’s going digital. I’m going to be paper-based magazine. I know I can make the numbers work on that. And then my brother created this online business and I said, oh, that is so much more exciting. Why am I messing with this?

And. At the fall back, I had a job on wall street that I got in college. It was for a headhunter and I thought wall street was so exciting. I watched the movie wall street barbarians at the gate. I went to the real wall street and it was hard to let it go. But it wasn’t as exciting as say starting an internet company.

I wondering if you had some of those where it might’ve seemed exciting on the outside, but it wasn’t for you. And did you have that period where you said. I’m going to have to pass on this and it could be the wrong decision. I’m going to go into mail order. Are there any of those that I can learn from?

Yeah.

Marc: well, so first of all, th that thing you said about all these internet companies, it seems so exciting. Well, people are making the exact same mistake that you may have made by going to wall street. In fact now, you know, internet startups are the wall street and everyone’s going there for the wrong reason are not everyone.

A lot of people are going there for the wrong reasons. So there’s not some magic that one career is good. One’s not it’s. Does it work for you? Are you there for the right reasons? But listen, what you know, when I first graduated from college, my mother owned a chain. She was a real estate broker. She had a chain of offices, uh, Uncertain, what the hell I’m going to do with my life.

And she goes, you should work for me. Let me go. That could be a pretty cool life. You always have flexibility in your hours. You get to drive around in the land Rover, you know, and show houses. Um, and I envisioned, and, and she goes, she’ll take, you’ll take over my company. You know, you can take it places. I could never have taken it.

Sounds pretty good. Uh, and then you begin doing it and you go, oh my God, this is awful. This is not for me at all. Um, and Yeah. and you, and you have the comfort to go. I got to do something else that speaks to me. And this is not, this is not it. And that’s happened many times, but I can’t remember. I don’t have a lot of cases.

Oh, I got one. And I ended up, um, going to work for a. Startup. And that was not the founder, but I came in pretty, pretty early for a company that was building a sheet, fed scanner. One of those little devices, you put a piece of paper and doing it, sucks it in and puts the image on the screen. Coolest thing ever, man, that was the best demo ever to give.

Um, and the challenges of marketing it and selling it were fascinating, but the company was disrupting. You know, the CEO never wanted to arbitrate a disagreement. Uh, he’d let the executives fight it out. Uh, it was just horrible and I mean, there’s all kinds of politics. Um, and So there was one where I go, gosh, I kind of love what I’m doing, but I hate the atmosphere.

I’m doing it in. And that

Andrew: I get that. If we can go for a moment back to your mom, um, I’m wondering, was there like a sense of who you were that allowed you a guiding principle that you followed that allowed you to give up on this opportunity with your mom and take on the next one? So for example, when I talked to, um, Matt, the founder of WordPress, he told me that Matt Mullen.

willing to start this company because I believe that as a developer, I could always get a job. And so he, for him, he knew taking a risk is fine because he could always feel comfortable knowing that he could get a job. So it made sense. I’m wondering if for you, there was some kind of principle mark.

They could say, I have to pass on what my mom is telling me. Is it because you had to do what you loved? Is it because you had to do something else? What was it that allowed you to make that decision that I can take away?

Marc: I don’t know the answer. I just never had that pressure on me from my parents. That I had, there was that there was a predetermined good, better, best choices. It was always a follow up. Compass here. I mean, it was w and you know, maybe it was benign neglect on my parents’ part, but I don’t think so. I think it was more that they were really open to letting me experiment and try things.

So there was never this pressure on me to take over the family business. Um, and I think they certainly could tell this was not lighting me up with excitement.

Andrew: You know what, that’s, what it was for me with wall street. I said, it’s not lighting me up as much as this internet thing. And. I believe that this is going further. And so I like a thing that has bigger opportunity and that I get more excited about and I can’t stop thinking about it’s a no brainer. And then when my boss at the time came to me and said, how do you, why don’t you just do this?

Part-time even said, no, I also believe. This thing, you and I talked how my name was not Andrew at birth. It was Shuki. And then I took the name, Andrew, because of Andrew Carnegie. I read his autobiography. I fell in love with his worldview. And one of the things he believed was put all your eggs in one basket and then watch that basket.

And so I said, okay, that’s another principle that I have. And so I’m going to put all my eggs into this internet business basket and follow that to the end.

Marc: You are way more strategic than I

Andrew: I think so. So maybe do I just take away from this mark, Andrew chill out.

Marc: I would, well, listen, it’s done. I’m not going to tell you to chill out. It works for you.

Andrew: know. I want it. I want what works for you, dude.

Look at us. You got so freaking far, so many times I’m here to learn from you. And I think actually that is a good lesson that I have trouble just chilling. I was just talking to my therapist earlier and he said, you’re having this conversation with Mark Randolph. Can you just like go Joe Rogan with it and let it go wherever it wants?

I go, no, I don’t do well with that. I need a clear path, even conversation. What do you think.

Marc: Oh, my gosh. That’s exactly what’s happening. I’m sitting here going, this is the weirdest podcast interview I’ve had in a long time because you’re, you’re really trying to control it. I mean, you have this pre-consent you have a preconception of somewhere. You want to take it and you’re trying to push me into a box which doesn’t exist, or, I mean, I’m hoping to convince you it doesn’t exist.

But it’s why we’re jumping all over the place. I’m

Andrew: I do feel that, that I’m trying to get you to say.

Marc: you’re looking for something.

Andrew: Yes. And so maybe that’s my big takeaway from this to Andrew. Stop trying to push everything where it doesn’t go. It feels too aggressive. Maybe it’s just a chill out. What do you think?

Marc: I think it is to show it, but listening it, it depends. Uh, the point is everyone’s different and what turns you on is different. And for me, what turns me on are things where there is no path. If it has a path, it, I don’t like it. If I, if you were saying I going to start a print magazine. Well, for God’s sake theory, you better follow a path.

There’s a very, very well trod path to doing that. You have to have an innovation in one area, maybe the topic or the audience, but you can’t, you know, we were picking a category, you and I both know, but the rest of it, so much of it as you’d know what to do star, I have a friend who’s a who, who starts helps companies start restaurants and she’s successful because she knows the steps you have to take to make a restaurant successful.

The things that I like are those things where here’s what I want to try. It’s never been done before. There is no playbook. And if I’m not open to going where it goes, I’m going to force, fit it into something which is going to, I’m going to be the classic guy, which has the, I th the, the idea. And won’t let go of it and searches for a problem or someone I can sell it to. And it’s gotta be the opposite way. You’ve got to get. I gotta be totally open because the customer is going to tell me where to go or the problem we’re trying to solve will tell me where to go. When, if I predetermined my direction, that’s what leads to failure in my line of work.

Andrew: I get that. Like, if you said Netflix has to be VC, VHS tapes being mailed to people’s homes because that’s the dominant format. And forced it you’d have had a nice little business for the few people who accept your worldview. That would soon die.

Marc: Correct. And I’ve Got to recognize that the innovation, the original idea was that you could have a video rental store online. You could have a single location and you have a better selection and mail to people. But I had no idea if that was going to work. I had to be open to what the customers told me and what they told me is that this is a stupid idea.

And so, okay. Let’s keep trying some new things and try and figure out

Andrew: stupid idea. What part was do? What part did the customers tell you was a stupid idea?

Marc: That someone actually is going to want to come to an online store and wait three days for me to mail you a movie when I can go to blockbuster and have that demand fulfilled in 30 days. Even though a blockbuster might be out of stock, even though they’re not going to know me or be able to recommend a great movie for me, even all the things that I had identified at the beginning as being customer problems, I was wrong about how strong people’s desire would be that they’d be willing to put up with this ridiculous implementation, which was the one that we launched in 1998 when Netflix started.

Andrew: I want to make sure I’m understanding. You’re saying that when you first came up with the idea of DVDs by mail, people told you it was wrong. It wasn’t just your wife who said that will never work. It was customers who said.

Marc: Yeah, everyone told me that was a bad idea. But the thing is, this is something that had never been done before. First of all, hardly anyone who had a DVD player to start. So DVDs were a new thing, but there was no place where people had exp oh, I’ve been doing DVD rental by mail for four years. I don’t want to ever work.

No everyone goes, w what, what, why there’s 7,000 blockbuster stores. Why am I going to wait for you to mail me one or DVDs? Digital. I’m just going to wait about four weeks until I can download movies. I mean, there was a million reasons. Everyone come up with saying it wouldn’t work. I mean, Didn’t believe that I, because no one knows in the absence of no one knowing, well, the answer is not I’m right.

The answer is let’s try it and see what happens. That’s what Netflix was, was that let’s try it and see what happens and maybe. Oh, my gosh, this is flying off the shelves. And maybe as is the case it’s crickets, but it’s fine. That was fascinating to find that out. And so let’s try something new. Let’s do a punch card.

Let’s do it’s you bundled 10 rentals for a low price, uh, crickets again. Okay. Let’s do something where you can rent it. And if you like it, Okay, well, that worked a little bit and little by little you experiment and experiment and experiment, and you figure out what the customer wants. You figure out what the problem is.

You figure out how to come up with things.

they actually do want. And then in Netflix’s case, it took us a year and a half before we finally came up with the thing that actually made DVD rental by mail work. if I had sat back waiting and waiting to come up with that, I never would’ve come up with that.

It had to come up based on the 671 failed experiments that came before it.

Andrew: All right. I’m going to ask you in a moment about like, how do you not then define yourself by failure? What allows you to continue to see yourself as a success, even when every one of these fail? Well, let me first talk about my sponsor. I’m not going to do two sponsors. I don’t think we have enough time for two, but I have to tell you that my new sponsor is lemon.io.

They’re the perfect place to hire vetted remote developers from Eastern Europe. And the reason that I like them is because the vetted, but also Eastern Europe means that you get a great price on developers. I’ve been watching these guys build their business from nothing, build it up to over a million dollars.

Now, build it up and build it up and build it up. And they keep sharing their, their financials to show how well they’re doing. And the reason that they keep building their business up so much is because they keep. It’s a nominal developers at parts of the world that most of us, I used to live in San Francisco up until a few weeks ago.

Most of us think, and then ones who’s great. It’s gotta be here in San Francisco, in the bay area. They discovered, you know what, a lot of great people in Eastern Europe, you don’t have to pay them as much. If you could work remotely with them, you’re going to be on fire. And you know what? Now the world is accepting that working remotely with developers.

Uh, viable and strong option and so more and more people are going to lemon.io. And I’m going to recommend that everyone was listening to me, go and hire a developer from lemon.io or at least talk to them and see if it’s a good fit for you. If you use my URL, you’re going to get 15% discount for your first four weeks of work.

It’s already low. They’re going to cut a little bit more, but frankly, by using the URL, you’re just going to do me a solid and let them know that you found them on my podcast. So here it is. It’s lemon.io/mixergy lemon.io/mixer G. If you’re looking to hire developers, if you’re looking to add your team, if your co-founder needs to delegate, this is the place to go.

lemon.io/mixergy. All right. How do you not define yourself by that? By, by the failure and go I’m.

Marc: Well, okay. There’s two things to this. I don’t, I certainly don’t consider myself a failure, but I do to find myself by failure. I define myself by being so completely comfortable for the things that I try not to. And I have trained myself since I was seven years old. That those are not failures as the, even though the thing is I’m trying or not working.

Um, and I started small and you realize. Oh, the world doesn’t end. Oh, I’m not, I’m not branded with a Scarlet letter forever. I’m.

still going to get into the college of my choice. I mean that it doesn’t make a difference. And so I have defined myself by becoming completely committed. With trying something and having it not work.

And I have found that that comfort, that, that knowledge, that there’s no such thing as a good idea, that my job in life is to go figure out bad ideas and why they’re bad. And I’ve learned that that path eventually leads sometimes to very, very interesting places. Um, it is not. No one gets it, right. No one comes up with the idea and that’s the thing that works.

Never, you’ve gotta be willing to, to try things, which if you want to call it being defined by failures, you know, so be it. But if you’re not willing to do that, if you’re waiting for this big insight, that it’s self-evidently right. Um, you’ll never start or you’ll be too late. So that’s how I define myself.

Andrew: Seven is pretty specific. What happened around that age that allowed you to say, I am not the person who’s defined by failure, but I’m the person who tries things.

Marc: Well, you learn things.

about yourself. And I had this job and I, I’m not sure if it was six or seven, it was young. I was, I was a salesman for the American seed company of like

Andrew: At that age.

Marc: whatever the hell it was.

Andrew: Okay.

Marc: Basically a child exploitation, but because the deal was, if you went door to door and you sold 17,000 packs of seeds, you know, for flowers or vegetables, you went a whistle or a compass or a cheap Taiwanese stopwatch.

But what w th the, the, the thing that happened is I’d go to these doors and you knock on the door and someone basically opens the door and says, no, And you’re a six or seven, and I know that 90% of my peers, 95% of the peers, then just go, well, the hell with this. And they go back to the couch to watch, leave it to beaver reruns, and I’m going, wait a.

All right, let’s try it again and try something different. Let’s dress differently. All right. When they opened the door, what are the first words out of my mouth? Do I start off by showing them the flowers or showing them the vegetables? Oh, they actually bought one. How do I. I mean, it was this, it was this light going on at this was really cool.

Not really disappointing, not really frustrating. It was really interesting. And I think there was that moment where you’re kind of going, I kind of like this, but it wasn’t the salesmen part that I liked. It was the experimentation. It was the taking every time the door got slammed in your face. Yeah.

Lessen that well, that didn’t work. Oh, Okay.

Nope. What does that tell me or what next? And then you can’t wait to go knock on the next door to try this next crazy new thing you’ve thought of, and that’s, that’s never stopped. It’s always seeing the world as this imperfect place. It’s, you know, seeing these holes is something that needs to get filled.

It’s walking by the basket of puppies in the side of the road and you. That someone’s gotta take care of that puppy. And you know, there, there you go. I can’t help it.

Andrew: And so I could see how that helped you. I was wondering also if first of all, that makes, that makes a ton of sense. And for some reason I never brought that back into like bigger decisions. I brought it back to individual conversations. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Right. But the bigger decisions, for some reason, I never was able to bring it back to that.

I was also wondering though, if. I remember talking to Tim Ferris over a decade ago and telling him how much I love running. And he made me feel okay about having this passion that was outside of work. He helped me realize that when I ran, I felt really powerful about, you know, I, I felt this strength about the world because I could run further than I imagined and so on.

And that would carry into my work. It would carry into my relationship with my wife. It would carry into other parts of my life. Well, when I didn’t have that, if all I had was work and work, wasn’t going well, I felt like a failure. Like nothing in my life is going well. And so this allowed me to have another part of my life to go well, to feed off of, I’m wondering if for you as also the didn’t I read that you were also into wilderness training as a kid or into, out into the outdoors in some kind of more than average way.

Marc: still, that is my, uh, my happy spot. I mean, that that’s, that’s What fulfills me. Yeah. At a very, very deep, personal level. And that’s been the case ever since I was you know, six or seven years old. And it’s been part of my life ever since, but, and you’re right. It it’s, it tells you and reinforces for you that life is not just work.

Life is not that the objective of life is not how much money you can accumulate or how it?

What title you can get, but that there’s something different. And for me, that was this balanced. That and I didn’t listen. I didn’t figure it out when I was six. You know, I took me, me my late twenties, probably where, you know, years of working like an animal, just all the times, weekends, evenings, but you know, not because of a slave driver of a boss, because the thing I was doing this mail order stuff was fascinating, but.

You know, I had a girlfriend who we lived with, who is now? my wife, and it kind of dawned on me maybe with a little bit of a nudging from her that this was not a very stable relationship, or certainly not a very fulfilling one for her or for me. I mean, she was getting the time that was leftover. Um, and I also was realizing.

That I wasn’t getting outside anymore. I had to cancel my subscription to outside magazine. Cause it was just too painful to see pictures of people doing all the stuff that I no longer had time for. And that, that was, that was probably one of the biggest revelation moments or over a period of time in my life where I go, what’s the point here?

And I, I concluded that really the point is you’ve got to construct a life that allows you in my case, to do all three of these things. Um, I can’t walk away from being an entrepreneur. I love that too much. It’s too intellectually fulfilling. I can’t walk away from spending time in the outdoors. And unfortunately, the type of things I like to do, don’t fit between your one and three o’clock meetings take four days to do, and I’d have to figure out how to make that happen.

And I wanted, as I’ve said before, I wanted to be, didn’t want to be the guy who was on his sixth company and he’s on his sixth wife. I want to do. Get to know me, have my, have the stable relationship. And I said, if I’m going to get all three of those things to work, all three,

of them, which could be full-time jobs, I’m going to have to figure this out and make that a priority.

Andrew: what are the three it’s work marriage and

Marc: It’s worth it, family. I call it that because I now have three kids who I try and have the same time for. Um, and it’s the outdoors. It’s my, uh, feet. Um, you’ll know, this is a long story, but feeding the rat is What that is, is it’s

Andrew: does that mean? What’d you come up with that?

Marc: I like, especially from a guy named Mo Anton, who’s a British climber from the sixties, but he described it so well, it’s this feeling that?

It starts off as just this urge. Ah, got to get out into the woods. I gotta climb something. I need to do some and then little by little, it gets, Uh,

it gets stronger and stronger. It’s knowing that you from the inside, it’s the rat and it wants to get fed and it’s knowing more and more. And finally you go, okay.

And you leave and then you go climb some peak for three days and you come and then. The rats, satiated, and then you can come back and you have plenty of time. And then little by little, a rat wakes up and it goes home hungry. That’s feeding the rat.

Andrew: What is your adventure when you go outdoors, what’s the thing that you do as a climbing mountains? Is it something else?

Marc: Yeah, probably my favorite thing is climbing, uh, doing multi-day stuff, you know, combination of rock, snow and ice. Um, it’s just combination of physical challenge. It’s combination of this route, finding this, how am I going to make this happen? Like business, there’s no predetermined answer. Uh, and it’s spectacularly beautiful.

It’s in the moment. There’s a lot of things that speak to me, but I also, I basically, you know, I do a lot of mountain bike, mountain bike, and I do back country skiing. I do kayaking. I do lot of surfing. I mean, it’s basically anything that is outdoors that could result in a trip to the hospital, you know, sign me up.

Andrew: Dude, you look like one of the fittest people that I’ve ever interviewed, you got to feel that way. Right?

Marc: Yeah, I’m in row. I mean, I’m, I’m, I’m 63. Uh, and so, you know, but I’m still got all my original parts, um, and everything still works. And I, I still, I go out and, you know, every Sunday I do, uh, 12, 10 to 12 miles trail running, you know, in the Hills. So, um, mountain biking, I still get out, but that’s, it, it takes a lot more.

I have to do a lot more. Um, I have to be a bit more deliberate about my training now. Hey to keep myself from getting hurt when I train, but also to make sure that I’m in, I’m strong enough that if I go out and spend four or five hours, mountain biking in hilly single-track terrain, that I’m not going to get hurt doing it and still enjoy it.

Andrew: Oh, I’ve seen those videos on YouTube. The single-track thing

Marc: Yeah.

Andrew: side of the mountains. No GoPro does it justice though.

Marc: I know. Well, you’re watching it. You’re watching the heavy-duty look guys in Moab and the guys who flying off cliffs and

Andrew: Mark. I tried to one time, it wasn’t even that. And I go, oh my gosh, this is really like, you’re really on the edge. Thankfully, these like multi thousand dollar bikes are actually the worth, the money they could hold you up there, but still it’s,

Marc: Yeah, it’s, there’s something about it though. it’s you’re flying downhill on a single track and things are coming at you and you’re totally in the.

zone because if you lose your focus for a second, you’re off the trail and, or you’re head over heels or whatever it is, but there’s something so. Flow to it when it’s happening and

Andrew: love that about exercise. It does force this thing that is obnoxious at the beginning of this interview, where I was really trying to drive towards something. It lets me do that, but also let go of my brain while I’m trying to do it. And just trust I could get to the finish line.

Marc: Yeah, exactly. And you listen, the other thing to train yourself and God, this has probably been more advanced maneuver for you. Andrew. I can tell already is training yourself to go okay. If I don’t get to the finish line. Yeah, I’m enjoying just being out here. I’m on this incredible

Andrew: I’ve learned to actually take that as a point of pride I’ve pushed myself beyond where I could, and I needed somebody to come get me. Was, I’ve never had, I’ve only had that, like for short runs, like in Argentine, I’d go running through the city. And then suddenly I realized I have nothing left. I don’t know how, I don’t know what I’m doing even here.

And I jumped in a cab and get home. And instead of feeling bad, I felt like good. You’re not whispering out and doing only 10 miles or 20 miles because that’s all you’ve done. You’re going to go as far as you can. And then a little bit further. And just before a heart attack,

Marc: We can do a whole podcast on this because you’re I take it back now. There are, it is. I have big events. I have a big event coming up in, uh, June. Yeah. I have to get myself in shape for that. And that means I really got to push that. Not every run can be a, oh, this is really beautiful. Sometimes I’ve got to say, I’ve got to add another two miles on today.

Cause I’ve got to begin building myself up for something water.

Andrew: All right. Speaking of podcast, I started podcasting when there was only me doing podcast and people go, what the hell are you doing? Podcasting? Do the new sex in the city, reboot has got a podcast is like a central character in the thing. You’re doing a podcast. What’s the podcast about that? What it’s called, it’s called same thing as your book.

Good idea. That will never work

Marc: Well, you know, I figured there is what a hundred thousand podcasts that the world needs. Another one, that’s kind of where I started my whole

Andrew: the world does I don’t but go ahead.

Marc: No, it came, it, mine came about reasonably organically. Cause you know what? Listen, I ever since I I stopped working at Netflix, which now is.

Almost 20 years ago. Um, I’ve always, um, helped people, you know people call and say, I’m trying to, I’m stuck with this. Can you help with this? And I’ll get on the phone and spend an hour with someone. And so

Andrew: Can I, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I’ve got to tell you this dude, Matt Miralis who I’ve known forever. He, I said to him, how the hell do you know Marc Randolph? The founder of Netflix is before the books were written about you, the one about you, and then the one that you wrote. And he goes, I just reached out to him on his blog and his website’s not even a blog.

And the guy reached out to me and I think he even visited him in his office and go, he’s not your dad. How’s he spending all this cuddling time with you. He just reached out to you. Is that what it is?

Marc: Yeah. I mean, I I’ve, I’ve realized kind of that, oh, this is gonna sound really corny, but kind of my purpose now is that, is this so many people out there who have these dreams. There’s so many people out there want to build a business who want to take theirs to the next level. And I now, after doing it for 40 years, I do know how to do that.

I do know that some of the tricks I do some of the secrets, um, and my job is?

to help people. Get further. And, you know, Matt was a perfect example of that. Um, but listen, it’s, it’s not entirely altruistic. I mean, this is my methadone. It’s how I get that, uh, that fix I need without having to be seven by 24 in my own business.

It’s, it’s the combinate. It’s perfect. But I’ve been doing this, you know, I started working with Matt probably 15 plus years ago, 16 plus I still talked to him all the time.

Andrew: You do.

Marc: Um, because he’s a great entrepreneur. I love helping him. And he gives me really interesting problems to struggle with. And I know him well enough that I can give advice, which is not just superficial, but what I began realizing is that the advice I’m giving to people goes off to them and that’s where it stays.

And I was wondering, is there a way to have this scalable and as an, as an experiment, I asked some of these guys I was doing phone calls with. Would you mind if I recorded the. That was the pure thing. So I record the call and the other entrepreneurs that go I’m stuck on something. And I go, listen, can I send you something?

It’s someone who had the exact same problem and I’d send them this tape, uh, where there’s an old expression. I let them listen to the recording. And to a couple of things would happen. One is they go, that was fantastic because it made me realize I’m not alone struggling with this thing. And then number two, they’d go.

That was really interesting and helpful. But the real revelation was they went, that was so entertaining. It was funny. It was moving. That guy was really interesting. Um, they go, you should let other people listen to this. And that, and that went, huh? And so the podcast that will never work, it is not me interviewing celebrity entrepreneurs.

It’s done. Well by yourself included and that’s doesn’t need another one of those. So what my podcast is is just these sessions of me mentoring real entrepreneurs with real problems. There are, they’re the exact same thing you would get. If you were sitting down with me and I was mentoring You in my home or in my office or in your office.

Um, and they’re pretty cool. We, we do.

reveal a lot of the tips and tricks and secrets of how you can take your idea and take it further. But we also get into things that are not taught in a business school. We talk about how to get along with your co-founders. We talk about how to build a board. We talk about how to find balance in your life with your family.

I mean, we talk about the real problems that entrepreneurs have these days, and then I do my best to try and get them a little bit further.

Andrew: No I’ve heard those, like not, so I didn’t realize it that, that your podcast was already up and running. I now see it here in the, uh, Spotify. Uh, that’s in the Spotify app. That’s my favorite. After listening to the podcast. But what’s interesting is I have had some of my friends send me calls with their mentors, with their coaches.

It is absolutely fascinating. I’ll listen to it on long bike rides and just get lost in the thing, even in the awkward silences. It’s really interesting because you could see the person is really figuring something out, coming up with an issue that seems so dramatic to them. Like they did not look at their financials for two months because they were avoiding the problem and go, I did that same thing.

I got to like wake up. It’s so interesting.

Marc: And it’s funny, you said that because I, you know, I have, I have a producer who helps me with the technical aspects of it and they always want to, oh, we’re going to cut out all the ums and the AHS and the long pauses while you’re thinking. And I go, no, don’t cut out those. I mean, cut out the ums and AHS if you want.

But when I stop, when I sit back in my chair and look up at the ceiling for a minute, That says something right there. It says, this is a really interesting problem. And not to be, uh, it causes some nice tension in terms of creating an interesting podcast. Cause what’s mark going to say, but it’s real. This is not me buy low, sell high, you know, with these quick pithy little aphorisms.

No, this is really trying to help somebody and you can only do that if you really listen and don’t just dispense bullshit pattern crap. You’ve gotta be real. And what’s fun is that there are there people like you out there, not like you, but like your audience out there. There are people who do have ideas who do want to start businesses.

So have ones they’re stuck on and they’re not alone. And this is a kind of an interesting way to see their other people with the same challenges you have and how I can help. How did I help move a little bit further?

Andrew: What are you seeing as like the, the future? One of the things that you recognize in the beginning of Netflix, and I know we’re almost at the end here, but one of the things that you walked into the Netflix disco ideation process with is. To create the Amazon of something and then let it go where it went today.

Is there a thing that you’re seeing that is so exciting that it’s worth looking for a business in that space?

Marc: Yeah, there’s a couple of things that intrigued me. And it’s, first of all, I’m not a big technology guy or, you know, this is the thing, you know, plastics, it’s, it’s more that I’m usually drawn into things. Cause I get intrigued with the founders, the people that I work with that I mentor, I don’t do it because I love their product.

I do it because I love them. And then I learn through working with them all about their product that said. If I was a younger man, there’s a couple of categories. Uh, one of them is there’s some big categories which are having their innovation rate held up by regulation. And that’s basically like water piling up behind a dam and it’s going to break.

And so two of them is health tech and FinTech. Um, both of those really, really interesting because the rate of progress is, is artificially slowed, especially.

Andrew: eventually regulation will eventually have to fall apart and then what’s going to come out of it is going to be huge. Everything that’s been held out, held back is going to

Marc: we’re seeing that damn start to break and FinTech already. We’re all of a sudden pieces are being peeled off that before the big banks were able to hold onto, because in order to do this, you’re going to need a license and it’s going to take you 10 years. That’s starting to change the other one.

And this is a bit more speculative is I’m actually fascinated by blockchain and not cryptocurrency. I mean, and I’m not saying not that’s interesting too, but I mean blockchain and What that says for the way things are sold for the way we react with the way we relate to each other, the way we transact with each other.

And I

Andrew: are you seeing? That’s exciting there.

Marc: Because I think it’s going to transform almost everything we currently do in one way. It’s going to be done in a different way. Almost everything.

Andrew: just like on the, everything that we did in, in the real world suddenly went digital and online from newspapers to eventually toothpaste. You’re saying everything that’s digital and online will eventually be blockchain. And now how do you, how do you bring that technology to other things is interesting.

Marc: Exactly and it’s going to be happening and gonna be happening very, very fast. And right now the things which appear to be these market leading, it’s going to, we’re going to look back very quickly and see how primitive the current things we’re doing now are in some way. Listen, I, you know, I jumped on the internet e-commerce bat bandwagon in 1997.

So it was at 24 year, almost 25 years ago. And the thing that was exciting about that was this realization. This is going to change everything. Um, and I had the opportunity to ride that transformational wave for the last 25 years of one category after another having entirely new ways, um, introduced to it by the internet and then the internet spreading from computers to phones.

And it’s unbelievable. And I see we’re at a similar place, in my opinion, with blockchain, uh, where the very beginning of what I think will be this 25 year. Progression. Lots of things right now, it’s currencies, which is still early, uh, art, another big one, which has been dying for a solution that blockchain can provide.

Um, I mean, I don’t know whether you go to concerts, but like when was the last time you actually had a little piece of cardboard with the, the name of the band and your seat number on it, that’s become this legacy that still is being used because we haven’t yet, but it’s such a. Most of the time. Now your ticket is this virtual thing.

It’s a NFT, um, which is a blockchain technology. And it’s just starting to figure out how this works. Um,

Andrew: Is there a project that you’re keeping your eye on that’s worth watching.

Marc: Ah, no, it’s so primitive. And I’m looking at, I’m looking at companies that are developing better. Discords I’m looking at companies that are developing better ways to mint and transact NFTs. I’m looking, I’m looking at, this is more for me. It’s um, Uh, as I said, if I was a younger man, I would, uh, do something in that category.

It’s just something I think is interesting to learn about too. And listen, the way you learn about things is by doing them. And so you do uncomfortable stuff. So if you’re one of those people, who’s like, oh, cryptocurrency, forget the speculative nature of it just by some to see. So you get it. So you see how it’s bought UCL wallet works.

You see all these pieces and the same thing with NFT. Yes. It makes no sense to you right now to spend $500 for some bits that you can get for free. But, so what, it’s a $50 experiment. So you begin to understand what this is all about. Um, if you don’t understand, uh, the role of communities and MFTs and get on someone who has a big discord and play around, you don’t need to do these things because they’re lucrative.

You don’t need to do these things even because they’re personally interesting, but it’s the way you train yourself, um, to understand that, um, realm.

Andrew: That’ll never work. All right.

Marc: Sorry for the high horse preaching there you got, you

Andrew: No, I dig it, dude, mark, I dig you completely. You really exceeded my expectations. I’ve got to tell you, your book was fan freaking tastic. I love that you’re, uh, that you’re doing this podcast that will never work the podcast available everywhere. And I also like that when it felt uncomfortable in this interview, you’re willing to call it out so that we could talk about it instead of just like, all right, I’m here to do the podcast.

Screw it. Let’s just take Andrew wherever it goes. It’ll it’ll be there. I want that. And I love that about you. I appreciate it about you. And I think there’s more for people to listen to. And frankly, for me, uh, at that will never work the podcast. And I apologize to HostGator. I didn’t get a chance to do your ad, but you know how it goes.

I will say that I did talk about lemon and if you’re hiring a developer, you owe it to yourself to go to lemon.io/mixergy. Mark. Thanks so much.

Marc: Andrew, truly a pleasure. Thanks for the time.

Who should we feature on Mixergy? Let us know who you think would make a great interviewee.

x