That Will Never Work – Marc Randolph

This book is about a great idea, how problems are solved, teamwork, how to build a culture that works, refining startup mentality, and turning an idea into a reality. There were lots of things I learned from reading Marc Randolph’s That Will Never Work. The process of how Netflix came to be is inspiring, complicated, and long, but in the end so worth it (as we all know). Fun fact: Netflix was founded in 1997 – the year I was born! Love this fact. The startup life is truly busy, about hard work, commitment, and follow-through, but I can see the appeal and excitement it can bring during and till the end (well, there’s no end really) of the process.

Highlights

  1. You want something that will scale. You want something where the effort it takes to sell a dozen is identical to the effort it takes to sell just one. And while you’re at it, try and find something that’s more than just a onetime scale, so that once you’ve found a customer, you’ll be able to sell to them over and over again.
  2. When you start a company, what you’re really doing is getting other people to latch on to an idea. You have to convince future employees, investors, business partners, and board members that your idea is worth spending money, reputation, and time on.
  3. It was kind of a catch-22: You couldn’t prove to your investors that your idea would work unless they gave you money to prove that your idea could work. You had to sell them on your idea.
  4. So the trick is to take your idea and set it on a collision course with reality as soon as possible.
  5. We’re conditioned not to ask for things – and when we do ask for them, we’ve learned that we have to offer something in return.
  6. Sales is theater: every pitch, every call, every interaction in which you, the businessperson, are trying to convince someone else – the customer, the client, the potential investor, you name it – is a little performance, in which each side plays a role.
  7. Netflix, for the team, was an opportunity to work at the kind of place we’d always dreamed about. It was a chance to do things truly their way. But you had to give it room to grow.
  8. Handpick a dozen brilliant, creative people, and give them a set of delicious problems to solve then give them the space to solve them.
  9. If there’s no one trial, why are you trying to force everyone to go the same way?
  10. Your job as a leader is to let your team figure it out. You’ve presumably chosen this group for such an arduous off-trail trip because you trust their judgment, and because they understand their job. Tell them where to go, but now how to get there.
  11. People wanted 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.
  12. What people want are freedom and responsibility. They want to be loosely coupled but tightly aligned.
  13. It doesn’t make a difference how good the ads are if the dogs don’t eat the dog food. No matter how well you’d sold it – nothing mattered if the product was lackluster.
  14. In a startup, you spend a lot of thinking about what might happen. And preparing for it. Sometimes you actually put a backup plan in place, but most of the time you just think through how you’re going to respond.
  15. Before you launch, you’re making a beautiful battle plan, coordinating the future movements of your troops. The second you launch, you’re in the fog of war.
  16. A startup can be a lonely place. You are working on something that no one believes in, that you’ve been told time and time again will never work. It’s you against the world. But the reality is that you can’t really do it on your own.
  17. Make-or-buy analysis: You consider the cost, timing, and difficulty of starting a new business from scratch, then evaluate whether it would be cheaper, faster, and better to simply buy another company that’s already doing it.
  18. One of the key lessons Randolph learned at Netflix is ​​not only the necessity of creative ideation but also having the right people around you and focusing. Focus is imperative. Even when the thing you’re focusing on seems impossible.
  19. CAC: Cost of acquiring a customer.
  20. Key to pitches: Read the room, sense what they want to hear, and then give that to them – without lying, obfuscating, or distorting the truth. In a pitch, perfection isn’t always the goal: projection is. You don’t have to have all the answers if you appear to be the sort of person to whom they’ll eventually come.
  21. One of the paradoxes of memory is how it distorts time.
  22. When change is incremental, it’s hard to put your finger on the endpoint. The ironic thing is that change is what you wanted all along. It’s the point of any startup.
  23. Success creates problems. Growth is great – but with growth comes an entirely new set of complications. How do you grow gracefully?
  24. When you try to explain your dream to other people, they won’t understand that it isn’t just about raising funds or customer conversion or daily monitors. It’s a surreal chase, a pursuit that gives your life meaning.
  25. When your dream becomes a reality, it doesn’t just belong to you. It belongs to the people who helped you – your family, your friends, your co-workers. It belongs to the world.
  26. When a company is small, trust and efficiency go hand in hand. If you’ve got the right people on our team, you don’t need to tell them exactly how you want them to do things – in fact, you often don’t even need to tell them what you want them to do. You simply need to be clear about what you want to accomplish and why it’s important.
  27. People who have the judgment o make decisions responsibly love having the freedom to do so.
  28. William Goldman: “Nobody knows anything.” Nobody really knows how well a movie is going to do until after it’s already done. “Nobody knows anything” isn’t an indictment. It’s a reminder. An encouragement. If it’s truly impossible to know in advance which ideas are the good ones and which aren’t, if it’s impossible to know who is going to succeed and who isn’t – then any idea could be the one to succeed. You have to trust yourself, test yourself, and you have to be willing to fail.
  29. Trust your gut, but also test it. Before you do anything concrete, the data has to agree.
  30. During the pitch: Lean in, make eye contact, nod slowly when the speaker turns in your direction. Frame questions in a way that makes it clear you’re listening.
  31. Most times, deciding what not to do is harder than deciding what to do.
  32. It pays to be the person who won’t take no for an answer since in business, no doesn’t always mean no.
  33. VCs will always say that they’re aligned with your mission, that they want what’s best for the company. But what they really want is what’s best for their investment in the company. Which isn’t always the same thing.
  34. Randolph loves solving problems, building a team, building a culture, and refining the startup mentality.
  35. Success is what you accomplish. It’s being in a position to do what you like, do what you do well, and pursue the things that are important to you.
  36. The only real way to find out if your idea is a good one is to do it. You’ll learn more in one hour of doing something than in a lifetime of thinking about it.
  37. Learn to love the problem, not the solution. That’s how you stay engaged when things take longer than you expected.
As you get older, you learn what you like and what you're good at. Anyone who gets to spend his day doing both of those things is a lucky person.
*I take no credit for any of these points.

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