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Netflix Co-Founder Marc Randolph Talks Entrepreneurship At USF

Nicole Slaughter Graham
WUSF Public Media
Netflix Co-founder Marc Randolph (left) talks to USF Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem

Marc Randolph shared lessons on how to become a successful entrepreneur with 700 people at the University of South Florida Thursday. But first, the co-founder of the multi-billion dollar streaming service Netflix took a selfie.

"You just sit and chill...well I guess I can't use that expression anymore," he said to the laughter that met his reference to a risque slang phrase associated with the company.

The event was held on the USF Tampa Campus as the second installment of the Muma College of Business Thought Leader Series. Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, spoke last year as the inagural guest.

Randolph, an entrepreneur for 40 years, has launched seven successful startups. Hundreds of other attempts, he said, failed.

Even Netflix went through a period of struggle.

Credit NIcole Slaughter Graham / WUSF Public Media
WUSF Public Media
Marc Randolph takes a selfie of himself and the crowd at a USF lecture

“In 2000, Netflix looked very little like the company that you see today,” he explained. "We were about 100 employees and I think that year we were on track to do about $5 million in revenue. But unfortunately, we also on track to have accumulated losses of about $50 million.”

One of the reasons Netflix succeeded despite the early struggles, he said, was that the now-defunct Blockbuster video rental chain refused to invest in his company.

“I distinctly remember sitting on the plane (on the way home) with my head down thinking, 'Ugh. Now we’re gonna have to kick their ass,'” said Randolph.

Today, Netflix has 138 million subscribers worldwide. The company also has a budget to make its own shows and movies.

Randolph told the audience that risk, an idea (or a few) and confidence are the elements an entrepreneur needs to be successful.

“Skip the thinking, skip the powerpoints,” he said. "As fast as you can, take that idea and get it out of your head, and figure out a way to collide it with the real world because that's where you learn is it a good idea or a bad idea.”

Having the capacity to come up with several ideas, test those ideas and start all over again, Randolph explained, is necessary. However, confidence and the willingness to understand the problem at hand are what’s most important.

“Don’t fall in love with your idea. Fall in love with the problem. Learn that problem. Know that problem. And believe that you are the person that can solve it,” he advised.

Nicole Slaughter Graham is a WUSF Stephen Noble Intern for the 2019 spring semester.
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