Why Netflix's co-Founder Marc Randolph says it 'always thinks like a startup'

McKenzie DeGroot
Segment Producer

In 20 years, Netflix has evolved from a fledgling DVD rental business into the biggest player in the increasingly crowded world of streaming.

As competition mounts, making some wonder if the company can maintain its edge, one of its co-founders believes it will — simply by maintaining true to its roots.

“Netflix, believe me, always thinks like a startup,” Netflix (NFLX) Co-Founder and first Netflix CEO Marc Randolph told YFi PM.

“It does not see itself as an entrenched person that can sit in its laurels. This company recognizes they have to fight every single day,” he added.

Since Randolph’s departure from the company, Netflix has scrapped its DVD-rental format and transformed itself into the streaming giant it is today.

“From the very beginning, this was about being a startup. Which meant, you empower people to make decisions. You do not rely on the past, you always look towards the future,” Randolph said.

Why Netflix co-founder says the company 'always thinks like a startup'

After founding Netflix in 1997 with current CEO Reed Hastings, Randolph became the company’s first CEO, running the company until 1999. The company’s stock debuted at a mere $15 per share in 2002, and now trades close to $300.

Although Randolph says he hasn’t worked at the company in 17 years, the company culture is what he finds most telling.

“Culture, after all, is not what you say, it’s what you do. It’s how the founders treat each other, it’s how they treat their employees,” he told Yahoo Finance.

Why Netflix co-founder says the company 'thinks like a startup'

“I had seven employees. You had no time to say ‘here’s exactly where to go,’” he said. “All you could do is say, ‘meet me there,’ and then trust that they would do it and figure it out.”

Randolph says that this strategy is fine when you only have seven employees like he did, but “Netflix has 7,000 and they still run the company.”

In July, the company reported its lowest quarterly subscriber growth in three years, leading to questions about whether Netflix’s planned $17.5 billion investment in original content this year is packing the punch the company intended.

Randolph told Yahoo that the future for any company is uncertain, saying something could “absolutely” come along and overtake streaming.

“Nobody knows anything. Who knows what’s going to come next,” he adds.

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McKenzie DeGroot is a producer at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @degrootmckenzie

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