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Netflix co-creator shares entrepreneurial wisdom: ‘The best time is now’

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Serial entrepreneur Marc Randolph was the co-founder and first CEO of Netflix. But throughout his long, successful, self-made career, he continuously hears the same phrase over and over again.

“I have heard ‘That will never work’ so many times, about every company I’ve started. I heard it for Netflix, I heard it from investors, I heard it from my wife,” Randolph said. “It’s a phrase that certainly every single person hears who ever has an idea, where you get all excited, you come running out of the kitchen and you tell your spouse, or your boss, and they all say, ‘That’ll never work.'”

So that’s what he named his new podcast. On That Will Never Work, Randolph advises budding entrepreneurs using the knowledge he’s gained starting multiple companies and mentoring hundreds of people over the years.

“You no sooner stop being an entrepreneur than you can stop breathing. I left Netflix coming up on 20 years ago, so the way that I chose to get my fix was to help mentor other people,” he said. “You get pretty good at quickly getting to the heart of what really has them stuck.”

One of the most common problems is never starting.

“They go, ‘I have this great idea and I’m going to start as soon as …’ And as soon as I hear that my eyes roll back. I’ve heard ’em all, you know, ‘as soon as I graduate,’ ‘as soon as I raise some money,’ blah, blah, blah. You’re doomed! The best time is absolutely now,” Randolph said.

Being an entrepreneur takes confidence. It’s full of risks, like putting your life savings toward an idea that might flop. I’ve wondered if entrepreneurs are born with a different brain than those of us too scared to give up the insurance and dependability of a 9-to-5 job.

“The skills to take that from being just an idea to a reality are absolutely things that you can learn. It’s practice,” Randolph said. “The flaw is being driven home by the media, which says that being an entrepreneur is raising millions of dollars, being on Shark Tank, and graduating with your master’s in computer science. That’s not a requirement.”

“Of course, if that was a requirement, none of us could do that, including me,” he continued. “Yes, you’ve got a paycheck, you’ve got a mortgage, you’ve got car payments. … So don’t quit your job. Find something you can do on the side. Find something you can do small. All the people, myself included, who end up having real entrepreneurial success, started off with things that were tiny by comparison. That allowed them to make mistakes, that allowed them to do them while they were doing something else.”

Randolph says you must have patience. He says all first ideas are bad ideas, and you’ll have to keep tweaking and testing until you get it right. Netflix wasn’t a fully formed idea. It took a year and a half of tweaking and testing before it was ready to launch.

“There is absolutely something that I’m looking for when I choose who to work with. It is not that I think their idea is good or bad, because I have now concluded that all ideas are bad, they are just starting points,” he said.

“What I’m looking for is this really interesting combination of traits,” he continued. “To be an entrepreneur, to overcome the ‘That will never work’ chorus, you do have to have this tremendous self confidence. You have to believe you are going to make this work. It might take you a while, but you’re going to figure it out. But you have to pair it with the realization that you don’t know everything, that, in fact, other people’s viewpoints might be valid. I prefer working with women entrepreneurs, to be honest. I’ve found that women are much more willing to do the latter and that too many men are headstrong, bullish, their way is the right way, the only way.”

Listen to Rachel Belle’s James Beard Award nominated podcast, “Your Last Meal,” featuring celebrities like Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, Rainn Wilson, and Greta Gerwig. Follow @yourlastmealpodcast on Instagram!

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