Reed Hastings: The Man Who Disrupted the Television Industry
By Anand Jha

“Most entrepreneurial ideas will sound crazy, stupid and uneconomic, and then they’ll turn out to be right” – Reed Hastings. Jr, Founder, Netflix

Reed Hastings Jr. is the man without whom the long hours of “Netflix and Chill” wouldn’t have been possible. Hastings credits his entrepreneurial spirit to his time in the Peace Corps. On being asked about how he got the confidence to start his business, he was quoted saying, “Once you have hitchhiked across Africa with ten bucks in your pocket, starting a business doesn’t seem too intimidating.”

In his early days, Hastings worked with Adaptive Technology where he learnt the importance of focus and diligence. In the year 1991, he began his journey into the fast changing technology world. He created a company named Pure Software. The company created products that helped other companies to solve their core software issues. This was the one chapter in Hasting’s life, which made him realize that importance of managerial skills. Being a techie, Hastings faced difficulties in managing the entire company and even wished to step down as the CEO at one point in time. But the board of directors felt otherwise and up until Atria Software merged with Pure Software in 1996, he worked as CEO and post the merger took up the role of Chief Technical Officer. He continued to work there until ‘Pure Atria’ was acquired by Rational Software in 1997. Reed Hastings earned about $750 million from this deal and he was able to co-found Netflix with Marc Randolph in the same year. The whole idea of coming up with Netflix dawned upon him when Hastings was asked to pay USD 40 late fee for an overdue rental from the popular original VHS and DVD rental brand, Blockbuster.

With over 100,000 movies and television shows and ever growing 100 million subscribers, Netflix is now a name reckon with. According to latest Forbes report, Hastings’ net worth is USD 1.54 billion and it is largely tied to his Netflix stock.

Quite interestingly, Hastings had offered to sell 49 percent of Netflix to Blockbuster in the year 2000. But Blockbuster had turned him down. Then, Hastings went on to promote Netflix as an underdog in the rental arena. In 2005, tables turned for Hastings as Netflix registered a subscriber base of 4.5 million overtaking all online efforts of Blockbuster.
This was also the time Hastings worked very hard and commuted to Silicon Valley for two weeks every month from his house outside Rome, where he stayed with his wife and two children. His hard work paid off when their subscriber base almost quadrupled to 16 million by 2010. In the year 2013, Hastings took Netflix to a new high when it aired their first original series, named House of Cards. House of Cards was an instant hit and has three Emmy’s to its credit. At the end of the same year, Netflix’s stock had jumped to thrice its value.

As he had learnt his lessons in managing an organization early in his life, he ensures his employees are always looked after in the best way possible. Infact, it is believed that Hastings doesn’t really have his own office at the Netflix headquarters in California. He just moves around from one desk to another, meeting employees as and when required and when he does need some quiet time, he goes to a secluded room, built on the roof of the building.

Not only Netflix but Hastings has been a board member of both Facebook and Microsoft at some point. He now lives with his two children in San Francisco Bay area and personally believes in perpetual innovation. A man, who advocates and practices charity, Hastings had pledged a lion’s share of his wealth to Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the year 2012 and at that point in time Hastings wasn’t even a billionaire. He contributes generously to the same every year. The billionaire also is a staunch advocate of educational reform and has served as the President of the California State Board of Education (2001-04), where he actively lobbied for charter schools.

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