Netflix Co-Founder: ‘Here’s How to Become a Disruptor’

Marc Randolph explains why you need to focus on the market that nobody is paying attention to

By | Marc Randolph |

In one way, the story of Netflix taking down Blockbuster is an inspiring one: just a handful of people with no experience in the video industry, using nothing more than imagination and persistence, taking down the biggest video rental company in the world. 

George Pimentel | Getty Images

But what if you are the 800-pound gorilla? Then it’s a different story, isn’t it? Because then the moral is a little different – and a little unsettling. Then this story suggests that the people coming after you are going to look nothing like you. And they are not going to come after the things you do well. They are going to target the things you don’t do well. Or can’t do. Or are unwilling to do.

But that’s the nature of disruption. You never know where it’s coming from. And if it’s done correctly, it’s almost indefensible.

In the spring of 1998, on the eve of Netflix launching its video-rental-by-mail business, the thought that we might eventually disrupt the video industry and take down Blockbuster was ludicrous. Blockbuster was huge: 7,000 stores. More than 75,000 employees. Nearly 5 billion dollars in annual revenue. While we, on the other hand, were a dozen people hunkered down in an old bank building with dirty green carpet. We stored our paltry selection of 900 videos in the bank’s old walk-in safe.

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