1. Business

Netflix cofounder Marc Randolph's key to success is confidence

And a system for testing bad ideas.
Marc Randolph, cofounder of Netflix, speaks at the University of South Florida’s Muma College of Business “Thought Leader” series at the USF Oval Theater in Tampa on Thursday.
Published Feb. 21

TAMPA — Netflix's big meeting with Blockbuster was a dud. After months of trying to pin down a face-to-face with executives of the then-movie rental giant, Marc Randolph, cofounder of Netflix, knew it was over when the room laughed at Netflix's $50 million self-valuation. So he took a long, quiet ride back to the airport.

"I distinctly remember being on the plane with my head down thinking, 'Now we're going to have to kick their a--,'" Randolph said.

That confidence, he said, is the one attribute above all else that makes entrepreneurs successful. Speaking to a packed room of University of South Florida business students and entrepreneurs on Thursday, Randolph kicked off the second installment of the university's Muma College of Business "Thought Leader" series.

Success for Randolph wasn't a meteor that fell out of the sky and hit him, he said. It was a process rooted in confidence.

"I'm not a glass-half-full optimist," he said. "I'm a glass-overflowing optimist."

Optimism, paired with a healthy tolerance for risk and an idea is Randolph's formula for entrepreneurial success. It's what kicked off Netflix and many of the other ventures that he had a hand in starting or funding.

Netflix, he said, came from a pile of ideas. He and Reed Hastings, who would become Netflix's other cofounder, were in the market for a new idea they could collaborate on, and spit-balled while they carpooled to work each day.

After workshopping more than 100 ideas, they settled on testing video rental by mail.

"It's not about having good ideas," Randolph said. "It's about building a system and a process and a culture to come and test bad ideas."

And testing them cheaply. One of the startups that Randolph funded was a company that delivered beer to customers' doors. To figure out if the product was going to be in demand, the founder, who was in college at the time, passed out cards before the weekend that said, "Need beer? Call me."

Several iterations of delivering beer to students and friends, then businesses and then to homes eventually resulted in the startup EasyFridge.

Lean in to a problem you find, he said.

"Learn that problem," Randolph said. "Know that problem, and believe that you're the person who can solve it."

Contact Malena Carollo at or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo.


  1. Sam's Club fulfillment center manager Nick Barbieri explains to a shopper how the new Scan & Go shop works at 5135 S Dale Mabry Highway. SARA DINATALE  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The shuttered store has been reinvented and debuted to the community.
  2. Yogi Goswami
    The Molekule Air Mini is a scaled-down version of its original purifier.
  3. 580 Corporate Center in Oldsmar Jones Lang LaSalle Capital Markets
    The six-building center is 91 percent occupied.
  4. Florida has a newly-appointed task force to analyze the state's cybersecurity health. Pictured is Florida's Old Capitol building in March. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    A Legislature-created task force convenes this month to begin its year-long assessment.
  5. 5 hours ago• Business
    The Cross Bay Ferry, Provincetown III leaves the Vinoy Yacht Basin in January with passengers headed to Tampa. For departure times and fares for this season, which will go from Nov. 1 through April 30, check [SCOTT KEELER | Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Now in its third year, the ferry will run Wednesdays through Sundays, with service for every Tampa Bay Lightning home game.
  6. The Doc Webb house, which became a point of contention over its historic status. LUIS SANTANA  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The City Council will vote on amended regulations about third-party designation meant to quell verbal and legal skirmishes over historic preservation
  7. Ken Jones, CEO of Third Lake Capital, has sold WingHouse for $18 million to a Jacksonville restaurant company. [Times 2016]
    Tampa’s Third Like Capital now major shareholder in restaurant’s new owners.
  8. The Don CeSar Hotel is caught up in a lawsuit over liquid nitrogen being served and causing injuries at its restaurant. [Times (2011)]
    They say the other side has made inflammatory and misleading statements to the media.
  9. This Mobil Coast gas station at 16055 State Road 52 in Land O Lakes is one of 10 cited in a Florida Department of Environmental Protection lawsuit where inspectors said they found lapses in regularly required tests, maintenance, documentation or other oversight by Brandon-based Automated Petroleum and Energy or its related companies. On Wednesday, the company said the station had already been put back in compliance with state regulations. (Photo via Google street view) Google street view
    The Florida Department of Environmental Protection contends Automated Petroleum and Energy Company failed to do required maintenance or testing at 10 gas stations in the Tampa Bay area and beyond.
  10. FILE - In this July 31, 2019, file photo workers clean the outside facade of State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. On Wednesday, Oct. 16, the Federal Reserve releases its latest ‘Beige Book’ survey of economic conditions. ROSS D. FRANKLIN  |  AP
    “Persistent trade tensions and slower global growth” were weighing on the economy, the Federal Reserve reported.