Randolph started his speech like many good movies, titering on the edge of failure. He tells of the iconic meeting with Blockbuster when Netflix was $50M in debt, and they asked for $50M to be acquired. The response? A Blockbuster executive-themed laugh track and a quiet cab ride back to the airport.
Like many antagonists before and after him, Randolph leaned on old sage wisdom from his father. “The only way out, is through”, he recanted his old man’s advice to the room of three hundred Australian founders, investors and operators.
They buckled down the business, made tough decisions and even trimmed down the team. Over time, this lean team turned around a business $50M in debt to be worth over $100B.Blockbuster has since fallen from 60,000 employees to a single store.
Marc's background at Netflix has been invaluable in his role as an angel investor and advisor. He tells us that his experience enables him to pinpoint the essential characteristics of early-stage companies to challenge industry incumbents. Interestingly, these same qualities can also help established businesses protect themselves from potential disruptors.
The Essential Qualities for Disruptors
According to Randolph, the essential qualities of disruptors are
Tolerance for risk,
The ability to generate numerous ideas, and
The confidence to execute on those ideas.
These qualities are crucial for start-ups, enabling them to break through barriers and grow.
Embracing risk means venturing into uncharted territory, which is often the breeding ground for innovation. In a world where no one knows the outcome, it's the risk-takers who drive progress and bring about change. “When you’re trying something new, nobody knows anything”. For Randolph, entrepreneurship might not be for you if you’re not ready to take action when you can’t see around the corner.
Generating ideas is another crucial component. But as Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari, aptly puts it, "Everyone who's ever taken a shower has had an idea. But it's the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it, that makes the difference." Ideas alone are not enough; it's the execution and making them a reality that truly counts.
For Randolph, this is where confidence comes into play. Confidence allows individuals to remain steadfast in pursuing their ideas when faced with challenges and naysayers. As Randolph himself said, "Ideas count for shit. What makes a difference is whether you're willing to go off and do something about it."
Not Silicon Valley? No Worries!
Randolph also emphasises that innovation can happen anywhere and does not require specific credentials or locations. As he notes, "You do not need to be in Silicon Valley... I travel all over the world, meeting with companies. And I'm always astounded at the level of innovation and creativity taking place in the most unlikely places." Sage wisdom for founders based in _SOUTHSTART’s home of “little-old Adelaide” with ambitions of changing the world.
He further dispels the myth that entrepreneurs need a specific educational background or career path. He shares stories of successful entrepreneurs who come from various walks of life, such as a former ambulance driver, a musician, and a 17-year-old innovator. For many who attended _SOUTHSTART, this feeling resonated deeply as meeting new people from all backgrounds was the rule, not the exception.
These examples serve as a reminder that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to entrepreneurship. Australian start-ups can draw inspiration from these unconventional paths and foster a culture of innovation, creativity, and resilience.
Marc Randolph's journey with Netflix and his insights as an angel investor offer invaluable lessons for Australian start-ups. By embracing risk, generating ideas, and executing with confidence, these budding businesses can navigate the unpredictable waters of entrepreneurship and create their own paths to success.
As Randolph's story demonstrates, the only way out is through. And with the right mindset and determination, Australian start-ups can defy the odds and achieve greatness, just like Netflix.
Subscribe to newsletter
Subscribe to receive the latest start-up news in your inbox every week.