A worldwide household name, Wilmot Reed Hastings Jr. was born in Massachusetts in 1960. He graduated from college in 1983 with a BA in Mathematics, after which he joined the Marine Corps. He however did not finish his training and instead joined the Peace Corps. Drawn by the thrill and adventure, he spent two years in Swaziland, teaching Mathematics. He then proceeded to earn a Master’s Degree in Computer Science from Stanford University in 1988.
Hastings worked at Adaptive Technology up-to 1991, when he founded his first company, Pure Software. Up to this point, Hastings had been involved in product development and its technicalities and had no idea how to maneuver through the intricacies of management. For this reason, his company started failing and he asked to be replaced as CEO. The board refused. Pure Software then merged with Atria Software to form Pure Atria, which was sold to Rational Software in 1997.
Following his experience with Pure Software, Hastings took a two-year break to strategize on the way forward. In 1997, he at one time was late in returning a movie cassette and was fined highly. And thus his next venture was birthed. Together with a former employee of his, he founded Netflix, which was then a movie-rental service. People would order their movies on a website and the DVDs would be delivered by mail. A subscription service was later launched, where customers would pay a specific fee for access to an unlimited number of DVDs. This idea was carried on when internet streaming services were launched in 2007. Today Netflix is also involved in content production and its subscriptions are at over 200 million households.
Based on Netflix’s culture, Hastings co-authored a book: No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention. In an interview on the same he explains why he thinks the best CEO is the not-busy one. “You want to be able to know what’s going on in all kinds of places, but not making decisions,” he goes on. For a CEO, it means having the bigger picture in mind and planning long-term. For an employee, it means taking everything into consideration in decision making, knowing full well that the buck stops at you.
One of the many things Hastings has learned over the years is portrayed quite loudly, especially through Netflix: It is better to do one product well than two products in a mediocre way.