Happy Birthday Netflix
April 14, 2011
EXACTLY THIRTEEN YEARS AGO today, sometime in the early morning hours of April 14th, 1998, the Netflix site went live for the first time. We lasted about 6 hours before the site crashed for the first of many (many!) times that morning. Only after a long ugly day – and temporarily re-purposing everyone’s desktop PCs as web servers – was the site stable enough to finish out the day.
By that night we had just over 100 customers. Just over three years later we celebrated our 500,000th subscriber. Today Netflix has over 20 million.
Although I certainly dreamed that this crazy idea might have a shot at success, I certainly never imagined it would be of this magnitude. But as we got bigger, it was not the numbers that got me excited – it was the little unexpected signs that we were actually making progress.
Like the first time I got stopped in an airport wearing a Netflix T-Shirt. Or the day I saw “Netflix” used as an answer in the New York Times Crossword Puzzle. (October 26, 2007 – “Modern Rental Option?”).
If you’re currently in the trenchs of trying to start a company, go ahead and dream big – no matter what you’re pursuing. But don’t be obsessed about those dreams. The real excitement of doing a startup is working with a team of super-smart people, solving interesting problems, and making steady progress. If you’re head’s in the right place – you’ll love what you’re doing no matter what stage you get to. Starting a company is the biggest rush of them all.
And for God’s sake, take plenty of pictures. In the off-chance you do become a multinational behemoth, you’re going to need some good pictures of the early days to hang in your lobby.
Over the next few months I’ll try and post some more recollections from those initial few months and years. But in the meantime, Happy Birthday Netflix.