We Launched Netflix 25 Years Ago Today.

We ended the day with 200 customers. Today, Netflix has more than 200 million of them.

Exactly 25 years ago today – on April 14th, 1998, at 8 am in the morning, Eric Meyer leaned forward, tapped a few keys on his laptop, and launched Netflix to the world.

That first day was a long one. We crashed our servers. Ran out of mailing labels. Scrambled to get everything to the post office in time. But we ended that day with 200 customers.

Today, Netflix has more than 200 million of them.

Starting with a dozen people squeezed into a tiny office with dirty green carpet, Netflix now has more than 10,000 employees. It has customers in nearly every country in the world. It produces its own movies.  It makes its own television shows.  It’s brought the world “Netflix and Chill.” (And I promise, I never saw that last one coming).

25 years ago, we simply believed there “had to be a better way” to rent movies, but along the way, we ended up not just changing the way the world consumes content, but how that content is created.

We started out just wanting to enjoy work and ended up showing it was possible to build a culture based on radical honesty, freedom, and responsibility.

But looking back, I know it could have gone very differently.

– What if the DVD had gone the way of the LaserDisc?  (Don’t know what a LaserDisc is?  My point exactly!)

– What if Reed and I had accepted Amazon’s offer?

– What if Blockbuster had said yes to our $50 million ask?

I can point to hundreds of other forks in the road that may have made the difference between success and failure. Each of them reminds me of the importance that luck plays in every success story. (And the role that survivor bias has in the fact that I’m the one telling it).

Speaking of luck, what about the people? Would any of this have happened without the right startup team? Without Christina Kish? Te Smith? Jim Cook? Eric Meyer? Mitch Lowe?

Where would Netflix be if PureAtria had not acquired Integrity QA; the lucky break that resulted in me sharing an office – and a carpool – with a guy named Reed Hastings.

And what would have happened had we not stumbled – more than a year and a half into our journey – onto the no-due-dates, no-late-fees subscription model that ended up saving us?

It’s been an amazing ride, and at the beginning, all I wanted to do was start a company that sold something on the internet. I ended up with so much more than that.

As Netflix closes out its first 25 years – and hopefully kicks off its next hundred – I’ve never been prouder of what Netflix has become.

And I’m proud of everything that we accomplished. We started out wanting to solve an interesting problem and ended up proving that a handful of people with a crazy idea and a bit of determination can change the world.

But I’m proudest of the fact that I didn’t listen when everyone – and I mean everyone – told me “That Will Never Work.”

Many ideas in this post were first discussed in the Neverland entrepreneurial community. Join us there!

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