On October 15, 2019, the Arts + Business Council welcomed Netflix Co-Founder and Founding CEO Marc Randolph for Defining Innovation to offer insight, tips, and techniques to those who have ever dreamed of turning a creative concept into a world-class business. Randolph pulled many of his tidbits of advice from his recently released memoir That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea. As a capstone to this year’s B.PHL Innovation Fest, this program convened more than 300 corporate innovators, startup leaders, creatives, and students to connect and generate new ideas.
Long before “binge-watching” was a catchphrase, Randolph spent many mornings in the late 1990’s speeding on a California highway spit-balling startup ideas with his colleague, Reed Hastings. They contemplated hundreds of “bad ideas” during their daily work commutes before the idea of selling DVDs online stuck. During his keynote address, Randolph shared some key advice: “Having a startup means testing a million bad ideas until you have one that turns it around.” The rest isn’t just history, but a story that has a lot of relevance for startup founders and anyone who has had a crazy idea that could potentially turn into a reality.
As he spoke, Randolph stressed some of his personal approaches to success mentioning his “overflowing optimism,” persistence, and the importance he places on human connection versus economic gain. As he touched on the less than glamorous genesis of Netflix, Randolph offered relatable advice to those starting out or changing course professionally. Randolph frankly discussed the company’s modest early days: how he and Hastings test-mailed an old CD in a pink greeting card envelope, the company’s first offices with dirty green carpets and stacks of DVDs, and how users crashed Netflix’s servers on launch day. In spite of this, Randolph and Hastings persisted.
After his keynote, Randolph then sat down for an interview with Dr. Mark Tykocinski, Provost and Executive Vice President, Academic Affairs, Thomas Jefferson University. Tykocinski offered his perspective on the importance of trusting ideas and following them through while Randolph noted the need to anticipate and accept change in any field. Randolph likened the pursuit of success in the face of challenges to attempting to finish a tricky New York Times crossword. Randolph has always been motivated because even though the work may be hard, he knows there is a solution. Finally, he called for the re-framing of a triggering word in any employee’s working life: success. Money aside, Randolph heavily urged employers and employees to view success as getting to do what you love.
The second portion of the evening’s program included a strategy salon moderated by Fabiola Cineas, Senior Editor, Philadelphia magazine and featured Pariveda Solutions’ Mark Helberg, Wilco Electronic Systems’ Brigitte Daniel, and Cozen O’Connor’s Mindy Rudolph. The discussion started off with a comparison between Silicon Valley and Philadelphia with Daniel noting that Philadelphia has a dramatically different set of demographics, and rather than try replicate the dynamic of Silicon Valley, Philadelphia should relish in its distinction.
— Arts + Biz Council (@ArtsBusinessPHL) October 15, 2019
Rudolph then shared an example illustrating how Cozen O’Connor drives innovation in Philadelphia’s startup community. Through a program called Co-Pilot, Cozen O’Conner engages entrepreneurs and delivers resources to early-stage startups enabling them with the tools for success. Helberg followed by speaking on the importance of building innovation by focusing on people rather than technology.
Panelists also reflected on achieving and defining success in the workplace. Rudolph called on people to be courteous of other’s space and time and Daniel placed importance on building inclusive relationships with not only employees but the market, investors, and your personal life, all as an ingrained practice and not a “box to tick off.” Marc Helberg channeled Maya Angelou and gave the audience pause to consider how, as employees and employers, they make others feel, as well as being self-sufficient and accountable for their actions. The takeaway to champion Philadelphia as an innovative city was simple: listen to the diverse audience, customers, and clients right outside our doors.