Reed Hastings

Wilmot Reed Hastings, Jr. (b. 8 October 1960 in Boston, Massachusetts ) is an American businessman and entrepreneur. He is the founder, CEO, president and chairman of the board of Netflix.

Early Life and Education

Hastings attended high school at the Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.fact|date=September 2007 His father was a lawyer who once served in the Nixon administration, serving as general counsel in the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. "One weekend when I was about 12, my parents, sisters and I were invited to Camp David, when the president wasn’t there. Elliot Richardson, who held several cabinet positions, invited us. We rode around in golf carts, had a tour and I saw that President Nixon had a gold-colored toilet seat." [ New York Times. "Out of Africa, Onto the Web" by Reed Hstings as told to Amy Zipkin. December 17, 2006.] ]

Hastings studied mathematics at Bowdoin College [ Stanford Magazine. "Home Movies" by Joan O'C Hamilton. January/February 2006.] ] in Brunswick, Maine, and won its mathematics department's Smyth Prize in 1981. [ [ Bowdoin College. "List of Smyth Prize Winners."] ] "I wanted to go to a small liberal arts school and went to Bowdoin College in Maine. I majored in math because I found the abstractions beautiful and engaging," said Hastings. Hastings received his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College in 1983.

Peace Corps Service

Hastings wanted to serve his country and joined the Marine Corps in their Platoon Leader Class and spent the summer between his sophomore and junior year in boot camp at Quantico, Virginia. "I found myself questioning how we packed our backpacks and how we made our beds," said Hastings. "My questioning wasn’t particularly encouraged, and I realized I might be better off in the Peace Corps. I petitioned the recruiting office and left the Marines."

Hastings taught mathematics as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Swaziland from 1983 to 1985 and credits part of his entrepreneurial spirit to his time in the Peace Corps. "I joined the Peace Corps after graduate school and went to teach high school math in Swaziland, out of a combination of service and adventure," says Hastings. "It was an extremely satisfying experience. Taking smart risks can be very gratifying. Guessing right is a skill developed over time. Not all smart risks work out, but many of them do." [ "How I Did It: Reed Hastings, Netflix" by Patrick J. Sauer December, 2005] ] "Once you have hitchhiked across Africa with ten bucks in your pocket, starting a business doesn't seem too intimidating." [ CNN Money. "Questions for... Reed Hastings" Interview by Matthew Boyle May 23, 2007.] ]

Returning from the Peace Corps, Hastings went to graduate school at Stanford. "I didn’t get into my first choice, which was M.I.T. I got accepted to Stanford," said Hastings. "I had never been to California and arrived in late summer. Driving up to the campus I saw palm trees. It was dry and brown. I asked myself, 'Where’s the ivy?' Within a week I had fallen in love with California." Hastings earned a master's degree in computer science from Stanford University in 1988.

Founded Pure Software

Hastings' first job was at Adaptive Technology where he invented a tool for debugging software. "I worked for Audrey MacLean in 1990 when she was CEO at Adaptive Corp. From her I learned the value of focus. I learned it is better to do one product well than two products in a mediocre way," says Hastings.

Hastings left Adaptive Technology in 1991 to found his first company, Pure Software, that produced products to troubleshoot software. Hastings found running the company challenging as the company grew exponentially. "As the company grew from 10 to 40 to 120 to 320 to 640 employees, I found I was definitely underwater and over my head," said Hastings. "I was doing white-water kayaking at the time, and in kayaking if you stare and focus on the problem you are much more likely to hit danger. I focused on the safe water and what I wanted to happen. I didn’t listen to the skeptics." Hastings' engineering background didn't prepare him for the challenges of being a CEO and he asked his board to replace him. "I tried to fire myself — twice," Hastings says. "I was losing confidence." [ USA Today. "'Charismatic' founder keeps Netflix adapting" by Jim Hopkins. Updated March 23, 2006.] ] The board refused and Hastings says he learned to be a businessman. "I was an engineer myself. We doubled our revenue every year, but my transformation from engineer to CEO was when Morgan Stanley took the company public in 1995."

In 1996 Pure software announced a merger with Atria. The merger integrated Pure Software's programs for detecting bugs in software with Atria's tools to manage development of complex software. "With a single vendor and a unified sales force, we'll be able to make a really profound difference in the way people develop software," Hastings said at the time of the merger.Wall Street Journal. "Software Firms Pure and Atria Agree to Merge in Stock Deal" by Don Clark. June 7, 1996.] But the Wall Street Journal reported that there were problems integrating the sales forces of Pure Software and Altria after the head salesmen for both Pure and Atria left following the merger.

In 1997, the combined company, Pure Atria, was acquired by Rational Software triggering a 42% drop in the two company's stock after the deal was announced. Hastings was appointed chief technical officer of the combined companiesWall Street Journal. "Investors Pan Rational's Plan To Buy Pure Atria for Stock" by Don Clark. April 8, 1997.] and left soon after the acquisition. "I had the great fortune of doing a mediocre job at my first company," says Hastings. "We got more bureaucratic as we grew." After Pure software Hastings spent two years thinking about how to avoid similar problems at his next startup. [ Business Week. "Netflix: Flex To The Max" by Michelle Conlin. September 24, 2007.] ]

Founded Netflix

In 1998 Hastings founded Netflix, the largest online DVD rental service, offering flat rate rental-by-mail to customers in the United States. Headquartered in Los Gatos, California, Netflix has amassed a collection of 100,000 titles and over 8 million subscribers.cite web |url= | title = Netflix Facts | publisher = Netflix | accessdate = 2 March | accessyear = 2007 ] "I got the idea for Netflix after my company was acquired," said Hastings. "I had a big late fee for 'Apollo 13.' It was six weeks late and I owed the video store $40. I had misplaced the cassette. It was all my fault. I didn’t want to tell my wife about it. And I said to myself, 'I’m going to compromise the integrity of my marriage over a late fee?' Later, on my way to the gym, I realized they had a much better business model. You could pay $30 or $40 a month and work out as little or as much as you wanted."

Hastings said that he had no idea when he founded Netflix if customers would use the service. "Netflix was originally a single rental service, but the subscription model was one of a few ideas we had--so there was no Aha! moment. Having unlimited due dates and no late fees has worked in a powerful way and now seems obvious, but at that time we had no idea if consumers would even build and use an online queue."

Netflix Innovative Business Practices

Netflix is known for its innovative business practices. In October, 2006 the company announced that it would award a $1 million prize to whoever could devise a system that was 10 percent more accurate than the company’s current system for recommending movies that customers would like. Hastings didn’t necessarily expect a lot of quick progress towards the prize. "We thought we built the best darn thing ever," Hastings said. [ New York Times "You Want Innovation? Offer a Prize" by David Leonhardt. January 31, 2007.] ] But by June, 2007 Hastings said the competition is "three-quarters of the way there in three-quarters of a year." [ New York Times. "Netflix Prize Still Awaits a Movie Seer" by Katie Hafner. June 4, 2007.] ]

Netflix is also innovative in its management practices. Netflix is known to pay salaries that are typically much higher than customary to attract the best talent and is one of the few companies where employees can choose annually how much of their compensation they want in cash vs. stock. "We're unafraid to pay high," says Hastings. Other innovations include their treatment of employees who don't meet expectations. "At most companies, average performers get an average raise," says Hastings. "At Netflix, they get a generous severance package," because that way managers don't feel too guilty to let average performers go.

Internet Television

Hastings is a big proponent of internet television and sees it as the future. "I think there's a huge category of people who will watch movies on laptops," says Hastings. "And remember, it's not the laptop of today. Think of the laptop in five years. People will continue to want to watch movies on TV. No doubt about it. But laptop screens are improving. And young people are living on laptops." Netflix launched a service in 2007 to stream movies and television to a users' computers. "What we're finding is that young people, under 25, are watching our streaming on their PCs in huge numbers," says Hastings. "They operate more portably than we do with our big screen TVs."

Other Business Interests

On March 26, 2007, Microsoft announced that Hastings had been elected to their board of directors. [ [ "Microsoft Board of Directors Adds New Member and Declares Quarterly Dividend." March 26, 2007.] ] "There are very few companies that rival Microsoft’s impact on the way millions of people live, work and play around the world," Hastings said upon his appointment. "I look forward to working with Microsoft’s esteemed group of board members to help shape the direction of the company as it continues to tackle the biggest industry challenges and opportunities." [ Microsoft Press Release. "Microsoft Board of Directors Adds New Member and Declares Quarterly Dividend" March 26, 2007.] ] In May 23, 2007 Hastings added that "It is tremendously engaging being in the room with Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer for a day or two, four times a year, which helps me understand why and how Microsoft has been so successful for 30 years."

Educational and Political Activism

California State Board of Education

After selling Pure Software and making a fortune, Hastings found himself without a goal. "I was so ego-identified with [Pure] that I felt like a failure," Hastings says. Hastings became interested in educational reform in California and enrolled in Stanford’s School of Education. In 2000, Governor Gray Davis appointed Hastings to the State Board of Education, and in 2001, Hastings became its president. Hastings spent $1 million of his own money together with $6 million from Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr to promote the passage of Proposition 39 in November 2000, [Wall Street Journal. "Silicon Valley Moguls Spend On Education Ballot Battles" by Ann Grimes. October 31, 2000.] a measure that lowered the level of voter approval for local schools to pass construction bond issues from 66 to 55 percent. “He is absolutely driven to improve the level of education in this country,” said friend Nick McKeown.

In 1995 after Hasting's company Pure Software was acquired for $750 million two years later, Hasting's personal wealth allowed him to pursue his passion for school reform. "After Pure Software, I had a bunch of money, and I didn't really want to buy yachts and such things," said Hastings. "I wanted to find something important to do. And I started looking at education, trying to figure out why our education is lagging when our technology is increasing at great rates and there's great innovation in so many other areas -- health care, biotech, information technology, movie-making. Why not education?" [ Wall Street Journal. "Movie Man" by Jason Riley. February 9, 2008] ]

In 2005 Hastings ran into trouble on the State Board of Education when Democratic legislators challenged Hastings’ advocacy of more English instruction and language testing for non-English-speaking students. The California Senate Rules Committee refused to confirm him as the Board president. The California State Legislature rejected him in January 2005. [ California Department of Education. "O'Connell on Reed Hastings - Year 2005." January 12, 2005.] ] Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had reappointed Hastings to the board after Hastings' first term, issued a statement saying he was "disappointed" in the committee’s action. Hastings resigned.

On April 3, 2008 Steven Maviglio reported that Hastings had made a $100,000 contribution to California Governor Schwarzenegger's "Voters First" redistricting campaign and wrote that Hastings may still be smarting from the State Senate's rejection of Hastings' seat on California's State Board of Education. [ the California Majority Report. "Is Reed Hastings Six Figure Contribution to Schwarzenegger's Redistricting Effort Simple Revenge?" by Steven Maviglio. April 3, 2008.] ]

Charter Schools

Hastings is active in educational philanthropy and politics and one of the issues Hastings most strongly advocates is charter schools, publicly funded elementary or secondary schools that have been freed from some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools, in exchange for some type of accountability for producing certain results, which are set forth in each school's charter. "If public schools don't adopt the same principles of competition and accountability as exist in the private and nonprofit sectors, they will continue to deteriorate," says Hastings. "One way to permanently impact the system would be to have 10 to 20 percent of California schoolchildren enrolled in charter schools. That would be critical mass, and enough of a force to induce a competitive dynamic in the system," he added. [ Stanford Online. "Charter schools advocate Reed Hastings to speak April 12" by Thouraya Raiss. April 5, 2000.] ] Hastings is a founding member of, Aspire Public Schools, Pacific Collegiate School, and and has led the successful drive in 1998 for a stronger charter school law in California.fact|date=October 2007

On July 11, 2006 the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported that Hastings had donated $1 million in startup funds to Beacon Education Network to open up new charter schools in Santa Cruz county where Hastings lives. "Small schools aren't for everyone but in some kids they work better in terms of academic preparation for college," Hastings said. "The small school focus is particularly true for students who don't get as much academic support at home." [ Santa Cruz Sentinel. "Netflix CEO gives $1 million to open charter schools" by Matt King. July 11, 2006.] ]

The Sandor Teszler Award for Moral Courage and Service to Humankind

This is an annual humanitarian award given by Wofford College since 2006 that is bestowed upon a person who "represents the highest ideals that the Wofford community espouses." [Wofford College. "The Sandor Teszler Award for Moral Courage and Service to Humankind"] It also includes an honorary degree, a citation and a $10,000 cash award, donated by Hastings. On April 20, 2006, the award was given to Marian Wright Edelman, president and founder of the child advocacy group Children's Defense Fund. On March 27, 2007, the award was given to medical anthropologist and physician, Paul Farmer, founding director of the non-profit healthcare organization Partners In Health.


Hastings is a member of Technology Network, a political network of Businessmen and Executives that promotes technology growth and innovation. TechNet brings its members together with national policy makers to advance America's global leadership in innovation. [ Technology Network] ] Hastings served as CEO of Technology Network for a year. [New York Times. "One Man's 2 Challenges" by Laurie J. Flynn. June 3, 2002.]


On August 1, 2007 the Los Angeles Times reported that Democrat Hastings had donated $1 million to a committee formed to support California State Superintendent of Schools Jack O'Connell's candidacy for Governor of California in 2010. [ [,0,4553077.story?coll=la-home-center Los Angeles Times. "State GOP awash in red ink" by Evan Halper. August 1, 2007] ]


Stanford Magazine reported in January, 2006 that Hastings lives in Santa Cruz, California, is married, and has two children.

Hastings was featured in a front-page article in USA Today in 1995, posing on his Porsche. Nowadays he eschews flamboyance and says if he ever appeared on the front page of USA Today again it will "not [be] on the hood of a Porsche, but I would [pose] with a bunch of movies."Wall Street Journal. "Netflix's CEO Is Mobilizing For Battle With Amazon" by Carl Bialik. October 20,2004.]

One of Hastings' favorite movies is Gloomy Sunday. "It is about a love triangle in Budapest with great sadness and redemption. Thankfully, there are no parallels to Netflix," says Hastings.


External links

* [ Reed Hastings biography at]
* [ Reed Hastings articles on Peace Corps Online]
* [ Reed Hastings interview on] National Public Radio
* [ Part of Business 2.0's List of "10 people who don't matter"]
* [ Part of Time's 100 Most Influential People"]
* [ Reed Hastings' Blog]

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