Netflix is an unassuming insurrectionist.
CEO Reed Hastings is known for the endearing sweaters he wears during his investor calls. Past and present co-workers say he's respectful and hands-off. Netflix's culture is famously lenient: Employees have freedom to work on projects they find important and get unusual perks, including unlimited vacation, no set schedules, and the choice to be paid in cash, stock options or any combination of the two.
From Netflix's earliest days, executives prepared for how it would adjust to rapid growth. Netflix knew DVDs would be anachronistic years before internet streaming was invented, said Joel Mier, Netflix's director of marketing from 1999 to 2006 and a lecturer of marketing at University of Richmond.
"The constant question asked at Netflix has been how do you deliver what customers want today while building for a different tomorrow — organizational ambidexterity," said Mier. "I remember talking about phasing out the DVD and the internet driving content consumption at my first interview in 1999."
The company's ambitions were higher than typical start-ups, partly because Hastings was already a millionaire when he started Netflix.
A former Peace Corps volunteer who once taught high-school math in Swaziland, Hastings sold his first company, Pure Software, in 1997 for $750 million. Netflix executives such as former Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt and former Chief Talent Officer Patty McCord, who worked at Pure with Hastings, spent time focusing on culture to ensure Netflix could grow without losing talent.