Netflix is one of my favorite ways to chill out and get stuck into a good movie or an enthralling TV series. However, I was surprised to learn that the company started off as a rental DVD service in the late 1990s.
This led me to discover more about Reed Hastings’ bio and how this entrepreneur grew a DVD rental company into the largest video streaming platform in the world. The subscription service has over 200 million subscribers and a market value of over $100 billion.
In this Reed Hastings bio, I’m going to take you through his life, from his time with the Peace Corps, founding his first company, Pure Software, and how he revolutionized the way we watch movies and TV shows through his biggest success – Netflix.
Reed Hastings Bio Facts
|Full Name: Wilmot Reed Hastings Jr.|
|Birth Date: October 8, 1960.|
|Birth Place: Boston, Massachusetts, United States|
|Partner / Spouse: Patricia Quillin|
|Profession: Entrepreneur, CEO|
|Salary: $650,000 (and $39.7 million in stock grants)|
|Net Worth: $2.7 billion|
|Social Media: Twitter, LinkedIn|
|Companies Associated With: Netflix|
|Last Updated: 2022|
Reed Hastings Key Facts Summary
- He has a net worth of $2.7 billion.
- Co-founded Netflix in 1997 as a DVD rental company.
- Grew Netflix into the largest video-streaming service in the world
- His first company, Pure Software, sold for $750m.
- Taught maths at a rural school in Swaziland as part of the Peace Corp.
- He has donated money to and supported the Democratic Party.
- Established the Hastings Fund, which donates money to improve education.
- Is a director in Facebook Inc, and sat on the board for many years.
Reed Hastings Birthplace and Early Life
I have found learning about Reed Hastings’ early life really interesting.
Hastings was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Wilmot Reed Hastings and Joan Amory Loomis. His father was an attorney who served in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare during Richard Nixon’s time as President. His mother was from a wealthy ‘old money’ family.
I enjoy discovering what successful entrepreneurs and business pioneers did before they flourished, and Reed Hastings’ background is fascinating. After finishing at the Buckingham Browne & Nichols School, he worked as a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman, a far cry from founding the multi-billion dollar company Netflix.
After graduating from Bowdoin College with a degree in mathematics, Hastings enlisted in the Marine Corps. He didn’t finish officer training and instead joined the Peace Corps. The more I learned about Reed Hastings, particularly in the culture he created at Netflix, he didn’t strike me as someone who would thrive in the Marines.
In the mid-1980s, he surprisingly headed out to Swaziland and taught maths in a rural high school. I think this time in his life definitely influenced how he approached being an entrepreneur, and after returning from Africa, he completed his Master’s in Computer Science at Stamford University.
Reed Hastings Early Business Success
The first company Reed Hastings founded was called Pure Software, which specialized in developing debugging tools. He did work at Adaptive Technology before this and credited the CEO, Audrey MacLean, as having a strong influence on how he would go on to develop his own business strategy.
His time at Pure Software was successful, as revenue doubled yearly, and the company would eventually go public in the mid-1990s. Rational Software took over the company for $750m in 1997, significantly increasing his wealth.
I will look a bit more in-depth at Hastings’ shortcomings in business later on (although he has been very successful in his career). However, he did find management particularly challenging at Pure Software. Hasting admitted that “I was underprepared for the complexities and personalities” of being in charge of a large and diverse workforce. The jump from an entrepreneur and engineer to a CEO took some time to get used to, and he even asked the board at Pure Software to replace him as he quickly lost confidence in himself.
After stepping down from Pure Software following Rational Software’s acquisition, Hastings co-founded Netflix with Marc Randolph.
I always think of Netflix as the number one streaming platform in the world; however, back in the late 1990s, the company started out as a mail-rental service. I think Hastings found a pioneering method of propelling Netflix to succeed in its early days. Mail-order rental movies weren’t exactly a new concept, but he combined the enhanced functionality of being able to use a website to order alongside focusing on DVDs which were an emerging technology at the time (and also easier to post than a VHS).
Hastings’ desire to be ahead of the curve and provide innovative solutions is further evidenced in a 2005 article I found about him. He said that he wanted Netflix to be ready for video-on-demand when it takes off, and Hastings knew early on that this was a market he wanted to dominate. Netflix would launch a video-streaming service in 2007, and Hastings said that YouTube greatly influenced him to move Netflix to a streaming platform.
Netflix is a massive success story, not just in its growth and dominance of the video streaming market but through the work culture and values that Hastings advocates. I think the work culture that Hastings fostered at Netflix by giving employees a large degree of freedom (they don’t have set vacation days or sick days, employees are free to manage their own time) has contributed to the company’s overall success.
Just to give you an idea of how well Netflix has performed since Hastings co-founded the company back in 1997, its revenue has shot up from $3.1 billion in 2011 to nearly $30 billion in 2021. Also, its subscriber list has gone from 30.4 million subscribers in 2012 to 220.67 million subscribers in 2022 (although there has been a slight decrease recently).
Reed Hastings Videos
How Netflix changed entertainment — and where it’s headed
Reed Hasting’s Top 5 Lessons Learned Being CEO of Netflix
Reed Hastings Business Failures
Even though Reed Hasting has had remarkable success in his career and accumulated a net worth of over $2 billion, he admits that he didn’t always get it right.
One notable setback in his early career was during his time as CEO of Pure Software. He found the jump to becoming a leader particularly difficult and even asked the board to consider his position due to his lack of confidence in leading a company.
While Pure Software was eventually taken over, I think this was a difficult time in his business life. However, I also believe that this helped Hastings to go on and become the success that we know him for today.
Another mistake he made was during his time at Netflix when he hesitated in opening regional warehouses for local distribution centers. Many early Netflix subscribers (back when it was a DVD rental company) complained that they had to wait too long for delivery.
Hastings admits that he should have found a solution to this earlier, although I think it’s a testament to his character and his ability to learn and adapt that he solved this issue. Netflix opened 36 warehouses across the US, which allowed for next-day delivery, and undoubtedly I feel this helped the company grow even more.
Reed Hastings Family
I found Reed Hastings’ family background quite interesting as his father, Wilmot Reed Hastings, was an attorney who served in the Nixon administration. His mother, Joan Amory Loomis, was from ‘old money’, and her family was part of American high society. However, I discovered that she had a strong dislike for that life, and I think she had a strong influence on Reed, given that he took off to teach maths in a rural school in Swaziland with the Peace corps.
Reed married Patricia Ann Quillin in 1991, and the couple has two children together.
Patricia serves on the Board of Directors at the Santa Cruz Natural History Museum.
Reed Hastings and Career Earnings
Reed Hastings didn’t come from remarkably humble beginnings; however, his business acumen and strategy propelled him into the billionaire category.
He made a lot of money by selling Pure Software in the late 1990s, and this capital helped him co-found Netflix. His current net worth is estimated to be $2.7 billion, and I also found out that he owns $10 million worth of Facebook shares.
Hastings has ensured that he uses some of his wealth for philanthropic efforts. For example, in 2000, he donated $1 million to ensure the passage of Proposition 39 in California, and he is a big proponent of charter schools, having donated considerable sums of money to establish charter schools in Santa Cruz County.
Also, the Hastings Fund has donated $100 million to improving education.
Reed Hastings Real Estate Holdings
As a billionaire, I would expect Reed Hastings to have a pretty sizable home and possibly own real estate in several locations. However, while I know he lives in Santa Cruz, California, I don’t have a lot of information on his home.
Reed Hasting Quotes
The following are some of Reed Hasting’s famous quotes:
“The best managers figure out how to get great outcomes by setting the appropriate context, rather than by trying to control their people.”
“Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly.”
“At Netflix, we think you have to build a sense of responsibility where people care about the enterprise. Hard work, like long hours at the office, doesn’t matter as much to us. We care about great work.”
“Occasionally great wealth is created in a short amount of time, but it’s through a lot of luck in those situations. You just have to think of building an organization as a lot of work. It may or may not turn into great wealth.”
Frequently Asked Questions – Reed Hastings Bio
Question: How much of Netflix does Reed Hastings own?
Answer: Reed Hastings co-founded Netflix in 1997 with Marc Randolph, whom he worked with at Pure Software. Hastings currently owns 1% of Netflix, a company valued at around $102.10 billion.
Question: Was Reed Hastings in the army?
Answer: Reed Hastings enlisted in the Marine Corps in the 1980s; however, he didn’t finish his officer training. Instead, he chose to join the Peace Corp and taught maths in a rural school in Swaziland before returning to America to embark on his career as an entrepreneur.
Question: Does Reed Hastings own any shares on Facebook?
Answer: Hastings has been a director of Facebook for over ten years, and it is rumored that he owns $10 million worth of shares in the company. He stood down from the Facebook board in 2021.
Question: Does Reed Hastings give to charity?
Answer: Yes. Reed Hastings has donated a lot of money to charitable efforts, mainly focused on education. The Hastings Fund has pledged $100 million to improve education.
Question: Was Netflix always a streaming service?
Answer: No. Netflix started as a mail-order DVD rental company in the late 1990s. They achieve significant growth by allowing subscribers to order from their website and focusing on DVDs rather than VHS. The company launched its video streaming service in 2007.
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