Reed Hastings, Netflix, and Negative Serendipity

by Allen Voivod

Reed Hastings, Netflix, and Negative Serendipity

Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix, by Ben Lucier on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Getting charged $40 in late fees doesn’t sound like a serendipitous event.

In fact, let’s double-check the definition: Serendipity, noun. Accidental, desirable discovery. Doesn’t sound like late fees qualify.

But serendipity doesn’t always come in a positive package. It comes in negative ones, too. In this case, the $40 in late fees were charged, once upon a time, to Reed Hastings. (That’s him in the spotlight, as the co-founder and CEO of Netflix.) Any guesses as to what the late fees were charged for?

If you said “overdue video rentals,” you’re right on the money. And this accidental, un-desirable discovery got him thinking along the lines of, “Why can’t you rent videos like you go to the gym, and get charged a monthly fee regardless of your usage?”

$40 in late fees. That was the genesis of Netflix. Jump forward 15 years, and Netflix is a $3 billion company, with more than 2,000 employees. Last week, they broke new ground by becoming the first providers of original, online-only web television series to receive nominations for the Primetime Emmy Awards – 14 total nominations for 3 separate shows.

Don’t let your most powerful, potential-ripe moments of serendipity slip by, just because they don’t look the way you expect them to look.

Had a “negative” serendipitous moment in your own life or biz? Please share it!

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