Ragged Clown

It's just a shadow you're seeing that he's chasing…


Do they still make good movies?

I got my first Netflix account in 1999. Had some friends who worked there. Loved the shiny disks. Couldn’t watch them fast enough. There were so many great movies in that period, we couldn’t keep up.

Around 13 years ago, Netflix called me up out of the blue and asked if I wanted to work there. I said not really but they said “Just come and talk to us.”

Netflix was just down the road from where I lived, so I went to see them.

The Netflix office was the most beautiful office I have ever seen. It was like walking into Steven Speilberg’s guest house. Larger-than-life movie posters on the walls. Lush armchairs. Enormous coffee table books on the enormous coffee tables. It was just gorgeous.

In Silicon Valley, interviews for senior jobs tend to last two full days and they assigned me the loveliest HR person to help guide me through it and she coached me on what everyone was going to ask me and told me how to answer if I wanted the job. Netflix is famous for having – let’s say – a very distinctive HR culture and you have to read the founder’s book and understand it to get in.

They tell you, “If you’re the kind of person who comes in every day and does a great job, we’ll say ‘thank you very much’ and send you on your way with a nice farewell package. We only want superstars here.”

A lot of people hate the Netflix culture. I loved it.

Anyway. They offered me the job at the same time as I was offered the job as Employee #3 at a brand-new start-up company building communities for cancer patients. It didn’t even have an office yet. The Netflix salary was double and they offered a shit-ton of stock but I am a romantic and took the start-up job.

I called the Lovely HR lady and told her I was taking the other job but she asked if I would come talk to their Chief Product Officer first. I said it won’t do any good but, sure.

The Chief Product Officer was English. Lovely man. He said, “They told me you were coming and that you were important but they didn’t tell me why you were here.” I said Netflix had offered me a job and that I had declined. He asked if he might change my mind. When I said “No”, he said “Well, we have half an hour. Seems a shame to waste it. What do you want to talk about?”

“We could talk about your product”, I said. “I have some ideas!”

I told him that the average rating of a forty-something man and a teenage girl makes a nonsense of ratings and recommendations. You need separate user accounts for family members to make good recommendations.

Anyway, we had a lovely chat. He wished me well and I went to join my start-up.

Over the next few years, the Netflix hiring manager would call me and take me out to dinner every year. “You know our stock price is 3x what it was last year?”, he asked. A couple of years more: “You know our stock price is 16x now?”

Anyway, so that’s why I am not rich. I still work for the same start-up building communities for cancer patients and I am still Employee #3 and I just cancelled my Netflix account on Friday. It’s crap now. Haven’t watched it in ages. They don’t make good movies any more.