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Wilmot Reed Hastings Jr. (born October 8, 1960) is an American entrepreneur . He is the co-founder, Chairman and CEO of Netflix and serves on a number of boards and non-profit organizations. A former member of the California State Board of Education, Hastings is an advocate for education reform through charter schools.[2]

Early life and education

Hastings was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Joan Amory (Loomis) and Wilmot Reed Hastings. [3] His maternal great-grandfather was attorney, financier, scientist, inventor, and executive producer Alfred Lee Loomis.[4] He attended Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He entered Marine Corps officer training through their Platoon Leader Class, and spent the summer of 1981 in Officer Candidate School at Marine Corps Base Quantico. He did not complete the training and never commissioned into the Marine Corpschoosing instead to pursue service in the Peace Corps.[5]

After graduating from Bowdoin College, Hastings joined the Peace Corps out of a combination of service and adventure,[6] and went to teach high school math in Swaziland from 1983 to 1985. He credits part of his entrepreneurial spirit to his time in the Peace Corps.[6] Once you have hitchhiked across Africa with ten bucks in your pocket, starting a business doesn’t seem too intimidating.[7]

After returning from the Peace Corps, Hastings went on to attend Stanford University. He graduated in 1988 with a master’s degree in computer science.[8]

Founding of Pure Software

Hastings’ first job was at Adaptive Technology, where he invented a tool for debugging software.[8] He met Audrey MacLean in 1990 when she was CEO at Adaptive Corp.[7] 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.[7]

Hastings left Adaptive Technology in 1991 to found his first company, Pure Software, which produced products to troubleshoot software.[6] The rapidly growing company soon proved challenging for Hastings as he lacked managerial experience. He stated he had trouble managing with a rapid headcount growth.[5] His engineering background didn’t prepare him for the challenges of being a CEO and he asked his board to replace him, stating he was losing confidence.[9] The board refused, and Hastings says he learned to be a businessman.[6] Pure Software was taken public by Morgan Stanley in 1995.[10]

In 1996, Pure Software announced a merger with Atria Software.[6] The merger integrated Pure Software’s programs for detecting bugs in software with Atria’s tools to manage development of complex software.[11] Hastings’ goal in the merger was to unify the two companies’ sales forces.[11] The Wall Street Journal reported that there were problems integrating the sales forces of Pure Software and Atria after the head salesmen for both Pure and Atria left following the merger.[12]

In 1997, the combined company, Pure Atria, was acquired by Rational Software, which triggered a 42% drop in both companies’ stocks after the deal was announced.[12] Hastings was appointed Chief Technical Officer of the combined companies[12] and left soon after the acquisition.[13] After Pure Software, Hastings spent two years thinking about how to avoid similar problems at his next startup.[13]

Founding of Netflix

In 1997, Reed Hastings co-founded Netflix, offering flat rate movie rental-by-mail to customers in the United States.

In 1997, Hastings and Marc Randolph co-founded Netflix, offering flat rate movie rental-by-mail to customers in the United States by combining two emerging technologies; DVDs, which were much easier to send as mail than VHS-cassettes, and an online website to order them from, instead of a paper catalogue.[14][15] Headquartered in Los Gatos, California, Netflix has amassed a collection of 100,000 titles and over 100 million subscribers.[16][17] Hastings had the idea for Netflix after his company was acquired.[5] 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 didnt want to tell my wife about it. And I said to myself, Im 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.[5]

Hastings said that when he founded Netflix, he had no idea whether customers would use the service.[6]

Netflix culture

As Netflix grew, the company began being noticed for its innovative management practicesthe results of the culture Hastings was exploringcalled Freedom and Responsibility.[13] 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 versus stock.[13] Other innovations include their treatment of employees who don’t meet expectations.[13] At most companies, average performers get an average raise, says Hastings.[13] At Netflix, they get a generous severance package, because that way managers don’t feel too guilty to let average performers go.[13] His company also gained notoriety for eliminating sick and vacation time for employees, and instead allowing them to manage their time off individually.

Hastings would meet each new employee and discuss the culture and his theories about it. Over the years, his personal presentation was codified into a Powerpoint slide deck that was widely shared internally, reviewed and tweaked by upper management, and refined actively. In August 2009, Hastings posted this internal culture guide publicly online. It laid out his strongly-held beliefs about workers and management. The guide became a pre-employment screening tool that dissuaded incompatible people from applying.[18] As of December 2019, the publically-accessible deck had been viewed over 19 million times.[18]

Internet television

Hastings is a proponent of Internet television and sees it as the future.[19] He credits YouTube for his shift in strategy for developing a video streaming service.[20] Netflix launched a service in 2007 to stream movies and television to computers.[19]

Other business interests

Hastings has been a director of the board of Facebook since June 2011.[21] As of September 2016, he is reported to own over US$10 million worth of Facebook shares.[22] On April 12, 2019, Facebook announced that Hastings would leave the board as of May 30, 2019. [23]

Hastings also served on the board of Microsoft from 2007[24] until 2012.[25]

Educational and political activism

California State Board of Education

After selling Pure Software, Hastings found himself without a goal.[8] He became interested in educational reform in California and enrolled in the Stanford Graduate School of Education.[8] In 2000, Governor Gray Davis appointed Hastings to the State Board of Education, and in 2001, Hastings became its president.[8] He 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,[26] a measure that lowered the level of voter approval for local schools to pass construction bond issues from 66 to 55 percent.[8][19]

In 2009, Hastings ran into trouble on the State Board of Education when Democratic legislators challenged his advocacy of more English instruction and language testing for non-English speaking students.[27] The California Senate Rules Committee refused to confirm him as the board’s president.[27] The California State Legislature rejected him in January 2005.[27] 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.[8] Hastings resigned.[8]

On April 3, 2008, Steven Maviglio reported that Hastings had made a $100,000 contribution to California Governor Schwarzenegger’s Voters First redistricting campaign.[28]

Charter schools

Hastings is active in educational philanthropy and politics.[2] One of the issues he 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.[2]

On July 11, 2006, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported that Hastings had donated $1 million to Beacon Education Network to open up new charter schools in Santa Cruz County, where he lives.[29]

On March 4, 2014, he argued for the elimination of elected school boards.[30]


In April 2004, Hastings published a Wall Street Journal op-ed advocating the expensing of stock options.[31]


On August 1, 2007, the Los Angeles Times reported that 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.[32]

On April 12, 2009, Hastings donated $251,491.03 to Budget Reform Now, a coalition supporting California Propositions 1A to 1F.[33]

Hastings supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US presidential election.[34]

Personal life

Hastings lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is married to Patricia Ann Quillin and has two children.[8]

He was featured in a front-page article in USA Today in 1995, posing on his Porsche.[35] He has said that if he ever appears on the front page of USA Today again it will not on the hood of a Porsche, but I would with a bunch of movies.[35]

In 2018, Hastings was featured in a podcast series by Linkedin co-founder Reid Hoffman, Masters of Scale, along with other successful businessmen such as Mark Zuckerberg, John Elkann and Howard Schultz. He discussed the strategy adopted by Netflix to scale.[36]