Wilmot Reed Hastings, Jr. (born 8 October 1960 in Boston, Massachusetts) is an entrepreneur and education philanthropist. He is the CEO of Netflix, and on the board of Microsoft and numerous non-profits.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Peace Corps service
- 3 Founding of Pure Software
- 4 Founding of Netflix
- 5 Other business interests
- 6 Educational and political activism
- 7 Personal
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Early life and education
Hastings graduated high school in 1978 from the Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His father was a lawyer who once served in the Nixon administration, serving as general counsel in the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. After high school, he spent a year selling Rainbow vacuum cleaners door to door. 
Hastings majored in mathematics at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, and won its mathematics department's Smyth Prize in 1981,  and its Hammond Prize in 1983. Hastings received his bachelor's degree from the college in 1983.
Peace Corps service
Hastings joined the Marine Corps in their Platoon Leader Class and spent the summer of 1981 in Officer Candidate School at Quantico, Virginia. "I found myself questioning how we packed our backpacks and how we made our beds," said Hastings. "My questioning wasn’t particularly encouraged, and I realized I might be better off in the Peace Corps. I petitioned the recruiting office and left the Marines."
Hastings taught mathematics as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Swaziland from 1983 to 1985 and credits part of his entrepreneurial spirit to his time in the Peace Corps. "I joined the Peace Corps after college and went to teach high school math in Swaziland, out of a combination of service and adventure," says Hastings. "It was an extremely satisfying experience." "Once you have hitchhiked across Africa with ten bucks in your pocket, starting a business doesn't seem too intimidating." 
Returning from the Peace Corps, Hastings went to graduate school at Stanford. "I didn’t get into my first choice, which was M.I.T. but I got accepted to Stanford," said Hastings. "I had never been to California and arrived in late summer. Driving up to the campus I saw palm trees. It was dry and brown. I asked myself, 'Where’s the ivy?' Within a week I had fallen in love with California." Hastings earned a master's degree in computer science from Stanford University in 1988.
Founding of Pure Software
Hastings' first job was at Adaptive Technology where he invented a tool for debugging software. "I worked for Audrey MacLean in 1990 when she was CEO at Adaptive Corp. 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.
Hastings left Adaptive Technology in 1991 to found his first company, Pure Software, that produced products to troubleshoot software. Hastings found running the company challenging as the company grew exponentially. "As the company grew from 10 to 40 to 120 to 320 to 640 employees, I found I was definitely underwater and over my head," said Hastings. "I was doing white-water kayaking at the time, and in kayaking if you stare and focus on the problem you are much more likely to hit danger. I focused on the safe water and what I wanted to happen. I didn’t listen to the skeptics." Hastings' engineering background didn't prepare him for the challenges of being a CEO and he asked his board to replace him. "I tried to fire myself — twice," Hastings says. "I was losing confidence." The board refused and Hastings says he learned to be a businessman. "I was an engineer myself. We doubled our revenue every year, but my transformation from engineer to CEO was when Morgan Stanley took the company public in 1995."
In 1996, Pure Software announced a merger with Atria Software. The merger integrated Pure Software's programs for detecting bugs in software with Atria's tools to manage development of complex software. "With a single vendor and a unified sales force, we'll be able to make a really profound difference in the way people develop software," Hastings said at the time of the merger. But 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.
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. Hastings was appointed Chief Technical Officer of the combined companies and left soon after the acquisition. "I had the great fortune of doing a mediocre job at my first company," says Hastings. "We got more bureaucratic as we grew." After Pure Software, Hastings spent two years thinking about how to avoid similar problems at his next startup.
Founding of Netflix
In 1998 Hastings founded Netflix, the largest online DVD rental service, offering flat rate rental-by-mail to customers in the United States. Headquartered in Los Gatos, California, Netflix has amassed a collection of 100,000 titles and over 13.9 million subscribers. "I got the idea for Netflix after my company was acquired," said Hastings. "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 didn’t want to tell my wife about it. And I said to myself, 'I’m 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."
Hastings said that he had no idea when he founded Netflix if customers would use the service. "Netflix was originally a single rental service, but the subscription model was one of a few ideas we had--so there was no Aha! moment. Having unlimited due dates and no late fees has worked in a powerful way and now seems obvious, but at that time we had no idea if consumers would even build and use an online queue."
Netflix innovative business practices
Netflix is known for its innovative business practices. In October, 2006 the company announced that it would award a $1 million prize to whoever could devise a system that was 10 percent more accurate than the company’s current system for recommending movies that customers would like. Hastings didn’t necessarily expect a lot of quick progress towards the prize. "We thought we built the best darn thing ever," Hastings said. But by June, 2007 Hastings said the competition is "three-quarters of the way there in three-quarters of a year."
Netflix is also innovative in its management practices. 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 vs. stock. "We're unafraid to pay high," says Hastings. Other innovations include their treatment of employees who don't meet expectations. "At most companies, average performers get an average raise," says Hastings. "At Netflix, they get a generous severance package," because that way managers don't feel too guilty to let average performers go.
Hastings is a big proponent of internet television and sees it as the future. "I think there's a huge category of people who will watch movies on laptops," says Hastings. "And remember, it's not the laptop of today. Think of the laptop in five years. People will continue to want to watch movies on TV. No doubt about it. But laptop screens are improving. And young people are living on laptops." Netflix launched a service in 2007 to stream movies and television to a users' computers. "What we're finding is that young people, under 25, are watching our streaming on their PCs in huge numbers," says Hastings. "They operate more portably than we do with our big screen TVs."
Other business interests
On March 26, 2007, Microsoft announced that Hastings had been elected to their board of directors. "There are very few companies that rival Microsoft’s impact on the way millions of people live, work and play around the world," Hastings said upon his appointment. "I look forward to working with Microsoft’s esteemed group of board members to help shape the direction of the company as it continues to tackle the biggest industry challenges and opportunities." In May 23, 2007 Hastings added that "It is tremendously engaging being in the room with Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer for a day or two, four times a year, which helps me understand why and how Microsoft has been so successful for 30 years."
Educational and political activism
California State Board of Education
After selling Pure Software and making a fortune, Hastings found himself without a goal. "I was so ego-identified with [Pure] that I felt like a failure," Hastings says. Hastings became interested in educational reform in California and enrolled in Stanford’s School of Education. In 2000, Governor Gray Davis appointed Hastings to the State Board of Education, and in 2001, Hastings became its president. Hastings 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, a measure that lowered the level of voter approval for local schools to pass construction bond issues from 66 to 55 percent. “He is absolutely driven to improve the level of education in this country,” said friend Nick McKeown.
In 1995 after Hasting's company Pure Software was acquired for $750 million two years later, Hasting's personal wealth allowed him to pursue his passion for school reform. "After Pure Software, I had a bunch of money, and I didn't really want to buy yachts and such things," said Hastings. "I wanted to find something important to do. And I started looking at education, trying to figure out why our education is lagging when our technology is increasing at great rates and there's great innovation in so many other areas -- health care, biotech, information technology, movie-making. Why not education?"
In 2005 Hastings ran into trouble on the State Board of Education when Democratic legislators challenged Hastings’ advocacy of more English instruction and language testing for non-English-speaking students. The California Senate Rules Committee refused to confirm him as the Board president. The California State Legislature rejected him in January 2005. 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. Hastings resigned.
On April 3, 2008 Steven Maviglio reported that Hastings had made a $100,000 contribution to California Governor Schwarzenegger's "Voters First" redistricting campaign and wrote that Hastings may still be smarting from the State Senate's rejection of Hastings' seat on California's State Board of Education.
Hastings is active in educational philanthropy and politics and one of the issues Hastings 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. "If public schools don't adopt the same principles of competition and accountability as exist in the private and nonprofit sectors, they will continue to deteriorate," says Hastings. "One way to permanently impact the system would be to have 10 to 20 percent of California schoolchildren enrolled in charter schools. That would be critical mass, and enough of a force to induce a competitive dynamic in the system," he added. Hastings is a founding member of NewSchools.org, Aspire Public Schools, Pacific Collegiate School, and EdVoice.net and has led the successful drive in 1998 for a stronger charter school law in California.
On July 11, 2006 the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported that Hastings had donated $1 million in startup funds to Beacon Education Network to open up new charter schools in Santa Cruz county where Hastings lives. "Small schools aren't for everyone but in some kids they work better in terms of academic preparation for college," Hastings said. "The small school focus is particularly true for students who don't get as much academic support at home."
On June 30, 2010, Hastings will be a keynote speaker at the National Charter Schools Conference in Chicago, Illinois. The conference's theme is "Innovators in Education."
Hastings is a member of Technology Network, a political network of Businessmen and Executives that promotes technology growth and innovation. TechNet brings its members together with national policy makers to advance America's global leadership in innovation. Hastings served as CEO of Technology Network for a year.
On August 1, 2007 the Los Angeles Times reported that Democrat 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.
On April 12, 2009, Hastings donated $251,491.03 to Budget Reform Now, a coalition supporting California Propositions 1A through 1F. If Proposition 1A passes, $10 billion in "temporary" sales, use, income and vehicle taxes imposed as part of the 2009-2010 budget agreement would each be extended for one or two years, resulting in a further tax increase of some $16 billion.
Hastings was featured in a front-page article in USA Today in 1995, posing on his Porsche. Nowadays he eschews flamboyance and says if he ever appeared on the front page of USA Today again it will "not [be] on the hood of a Porsche, but I would [pose] with a bunch of movies."
- New York Times. "Out of Africa, Onto the Web" by Reed Hstings as told to Amy Zipkin. December 17, 2006.
- Stanford Magazine. "Home Movies" by Joan O'C Hamilton. January/February 2006.
- Bowdoin College. "List of Smyth Prize Winners."
-  "Hammond Prize"
- Inc.com "How I Did It: Reed Hastings, Netflix" by Patrick J. Sauer December, 2005
- CNN Money. "Questions for... Reed Hastings" Interview by Matthew Boyle May 23, 2007.
- USA Today. "'Charismatic' founder keeps Netflix adapting" by Jim Hopkins. Updated March 23, 2006.
- Wall Street Journal. "Software Firms Pure and Atria Agree to Merge in Stock Deal" by Don Clark. June 7, 1996.
- Wall Street Journal. "Investors Pan Rational's Plan To Buy Pure Atria for Stock" by Don Clark. April 8, 1997.
- Business Week. "Netflix: Flex To The Max" by Michelle Conlin. September 24, 2007.
- "Netflix Facts". Netflix. http://www.netflix.com/MediaCenter?id=5379&hnjr=8#facts. Retrieved 2 March 2007.
- New York Times. "Netflix Prize Still Awaits a Movie Seer" by Katie Hafner. June 4, 2007.
- New York Times "You Want Innovation? Offer a Prize" by David Leonhardt. January 31, 2007.
- Wall Street Journal. "Movie Man" by Jason Riley. February 9, 2008
- PRNewswire.com "Microsoft Board of Directors Adds New Member and Declares Quarterly Dividend." March 26, 2007.
- Microsoft Press Release. "Microsoft Board of Directors Adds New Member and Declares Quarterly Dividend" March 26, 2007.
- Wall Street Journal. "Silicon Valley Moguls Spend On Education Ballot Battles" by Ann Grimes. October 31, 2000.
- California Department of Education. "O'Connell on Reed Hastings - Year 2005." January 12, 2005.
- the California Majority Report. "Is Reed Hastings Six Figure Contribution to Schwarzenegger's Redistricting Effort Simple Revenge?" by Steven Maviglio. April 3, 2008.
- Stanford Online. "Charter schools advocate Reed Hastings to speak April 12" by Thouraya Raiss. April 5, 2000.
- Santa Cruz Sentinel. "Netflix CEO gives $1 million to open charter schools" by Matt King. July 11, 2006.
- Technology Network
- New York Times. "One Man's 2 Challenges" by Laurie J. Flynn. June 3, 2002.
- Los Angeles Times. "State GOP awash in red ink" by Evan Halper. August 1, 2007
- Wall Street Journal. "Netflix's CEO Is Mobilizing For Battle With Amazon" by Carl Bialik. October 20, 2004.
- Reed Hastings biography at Netflix.com
- Reed Hastings articles on Peace Corps Online
- Reed Hastings interview on National Public Radio
- Part of Business 2.0's List of "10 people who don't matter"
- Part of Time's 100 Most Influential People"
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