Modern Makers #32 - Inside Netflix's culture

📱 New views on Airtable mobile app 🇪🇺 Softr & Landbot announced funding rounds

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Hi makers,

Hope you’re all doing well! Welcome to all the new makers who have joined us since last Sunday!

On my side, I’m currently following Webflow’s 2021 design portfolio course. A daily video to learn how to build a portfolio website. I love the format and it helps me a lot as I’m currently creating my blog with Webflow. For this project, I’m also using Figma to create mock-ups and I will share with you next week some resources to get you started with this great tool. I also started reading No Filter, a book that goes back over the history of Instagram, from the creation of the project to its acquisition by Facebook for a billion dollars just a few months later. I'm also taking advantage of the free 30-day trial of Readwise, an app that allows you to gather all the highlights of your readings and that can also synchronise with Notion. Let me know if you’re already using it!


This week in the agenda:👇

📺 How does Netflix keep innovating?
🇪🇺 Europe-based startups Softr and Landbot raised money
🤔 Tally forms now have conditional logic

Enjoy!


📚 Book of the week

No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention
Authors: Reed Hastings & Erin Meyer
Release date: September 2020

A book written by Reed Hastings (CEO of Netflix) and Erin Meyer (American author) that sheds light on Netflix's corporate culture, made famous following the publication of the Netflix Culture Deck in 2009 (more than 20 million views on Slideshare). This culture rests on three essential pillars: the density of talent in the company, a need for constant feedback, and a lack of control that gives employees a great deal of freedom. It’s pretty clear that working at Netflix is not for everyone.

The format of the book is quite original, each chapter is a real game of ping pong between Reed and Erin, and the book is full of testimonials from Netflix employees. No Rules Rules is a great book for startups and companies that want to encourage innovation within their teams. Here are 5 essential points:

  1. Freedom & Responsibility - the formula that best sums up Netflix's corporate culture. One cannot be achieved without the other. The freedom given to employees is very high: unlimited holidays and total trust on company expenses (the only rule to follow: does this expense help Netflix or not?). Netflix expects its employees to be exemplary and behave like adults. The rules are very clear. If these rules are not followed, the company does not hesitate to fire employees and explain to the rest of the teams the reasons for the layoff. Something pretty unique for a public company: at Netflix, quarterly results are made available to all employees before they are released to Wall Street = total transparency on the company's finances. Once again, Netflix empowers its employees by making them understand the risks (in this case, jail) that they would incur if they make these financial results public

  2. Increase talent density - In the early 2000s, Netflix had to lay off a third of its workforce, going from 120 to 80 people, keeping only the very best employees in the process. To Reed's surprise, the effects were extremely positive. By keeping only its best people, Netflix had increased the talent density within the company. "For top performers, a great workplace isn't about a lavish office, a beautiful gym, or a free sushi lunch. It's about the joy of being surrounded by people who are both talented and collaborative. People who can help you be better. When every member is excellent, performance spirals upward as employees learn from and motivate one another." Since then, Netflix prefers to hire a huge talent with a very high salary rather than two or three employees for the same overall budget. Moreover, the company does not offer any bonuses but fixed salaries above the market average. This helps to take the stress out of the teams so that they can focus on the most important thing: their day-to-day work. Several studies show that a team with one or two merely adequate performers brings down the performance of everyone on the team. Jerks, slackers, sweet people with non-stellar performance, or pessimists will bring down the performance of everyone. Netflix sees itself more as a sports team than as a family. Just like a sports team, only the best elements are kept so that the team gets the best possible results. However, unlike a sports team, there is no limit to the number of spots on the team, so there is no unhealthy competition between employees

  3. Try to instill a culture of candor - To be effective, feedback must follow the 4A rule:

  • Aim to assist : feedback must be given with positive intent. You don’t give feedback to make you feel better or serve your own interests. Not giving feedback that could help a colleague is ultimately tantamount to not wanting to help Netflix.

  • Actionnable : your feedback should include concrete actions to be implemented. Be very specific in your recommendations so that your colleague has a real action plan and guidelines to follow

  • Appreciate : when you receive feedback from a colleague, you should first thank her and listen carefully to her recommendations. Since this feedback is in the general interest of Netflix, don't let your personal emotions get the better of you (after all, humans have a natural tendency to dislike personal criticism)

  • Accept or discard : It is up to the person receiving feedback to decide whether or not to implement these recommendations. It is very important that both people are aware of this. In order to encourage this feedback culture, Reed invites managers to always include a feedback item in their agenda for individual meetings with their team members (either at the very beginning or at the end of the meeting). As a manager, create a culture where your teams can give you feedback and help you improve. “Only say about someone what you will say to their face.”

  1. Lead by context, not by control - nowadays, the risk for most companies is no longer to make mistakes. The real risk is not attracting the best talent, not inventing new products or not being able to change direction quickly if needed (to pivot). These objectives are impossible to achieve if your company has a culture of control aimed at avoiding mistakes. At Netflix, everything is done to ensure that everyone has access to the information (the different levels of context) they need to take a decision. The book presents several examples of employees being surprised to make decisions on multi-million dollar projects. And to sign these contracts themselves! In general, Netflix invites an employee to make his own decisions, even against the advice of his boss. "Don't seek to please your boss. Seek to do what is best for the company."

  2. Sunshine your failed bets and your mistakes - The real risk for a company like Netflix is to stop innovating. Innovation means taking risks, which necessarily implies mistakes and failures. Reed uses the poker metaphor - every employee has a pile of chips to use. So he has to take bets on the projects he really believes in. Netflix expects its employees to use their entire stack of chips. An employee who doesn't take a risk and keeps their chips will probably get fired. The important thing is to learn from one's failures, to make sure one doesn't make the same mistake again, and most importantly, to take full responsibility for one's actions. The company as a whole must then be able to learn from the failures encountered by each employee. "When you sunshine your failed bets, everyone wins. You win because people learn they can trust you to tell the truth and to take responsibility for your actions. The team wins because it learns from the lessons that came out of the project. And the company wins because everyone sees clearly that failed bets are an inherent part of an innovative success wheel. We shouldn’t be afraid of our failures. We should embrace them. And sunshine mistakes even more!"


Some other content that caught my attention this week:

  • 💰 The Munger Operating System - FS - Charlie Munger is Warren Buffett's partner at Berkshire Hathaway. This article is based on a speech Charlie gave at USC Law School in 2007. Charlie was already over 80 years old at the time and the speech is full of valuable advice

  • ⌨️ Why your next hire should be a no-coder - Makerpad - how no-code can increase the productivity of your teams. This article offers several suggestions to implement in order to make the most of no-code tools and create solutions to your internal problems. Among other things, try to identify people with knowledge about this type of tool and give them the freedom to experiment

  • The Complete History and Analysis of Bitcoin - Acquired - the excellent podcast Acquired has released a new episode on Bitcoin. It took three hours to go into detail about the history of Bitcoin, from its creation in 2009 by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto to its all-time record of over $40,000 on January 8th. An ideal podcast for those who want to learn about the most famous cryptocurrency


Airtable's mobile application has been enhanced with two new views to help you better visualise your data: a Kanban view and a Gallery view are now available in the latest update of the app. These new features are only available on iOS for now. Android users will have to wait a little longer.


Online form creation tool Tally now has conditional logic. Depending on the answer given to a question in your form, you can decide, for example, not to display the next three questions (because they are not relevant to that person). In addition to this conditional display of the other questions, you can also redirect the user to the page of your choice or make certain fields mandatory. For example, if a person answers yes to the question "would you like to subscribe to our newsletter?", the email field would then become mandatory. These additions bring a real added value and are available in the free version of Tally. More details on Tally's blog.


Berlin-based startup Softr announced a $2.2M Seed round led by Atlantic Labs fund. Launched in 2019, Softr is a no-code tool to create websites and web applications using Airtable as a database. An extremely easy to use tool that offers many pre-built blocks to allow you to create your project. I had the opportunity to talk with Mariam and Artur, the two founders of Softr, and I wish them all the best for their journey with Softr.


A great week for no-code in Europe since Landbot also announced a funding round: an $8M Serie A led by the Swanlaab investment fund. Landbot, whose team is based in Barcelona, is a no-code tool for building chatbots. Landbot has more than 2,000 clients including companies such as Coca-Cola, Nestlé and Prudential. With this new funding, Landbot plans to double its staff (currently 40 employees).


📦 And also…


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Have a great week, and keep building!

Martin,

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