Why We Kept the Original Netflix DVDs in a Safe (In Scotts Valley)

By Marc Randolph - Originally posted on LinkedIn

Earlier this year, Amazon announced that it was opening up forty-six of its fulfillment centers to the public for twice-a-day tours. For years, Prime members have been getting practically anything they want delivered to them within twenty-four hours. Now they get to peek behind the football-field-sized curtain to see exactly how one-click-shopping works: A.I., robots, and humans working in harmony, in buildings the size of airplane hangars.

Now, I love a good factory tour. Drop me into a bottling plant, an automotive assembly line, or a jellybean factory, and I’m happy as a clam at high tide. Some of my fondest memories of the early years of Netflix have to do with our efforts to figure out the most efficient, effective, and fast methods to get DVDs to people all over the country.

But want to know what we figured out back in the year 2000?

Hint: It wasn’t robots.

It was a bunch of people. A big room. And a whole bunch of flimsy card tables.

In 1997, when Netflix was just starting, we didn’t have the money for robots. And frankly, neither did Amazon. When I first met Jeff Bezos back in the late 90s, the only automated thing in his office was a rotating fan, gently blowing across a pair of identical blue shirts he’d hung on a water pipe behind his desk.

Even in 1998, a few months after we launched the site, there wasn’t really much to automate. Our first warehouse was an old walk-in safe that happened to come with our first office in Scotts Valley. And with less than a thousand DVD titles available, and a busy day consisting of twenty to thirty shipments, it wasn’t too hard to stay organized.

To read the full story head over the the original article on LinkedIn

Matthew Swinnerton