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Product Management

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From startup in 1998 to today, a detailed history of the strategy, metrics, and experiments Netflix executes to develop a personalized experience focused on delivering its members movies they love

Photo: freestocks via Unsplash


This essay details Netflix’s progress from its launch in 1998 to the recent launch of its “I feel lucky” button — a merchandising tactic where Netflix members rely totally on Netflix’s personalization algorithms. It’s a messy journey, with an evolving personalization strategy propelled by Netflix’s ability to execute high-cadence experiments using its homegrown A/B test system.

In 20 years, Netflix has gone from members choosing 2% of the movies the merchandising system suggests to 80% today. In the early days, a member would explore hundreds of titles before finding something they liked. Today most members look at forty choices before…

Figuring out the right price is hard, but plotting a utility map can help

Photo: wera Rodsawang/Getty Images

It’s all coming together, after hours and hours of pouring your heart into creating a revolutionary product with amazing features, enormous market potential, and compelling initial customer feedback. But something just doesn’t add up.

You hear a lot about how to develop products to solve your customers’ greatest pain points. Or how to leverage social media to spread the word of your product to thousands of people almost instantaneously. More often than not, however, these articles leave out a key part of the equation to a successful product launch: pricing.

Pricing is one of the biggest headaches for marketing and…

Things will break and customers will get mad, but that’s all part of the process

Photo: Image Source RF/Cadalpe/Getty Images

Here’s the catch-22 about experimentation: It kills your revenue, your customer reputation, your employee morale, and your business rhythm. But if you don’t experiment, all those things will wither and die anyway.

A minimum viable product (MVP), as the name implies, is the experimental version of your product, one that is just functional enough to provide value to the customer. When built right, the core of your MVP — the functionality where the customer finds value — is the only robust part. …

Create strong culture, stay laser-focused on problems, and set wildly ambitious goals

Tips for new employees, painted on the walls during a hackathon. Mural: Andrea Nguyen, Jeany Ngo, Katie Chen; Photos: Lenny Rachitsky

In 2012, shortly after Airbnb acquired our startup, I overheard co-founder Joe Gebbia giving guidance to a designer tasked with redesigning the homepage. He said, “Build something the internet has never seen before.” I vividly remember thinking, What does that even mean? And is this the bar for everything around here? Looking back, I’ve come to recognize that this mindset has been one of the key ingredients in Airbnb’s historic growth.

I first joined Airbnb as an engineer, then became one of the first members of the budding PM team. Back then, there were a couple dozen engineers, a few…


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