SALT LAKE CITY — Netflix co-founder and California resident Marc Randolph says Dallas is his favorite place in the world.
Randolph's emotional connection to the city stems from a meeting he had with Blockbuster executives in its downtown Renaissance Tower when they were Goliaths of the video industry, and Netflix a lowly David.
With Netflix struggling to stay financially viable, Randolph and co-founder Reed Hastings tried to set up a meeting with Blockbuster executives to see whether there was any interest in buying their company.
But Netflix, at a little more than 2 years old, had less than 100 employees while Blockbuster had 60,000, so getting a meeting at all had been like pulling teeth, Randolph recalls.
"We sent emails, we tried calling, and not a peep — nothing," he said.
Finally, Randolph and Hastings were invited to Blockbuster headquarters at Renaissance Tower. Underdressed because of the short notice, and seemingly without much leverage, the men offered to sell Netflix for $50 million.
"The meeting went downhill very quickly after that," Randolph said.
The men returned to California without a deal — and as determined as ever to best Blockbuster.
A "miraculous" combination of no late fees, personalized rental queues automatically ordering the next DVD for customers, and a new subscription revenue model ultimately turned the company around, Randolph said, and Netflix never looked back, even as its success began to depend more and more on video streaming. It now has 130 million paying customers.
Meanwhile, Blockbuster has one remaining store in the United States, in Bend, Oregon.
Sharing that success story Wednesday with 1,500 medical professionals and executives at the Healthcare Analytics Summit held at the Grand America Hotel, Randolph said the takeaways that apply to innovators in all industries are "the capacity to generate ideas," a "tolerance for risk," and of course, confidence and optimism.
The conference, in its fifth year, is hosted by Salt Lake data analytics startup Health Catalyst, and is designed to teach the health care industry how to use big data to make decisions on how to improve patient care.
Speakers preached data solutions to medical problems because the expert use of analytics has shown to be capable of not only pinpointing inefficiencies in treatment and health organization management, but also identifying solutions, said Dan Burton, CEO of Health Catalyst.
Burton added more patient health data than ever is available for large-scale analysis.
"There is an absolute data explosion. If you think of 10 or 20 years ago, there was literally no electronic data about you as an individual, from a health perspective. Now we've shifted to where medical records are electronic, (and) shifted dramatically in terms of what other data we're able to collect through your iPhone, through other sensors, through other devices," Burton said.
"… This explosion of data opens up all kinds of amazing possibilities that should dramatically improve the way we treat chronic disease, the way we treat all kinds of health care issues."
Big data collection, and real-world application of solutions found in data, will be a defining feature of successful health care systems in the not-too-distant future, said Dr. Toby Cosgrove, who finished his tenure as CEO of the renowned Cleveland Clinic at the end of 2017.
"I don't think great physicians, or innovative physicians, are going to go to places that don't have data capability," Cosgrove told attendees. "That's going to become an increasing coin of the realm. I mean, it's a must-have."
Cosgrove, who is currently an adviser for Google Healthcare & Life Sciences, another big data group, said analytics professionals should be embraced more closely by health care systems than has happened so far in the industry.
"Health care's not been very good at partnering with people. If you come in with a brand-new idea to a hospital … we've been trained to look for problems," he said. "You have a new idea and everybody's poking a hole in it."
Cosgrove said this is partly because, in "how doctors are selected" in their schooling in training, "you're not selected or trained to be innovative. You're trained to be repetitive and maintain the status quo."
Keeping the status quo is precisely the opposite of what was behind Netflix's success story, Randolph said. Rather, taking risks is what ultimately paid off.
"Is it that I was smart? Well, no. … Almost all my ideas were bad ones," Randolph said. "Maybe it's that I'm persistent. Well, I will take a little credit for being persistent. But there's actually something I'm even more proud of. I'm proud that I'm an optimist, and I'm not a glass half (full) optimist, I am a glass overflowing optimist."
"… When people tell you that idea will never work, most of the time they're gonna be right, but you have to say, 'Not this time. I'm going to figure this out, there is a right solution and I'm going to get there.'"
Randolph urged attendees to engage in "validation hacking" by trying out as many ideas as possible without staking everything on any one single idea succeeding — "testing it without doing it" was his description.
"It was not about having good ideas. It was about a system and a culture of trying lots of bad ones. What we realized is that the key to this is not the good idea. It was how quickly and easily and cheaply you could try as many ideas as you could think of," he said.