Incredible people don't want to be micromanaged. We manage through setting context and letting people run.
Hastings was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Joan Amory (Loomis) and Wilmot Reed Hastings. His maternal great-grandfather was attorney, financier, scientist, Inventor and philanthropist Alfred Lee Loomis. He attended Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He entered Marine Corps officer training through their Platoon Leader Class and spent the summer of 1981 in Officer Candidate School at Quantico, Virginia.
After graduating from Bowdoin College, Hastings joined the Peace Corps "out of a combination of Service and adventure", and went to teach high school math in Swaziland from 1983 to 1985. He credits part of his entrepreneurial spirit to his time in the Peace Corps. "Once you have hitchhiked across Africa with ten bucks in your pocket, starting a Business doesn't seem too intimidating."
After returning from the Peace Corps, Hastings went on to attend Stanford University. He graduated in 1988 with a master's degree in computer science.
Hastings' first job was at Adaptive Technology, where he invented a tool for debugging software. He met 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, which produced products to troubleshoot software. The rapidly growing company soon proved challenging for Hastings as he lacked managerial experience. He stated he had trouble managing with a rapid headcount growth. His engineering background didn't prepare him for the challenges of being a CEO and he asked his board to replace him, stating he was losing confidence. The board refused, and Hastings says he learned to be a businessman. Pure Software was taken public by Morgan Stanley in 1995.
He was featured in a front-page article in USA Today in 1995, posing on his Porsche. He has said that if he ever appears 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."
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. Hastings' goal in the merger was to unify the two companies' sales forces. 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 Hastings and Marc Randolph co-founded Netflix, offering flat rate movie rental-by-mail to customers in the United States by combining two emerging technologies; DVDs, which were much easier to send as mail than VHS-cassettes, and an online Web site to order them from, instead of a paper catalogue. Headquartered in Los Gatos, California, Netflix has amassed a collection of 100,000 titles and over 100 million subscribers. Hastings had the idea for Netflix after his company was acquired. "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."
After selling Pure Software, Hastings found himself without a goal. He became interested in educational reform in California and enrolled in the Stanford Graduate School of Education. In 2000, Governor Gray Davis appointed Hastings to the State Board of Education, and in 2001, Hastings became its President. He 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.
In April 2004, Hastings published a Wall Street Journal op-ed advocating the expensing of stock options.
In 2005, Hastings ran into trouble on the State Board of Education when Democratic legislators challenged his 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's 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 July 11, 2006, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported that Hastings had donated $1 million to Beacon Education Network to open up new charter schools in Santa Cruz County, where he lives.
On April 3, 2008, Steven Maviglio reported that Hastings had made a $100,000 contribution to California Governor Schwarzenegger's "Voters First" redistricting campaign.
On April 12, 2009, Hastings donated $251,491.03 to Budget Reform Now, a coalition supporting California Propositions 1A to 1F.
Hastings has been a Director of the board of Facebook since June 2011. As of September 2016, he is reported to own over US$ 10 million worth of Facebook shares.
On March 4, 2014, he argued for the elimination of elected school boards.
Hastings supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US presidential election.