Netflix's Todd Yellin: Create a Culture of Iconoclasts

As VP of Product for Netflix and self-proclaimed “enabler of iconoclasts”, Todd Yellin leads the team that helps millions of people find something great to watch. In this 99u talk, Yellin explains his unique approach to leadership, which includes:

  • Why leaders should never say never
  • How to empower your team to make decisions (and mistakes)
  • Why a simple hand-raise is fundamental to the diversity of voices and ideas at Netflix
  • Plus, what we can learn from Titus Andromedon, Michael Scott, and Paul Blart Mall Cop

How much is 'smarter' worth?

Seth Godin

Smarter about the process, about the effects, about planning. Smarter about leadership, about management, about measurement.

How much is smarter worth?

In my experience, smarter is almost always a bargain, something you can buy for a lot less than it's worth.


What's in a Brand Name?

James Surowiecki for The New Yorker

In October of 1955, a marketing researcher at Ford named Robert Young wrote the poet Marianne Moore a curious letter. Ford had designed a new car, which it hoped would revolutionize the industry, and it was struggling to find a good name. Young said that the options his division had come up with were “characterized by an embarrassing pedestrianism.” Perhaps a poet could devise something to convey, “through association or other conjuration, some visceral feeling of elegance, fleetness, advanced features and design.” In the following months, Moore sent Ford a long list of suggestions that were anything but pedestrian: Intelligent Bullet, Ford Fabergé, Mongoose Civique, Bullet Cloisoné, Utopian Turtletop. Ford, unsurprisingly, didn’t go for any of them. Instead, after considering more than six thousand names, it settled on one that has since become a byword for failure: Edsel.
Still, in going to such lengths to find a great name, Ford was ahead of the curve. Corporate branding is now big business, and companies routinely spend tens of millions of dollars rebranding themselves or coming up with names for new products. And good monikers are still defined by Young’s precept that a name should somehow evoke the fundamental qualities that you hope to advertise. If only Tribune Publishing—the media company that owns the Los Angeles Timesand the Chicago Tribune—had followed this simple rule. Earlier this year, Tribune announced that it was reinventing itself as a “content curation and monetization company focused on creating and distributing premium, verified content” (whatever that means) and giving itself a new name: Tronc. The name, which stands for Tribune Online Content, was ridiculed at the time and hasn’t done the company any favors since. Tronc has spent most of the year in talks about being bought by Gannett for more than half a billion dollars. Last week, the deal fell through, because of a lack of financing. After all, just imagine asking bankers for half a billion to buy something called Tronc.

Antonio Ortiz

Antonio Ortiz has always been an autodidact with an eclectic array of interests. Fascinated with technology, advertising and culture he has forged a career that combines them all. In 1991 Antonio developed one of the very first websites to market the arts. It was text based, only available to computer scientists, and increased attendance to the Rutgers Arts Center where he had truly begun his professional career. Since then Antonio has been an early adopter and innovator merging technology and marketing with his passion for art, culture and entertainment. For a more in-depth look at those passions, visit

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My Mutant Brain

I've been somewhat obsessed with this short film by Spike Jonze since the moment I saw it first making its way through social networks. From the music and dance, to the filmmaking behind it, to the fact that it is an ad for perfume in the most non-traditional way possible. Mostly I keep re-watching trying to recapture the moments of surprise I experienced the first few times I saw it. That moment when your brain registers what is actually happening as she runs up those steps and there are reflections everywhere, was, is, so satisfying. 

The film is a creative relative to Jonze's music video for Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice." Both of those films make me wish for a collaboration between Jonze, Qualley and Walken.   

Client: Kenzo
Kenzo CD/EPs: Carol Lim and Humberto Leon
Written & Directed by: Spike Jonze
Actress: Margaret Qualley
VFX: Digital Domain
VFX supervisor: Janelle Croshaw
Costumes: Heidi Bivens
Song: Mutant Brain (feat. Assassin) by Sam Spiegel & Ape Drums
Production Design: KK Barrett
Director of Photography: Hoyte van Hoytema
Choreographer: Ryan Heffington