It's all part of the journey
My wife Nancy and I are envious of Netflix. It recently hit a milestone of 200 million global subscribers — individuals who continuously and frequently visit Netflix for their entertainment needs.
Netflix saw an opportunity. They took advantage of an emerging distribution network and developed an algorithmic approach to help them perfectly understand their customer preferences and provide them with content in the way that they want to view it.
Co-founder Marc Randolph recently tweeted, “I never imagined this crazy idea would get this far.” When it started in 1997 as a mail order DVD subscription service, I’m sure Netflix did not fully understand the journey that would lead it to millions of subscribers.
We’re among those subscribers, but that’s not why Nancy and I have Netflix envy. We are envious of what they were able to accomplish for their customers.
Over the last few years, we’ve been on a similar journey, having identified a need and an opportunity, and building something with the potential for incredible impact. We’ve learned that this takes time, and it may take several iterations before it’s right for your customer. It’s all part of the journey.
We started with an idea to create something that would reach and impact millions of people with learning and thinking differences. We wanted to provide a better way for them to get through the challenges that we and others experienced on the journey to thriving.
Like Randolph and Netflix’s team, we didn’t know where this endeavor would lead us. But we did know that there were 331 million people in the United States who could know someone with learning and thinking differences, and approximately 70 million people in the U.S. with learning and thinking differences who we could help. If we didn’t help, these people could be at high risk of bullying, dropping out of school, or unemployment.
That was enough for us to start building what is now Understood.
We understand that our mission is different from Netflix’s, and the complexity of what we set out to do. Helping those with learning and thinking differences determine how to take control of their lives and stay on a positive path means shifting the status quo, stigma, and disbelief that confront them.
We’re building something they can use when they need it, whenever they need it, on their unique journey to thriving — whether it’s finding a rewarding career, a community, or a fulfilling life. For us, measuring success is not as simple as counting the paying subscribers each month. However, the social impact of our success is and can be so meaningful to so many.
I often think of the Field of Dreams line, “If you build it, they will come.” We are building Understood to be the place where the 70 million, and perhaps millions more, can come — and stay.
Today, 2 million visit our site each month. Our team of 100 plus has scaled our idea, and 24 million people are coming to our site each year, which suggests that learning and thinking differences are something they care about and want to understand. The need was real, the opportunity was realized, and our patience and progress are paying off as we start to see the impact.
This growth over the last few years could be a reason for us to reflect and celebrate what we have built, but we know that there are many more to reach and engage. We can be more valuable to them to help them thrive. Our Netflix envy now contributes to our aspirations.
We invite you to come visit Understood.org, bring others along as well, and join us on this journey.
Fred Poses is the co-founder, president and CEO of Understood. Previously, Fred served for 15 years as Chairman of the Board at the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD). He has served as a trustee at the Riverview School, a private school for children with complex language and learning challenges in New England, since 2016.
Fred brings to Understood a consumer-focused mindset and an ability to drive impact at scale from his leadership roles at public companies, including several years as CEO and partner of Ascend Performance Materials, and as chairman and CEO of Trane Inc. (previously American Standard Companies).
Fred is an avid Allbird wearer, emphatic New Yorker, and active collector of contemporary art.