New GoDaddy CEO's Growth Strategy

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Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC
4 min read

You may have heard of GoDaddy, but you may not know what the tech company does. New chief executive officer Blake Irving wants to change that disconnect, especially in the entrepreneur community.

Many people are at least familiar with the company name because of its Super Bowl ads, Irving says. This is the reaction he says he usually gets when informing people of his new place of employment: “GoDaddy? I have heard of those guys. I am not sure what they do. I have seen the commercials, those are outrageous, but I am not sure what you do.” Irving’s goal is to transform GoDaddy into a platform for small-business owners looking to establish, define and promote their online presence, he says. The new CEO says the existing GoDaddy product is not cohesive and needs to be improved.

The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based website domain name registrar took in $1.3 billion in revenue last year, but in the next five years, GoDaddy expects to be a $5 billion annual-revenue company, Irving says.

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Half of GoDaddy’s revenues come from services for small businesses, which it defines as companies with five or fewer employees. In five years, 70 percent of projected sales are expected to come from a slew of services GoDaddy plans to roll out for entrepreneurs, according to Irving. While it’s not decided yet, an initial public offering is a possible option for GoDaddy down the road, Irving has said.

Irving was previously the chief product officer at Yahoo and he held senior roles at Microsoft. He took the reins at GoDaddy from Scott Wagner, an interim CEO brought in by the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts which led a leveraged buyout of the company in 2011.

In his first months on the job, Irving has hammered out a plan for how to focus GoDaddy’s product to meet the needs of small-business owners. He sat down with recently to discuss his strategy for more than tripling revenue.

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1. Bring in the brains. Irving has gone on a hiring blitz. Since joining the company in January, Irving has hired from Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Yahoo, AT&T and eBay. In 2013, GoDaddy projects it will hire approximately 350 new employees, or another 10 percent of the 3,385 employees it had at the end of last year, says Elizabeth Driscoll, vice president of communications.

2. Obsess about product. While Irving speaks favorably of GoDaddy’s customer-care services, he says the software product is not where it needs to be. “It has been built in silos,” Irving says. “They haven’t actually built great product.”

Irving says he used the need for an improved product as a hiring tactic to get some of the best engineers in the business. “Engineers love to do things that change the world in a fundamental way. If I can put before them a vision and a strategy and say, nobody is really doing this,” that is a powerful draw, Irving says. He has brought in some of his best talent by offering engineers the opportunity to make a difference. “You can come to GoDaddy and become the reason the company becomes a $5 billion company instead of being a guy that is working on a dialogue box on a piece of a product,” he tells potential hires.

Related: In Major Hiring Push, Web Hosting Powerhouse Go Daddy to Expand Its Services

3. Keep it fun. Irving has a drum set in his office. GoDaddy offices are equipped with the trappings of startup culture, including treadmill computer stations, Ping Pong and foosball tables, video-game stations, couches and cable television. There is a cash machine game on site, where employees step into a booth and cash is blown at them while they attempt to catch as much money as possible in an allotted time period. GoDaddy pays for beer on Fridays at the end of the workday. Throughout the year, each department goes on a team-building adventure such as whitewater rafting, horseback riding or desert four-wheeling. At the end of a technology-employee day-long meeting, Irving got into a dunk tank, where employees could throw balls at a target to dump him into water.

To keep talented employees happy while asking them to go the extra mile requires a good attitude, he says. “We are fun. We are edgy. We are eclectic. We throw our shoulders into the mosh pit together,” Irving says.

Related: Inside the Mind of Go Daddy's Controversial Founder

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