Service Provider Cloud

GoDaddy Looks to Cloud to Shake Sleazy Image

GoDaddy is launching a cloud platform Monday, designed to win 30 million developers worldwide serving very small businesses. But first, the company needs to get its tarnished brand to shine again.

The domain registrar and hosting service came under fire for sexy TV commercials featuring NASCAR driver Danica Patrick and other so-called "Super Bowl girls." Animal lovers hated GoDaddy after then-CEO Bob Parsons hunted and killed an elephant in Zimbabwe and posted a video of the event. And techies hated GoDaddy for being difficult to do business with -- bombarding users with advertisements for additional services, and making it hard to transfer domains elsewhere.

Indeed, I can't find anybody to defend GoDaddy. Attendees at the Open Networking Summit, a conference in Silicon Valley last week, laughed outright at the idea that GoDaddy might become respectable. A feminist woman in tech said she didn't want to talk about GoDaddy, preferring to give attention to other, more respectable domain registrars (which must hurt twice for GoDaddy -- once for the suggestion that they're beneath notice, and again for the description as just a domain registrar).

Past Tense
NASCAR driver Danica Patrick in 2013. The association with Patrick is part of a past that GoDaddy is looking to put behind it. (Source:Marco Becerra, (CC BY 2.0).)
NASCAR driver Danica Patrick in 2013. The association with Patrick is part of a past that GoDaddy is looking to put behind it. (Source:Marco Becerra, (CC BY 2.0).)

Not satisfied, I took an informal, unscientific poll on my Google+ profile. With 57 responses, only 16% had positive associations for GoDaddy: "Love them!" 4%; "They're OK," 12%. Other responses: "GoDaddy? Are they still around?," 35%; "Sexist elephant-killing sleazeballs," 26%; and "No Opinion," 23%.

I was intrigued when GoDaddy pitched me an article about augmenting their existing hosting business with a cloud service aimed at the VSB market -- very small businesses, sole proprietor or up to three employees. I felt compelled to visit their offices face-to-face. Maybe I'd get to meet Danica Patrick, or go on an elephant hunt.

GoDaddy is based in Scottsdale, Ariz. I visited its Silicon Valley offices, located in Sunnyvale. They're typical offices for the area. That surprised me. I don't know what I was expecting. Maybe stripper poles and animal-head trophies.

The offices are spacious and airy, with big windows letting in plenty of light, an open office plan, pedal-powered go-carts lined up on display in the lobby, and a centrally located, well-stocked coffee bar. The coffee bar also has a mini-fridge that serves hard liquor; but I did not see anyone tipple during our meeting hours. Coffee and soft drinks are free, but employees and visitors have to pay for the hard stuff.

I met with Jeff King, general manager of hosting and security for GoDaddy. We discussed concerns about the GoDaddy brand, and he acknowledged them as valid. He even raised one or two himself. For example, as of three years ago, the company had an international presence, but messaging was America-focused. Even its website for the subcontinent of India was in English, prominently featuring Danica Patrick holding a football.

However, King says, GoDaddy's negative image is a couple of years out of date.

GoDaddy and Patrick parted last year, the elephant-hunting CEO has been replaced (though he still serves on the board), and new CEO Blake Irving, formerly of Microsoft and Yahoo, is focused on building GoDaddy as a global hosting and cloud provider for VSBs.

GoDaddy is looking to rebuild its brand the only way it knows how -- build a reputation for delivering quality service by building a track record. That takes time, King says.

"You're only going to turn your reputation around by what you do every day," King says. "What we try to do is build world-class products."

Wall Street likes GoDaddy's odds. It went public a year ago, trading at $26.50 April 2; it peaked at $34.13 in December and its stock closed at $31.93 Friday. Revenue was $1.6 billion in fiscal 2015, up from $1.4 billion year-over-year. However, the company ran at a net loss of $120.4 million, down from $143.3 million in 2014.

In the fourth quarter, GoDaddy's hosting and presence revenue was $155.5 million, up 12.7% year-over-year, with 14 million customers and 62 million domains under management -- more than 20% of the world's total.

Want to know more about the cloud? Visit Light Reading's cloud services content channel.

Its customers are bakers, plumbers, restaurateurs, writers, photographers, and more. "Our mission in life is to enable the small business economy," King says.

GoDaddy sees the economy as moving in its direction. "We think enterprises are going to hire fewer and fewer people over the next ten years," King says. The economy will shift to contractors and self-employment, and those workers will require websites to attract business.

Next page: Winning small business

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MordyK 3/21/2016 | 7:13:10 PM
Re: Follow the lack of money I'm not saying don't build other stuff, but enhancing the ARPA for existing accounts is a good start.
mendyk 3/21/2016 | 7:09:16 PM
Re: Follow the lack of money GoDiddy still loses money, as Mitch points out. In fact, it loses a lot of money. But that's not necessarily relevant here. What IS relevant is that GD is targeting a very specific market: independent website builders whose customers are very small businesses. VERY small. That's the stated plan. You could probably think of a better one in 10 minutes.
MordyK 3/21/2016 | 5:53:04 PM
Re: Follow the lack of money What's the assumption that they won't make any money? do you know their cost structures?

The reason Amazon's AWS took off is because startups used it to save time and resource overhead, and developers in larger enterprises seeing how it gave their startup peers flexibility pushed it on their management. Sometimes even going as far as launching unauthorized instances, and asking permission later.

GoDaddy has become a thing because of these professionals who saw the cost and the hosting as a suitable place to park their customers, so as cloud becomes the next thing this has become the obvious play, and the overhead costs are definitely lower than dedicated servers. Targeting additional users through an existing channel and working on expanding that makes total sense IMHO.

Adobe kinda did the same thing with their acquisition of Behance a few years ago.

mendyk 3/21/2016 | 1:06:14 PM
Re: Follow the lack of money As in, We lose money on every customer, but we make it up in volume?
Sarah Thomas 3/21/2016 | 12:43:53 PM
Irving at Grace Hopper Blake Irving also spoke at the Grace Hopper women's conference, which I was surprised to see. I think most of the women were. He also preached there about how much the company has changed and how the issues with it are old news. 

He also revealed the company's diversity figures and gender pay split at the show in a show of good will: http://www.wired.com/2015/10/godaddy-reveals-gender-pay-gaps-at-grace-hopper-celebration/

He was a great speaker. I believe he's genuine, but clearly its reputation will be hard to shake.
Mitch Wagner 3/21/2016 | 12:00:40 PM
Re: Follow the lack of money It's an extension of their previous business model (minus the sex and elephant-killing) and a volume business. 
mendyk 3/21/2016 | 11:48:54 AM
Follow the lack of money So the plan is to sell services to an intermediary that works with customers who have very limited budgets? This is the vision to get excited about?
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