With a Focus on People and Product, GoDaddy Lays Groundwork for IPO

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Jeff King, general manager of hosting, commerce and security at GoDaddy, leans across the table, outstretching his arm so I can get a good look at the screen of his iPhone.

“GoDaddy colors on the cabling, isn’t that sweet?” he says, showing off a photo of the interior of a GoDaddy data center equipped with neat, orange cables.

With all of the change at GoDaddy, it should be no surprise that even the data center cabling is getting an update.

The WHIR caught up with King on the first day of HostingCon 2014, less than a week after GoDaddy filed for a $100 million IPO. As expected, King remained tight-lipped about the IPO, but talked about new hosting products, the Media Temple acquisition, and building out the team at GoDaddy.

As one of the newer faces at GoDaddy, King joined the company just over a year ago in March 2013 from the ecommerce segment of eBay. He seems to represent the next generation of management at GoDaddy; he is genuinely interested in technology, product, and customers, and his excitement for what’s to come for GoDaddy is kind of contagious – not to mention hugely valuable for potential investors.

“We rebooted the team about a year ago now,” King says. “The team has been cranking, we’ve built a ton of new stuff. We rolled out a cPanel offering on Linux and Plesk on Windows, we’ve rolled out the managed WordPress product which is going incredibly well, and we’re experimenting with the pricing on that now. We’ve got a dollar managed WordPress right now and it’s selling like crazy.”

Under King’s leadership, GoDaddy has been steadily churning out new hosting products this year, including a WordPress migration tool, which allows users to switch their WordPress installations to GoDaddy with one-click. King says the tool accounts for an “enormous amount of customer acquisition.”

“We’ve seen a huge uptick with [WordPress] and we’re investing infrastructure underneath,” King says. “Elissa Murphy, who is the CTO, her organization is putting together an OpenStack-based IaaS and data layer that is going to be leveraged not only for our own apps that we’re going to be building…we’re leveraging it for the hosting platform as well.”

GoDaddy has “a bunch of people working on OpenStack right now,” according to King. The company wants to attract even more people from the OpenStack community to the team.

Contributing to OpenStack is an example of something that just doesn’t fit with most people’s perceptions of GoDaddy. Indeed, the old GoDaddy had nailed marketing to small businesses, but wasn’t really too interested in technology innovation. The new GoDaddy seems to be focused on both.

The preconceived notions of GoDaddy was especially apparent during its acquisition of Media Temple last October. Media Temple has a loyal set of customers who were highly concerned around the merger, even though GoDaddy vowed to run (mt) as a separate business and maintain its distinct culture.

“The Media Temple guys have been hugely valuable to us,” King says. “The thing for us is this wasn’t just a market consolidation for GoDaddy. I was new to the team, we recognized how important that segment Media Temple was addressing is, even for serving small businesses.”

“The tech community and agencies are incredible influencers for small businesses and so without addressing them you’re never going to address the small business. If our mission is to radically disrupt the global economy by helping small businesses start and run their own ventures, unless we are recommended by the tech influencers, the friend you ask, ‘who should I go build my website with?’…unless they say Media Temple or GoDaddy, we’re going to lose.”

Russ Reeder, president and COO at Media Temple tells the WHIR that that the plan is still for GoDaddy to run Media Temple as a separate company.

“There is definitely the plan that Media Temple is the premium brand. Very much like Lexus and Toyota. You wouldn’t buy a Lexus if you didn’t trust Toyota,” Reeder says.

“Unfortunately so many consumers are uninformed. They were informed; they saw a commercial or they saw YouTube, elephants and Africa, and they made their decision three or four years ago and moved on,” he says.

While customers were skeptical of the acquisition, the Media Temple team seemed to embrace it. When GoDaddy’s technical team came in to do due diligence, Reeder says the Media Temple technical team worked alongside them to answer questions.

“It was interesting. There were some potential acquirers who came in and were very cocky and then some, like GoDaddy, brought no attitude whatsoever,” he says. “Really giving kudos to the Media Temple guys and it wasn’t bullshit…the fact that they were appreciative of Media Temple went a long way.”

That culture of openness, which existed at the company long before the acquisition, really helped to smooth the transition.

“We were very open with our employees beforehand, and no one has left because of the acquisition,” Reeder says. “Our services have better uptime, our customer service time has lessened, not because of GoDaddy but because Media Temple is being a better Media Temple. We’re just getting better as a company. We’re evolving.”

King says that the acquisition of Media Temple has been extremely helpful for GoDaddy, too. Currently, the team is in the process of scaling Media Temple’s support to work for GoDaddy, which has 12 million customers and counting.

“We are in the middle of rolling out Media Temple’s playbook right now,” King says, “hiring, onboarding, training, even the gamification system they use for motivating their reps; all of that is being deployed in GoDaddy hosting support.”

“We essentially have a GoDaddy University that is a copy more or less of MediaTemple’s onboarding and certification system,” he says. “We had to extend it because we offer a deeper catalogue of hosting products than Media Temple has had traditionally. We’re going deep into WordPress, deep into Windows.”

According to King, the WordPress product is really the first example of what GoDaddy and Media Temple are capable of when they work together to serve their respective customer bases.

“It’s really important for us to serve that tech influencer market very well. We’re looking at MediaTemple and saying, ‘those guys nailed it. How do we take what they’ve done and scale the heck out of it?’” King says.

“The WordPress product is really the first visible product of this collaboration. The Media Temple and GoDaddy product was co-developed by the companies,” he says. “The product manager at Media Temple is the product manager for both GoDaddy’s offering and Media Temple’s offering. They do differ even though they run on essentially the same rails. Media Temple has a whole feature set that they add for the tech community.”

Reeder says that in the future, there is “tremendous opportunity” for Media Temple to leverage GoDaddy’s scale.

“Maybe in the future we can leverage more of the infrastructure that GoDaddy is building for their 12 million customers,” he says.

“We’re a technology company and we have to continue to evolve but we also have different cards in our hands than our competitors do. So how we play those and when…we have to be very calculated,” Reeder says.

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