It's been nearly two decades since GoDaddy launched its affordable web-hosting services--along with its controversial, often sexist TV commercials. While founder Bob Parsons remains nostalgic for the early days, his Scottsdale, Arizona-based company has grown past its edgy adolescent years. The 12-time Inc. 5000 honoree is the world's largest domain-name registrar, with more than 61 million domains under management. It's discontinued the Super Bowl ads that helped make it (in)famous--and last year, it successfully went public, nine years after it initially planned an IPO. Parsons, no longer CEO but still on the board, explains when it's time to step back--and how he still helps guide his business.
-- As told to Graham Winfrey
The IPO, for me personally, was just another day. I was involved in the planning of it for months, but it was a rite of passage more than anything.
You have to remember what got you going to begin with: With GoDaddy, we were selling a commodity. Domain names and websites are about as exciting as a cup of sawdust, so we made them exciting through our advertising. After our first ad, our worldwide market share jumped from 16 percent to 25 percent. With the next Super Bowl, I did the same thing. I heard from the same crew of critics, but GoDaddy's market share climbed and climbed.
What made it work was our customer service. We took an unconventional approach: Most of our competitors felt that, as internet companies, their customer service should happen on the internet. But we felt that when they have problems, people would rather talk to another person.
By 2011, GoDaddy had so many moving parts and different markets--and employees--that it made sense to bring in partners like KKR and Silver Lake. That provided us with capital for a continued trajectory, a liquidity event for me and the people who stayed on my team, and additional knowledge. It was not a difficult thing for me. I never looked at it as giving part of my baby away, because I'm a businessman--and that was an investment.