It’s hard not to notice: New GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving looks a lot like that dude in the company’s logo — even though the logo significantly predates his time at the company.
The similarities are so striking that Irving decided to have some fun with his official corporate badge (at right), to lighten the mood for longtime GoDaddy employees who might have been wary about some former Microsoft and Yahoo executive taking over.
Maybe it just means he was meant for the job.
The tech veteran was back in his old stomping grounds yesterday, laying the groundwork for GoDaddy’s new engineering outpost in the Seattle region. As first reported by GeekWire last week, the privately held company, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., is opening a new development office on the Eastside, joining the wave of out-of-state tech companies establishing offices here to tap into the region’s tech talent.
In an interview at Carillon Point on the Kirkland waterfront, Irving talked about his aspirations to turn GoDaddy into a much bigger company, with a sharper engineering focus.
If domain registration and web hosting are the front door of the Internet, Irving wants GoDaddy to expand into the rest of the house. His vision is to provide millions of small businesses a comprehensive package of software and services for starting and running a company online — a turnkey solution for the 21st Century entrepreneurial dream.
And he needs top engineers to make it happen. That’s why he was back, just a few miles from Microsoft, where he spent 15 years in positions including vice president leading the Windows Live platform. GoDaddy’s new office here will be one of the keys to implementing his vision, and Irving is like a football coach on a recruiting trip, scouting for talent to help make it happen.
Irving came to GoDaddy from Yahoo, where he was chief product officer. During his short tenure at GoDaddy — less than three months so far — the company has already hired veterans of Microsoft, eBay, Google, and Yahoo, to name a few. High-profile examples include longtime Microsoft architect Arnold Blinn, a 17-year veteran of the Redmond company, who has joined GoDaddy as chief architect; and Elissa Murphy, a former Yahoo VP of engineering, who is now GoDaddy’s CTO and executive vice president.
Beyond the recruiting wars, Irving acknowledges that GoDaddy’s broader strategy also means more direct competition against many of those larger companies in the small-business technology market. Even with $1.3 billion in annual revenue and 11 million customers — and the possibility of a future IPO — GoDaddy will play the role of the scrappy underdog.
“Google and Microsoft are big companies, and these little guys will tell you, very clearly, ‘No big company represents me,’ ” Irving said. He said many of these larger tech companies give small businesses glorified versions of consumer services, vs. technology specifically tailored to their needs.
What about those infamous GoDaddy ads? What happens to those under Irving’s leadership?
“We’ve been great at getting attention, and it’s been super at helping us build market share. But it hasn’t been very helpful in telling people what we do,” Irving said. “We’re still going to be edgy, we’re still going to be polarizing and funny, but people will know what we’re doing and who we’re doing it for.
But will the ads still be as risqué? Irving paused before answering.
“Probably not,” he said, citing the large number of women who own small businesses. “We need to be pretty inclusive when we’re being edgy. When you start understanding your customer base, and you’re not just about getting attention, you have to be more thoughtful.”