Internet domain giant GoDaddy is expanding to the Seattle region in search of technical talent, GeekWire has learned — becoming the latest big tech company to establish an engineering outpost within poaching distance of Microsoft, Amazon and others.
The planned office is part of a broad reshaping and expansion of GoDaddy’s strategy under new CEO Blake Irving, the longtime Microsoft executive who was most recently Yahoo’s chief product officer. Via phone this week, Irving said GoDaddy is experiencing early success in attracting top talent. New recruits include engineers from Microsoft and other large tech companies.
Irving says GoDaddy is “hell-bent on changing the world” by empowering small businesses, and that message is resonating with veteran engineers, particularly those who have been working at mature tech companies without as much potential for future growth.
GoDaddy, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., has grown to $1.3 billion in revenue, with 11 million paying customers, and Irving’s goal as the new CEO is to add significantly to that base.
“There is a ton of opportunity and upside,” Irving said. “It’s not lost on any of the people we’re talking with that we’re a privately held company. We’ve got a lot of numbers that look very, very positive for potentially going public. … We’re in a very interesting place to create an envelope and a container where engineers can do amazing work to benefit a huge market of small businesses.”
GoDaddy is establishing a temporary office in Kirkland, Wash., near Carillon Point, with plans to build a permanent office in Kirkland or Bellevue, starting with about 10,000 square feet of space. Irving said the office could expand to 20 or 30 people over the next several months. Areas of focus will include big data, mobile technologies, domain search and website building.
Recent hires by GoDaddy include longtime Microsoft architect Arnold Blinn, a 17-year veteran of the Redmond company, who has joined GoDaddy as chief architect; and Scott Isaacs, the former Microsoft developer known for his work on dynamic HTML, who is now a distinguished engineer at GoDaddy.
GoDaddy also established an office last month in Sunnyvale, Calif., down the road from Yahoo. Last week, GoDaddy announced the hiring of Elissa Murphy, a former Yahoo VP of engineering, as its new CTO and executive vice president.
Other recent hires across the company include veterans of eBay, Google and Amazon.
Irving said the goal of expanding to Seattle isn’t specifically to raid Microsoft for talent. Instead, GoDaddy is looking to establish itself in the country’s strongest technology hubs. The company asked itself, “Where are we best able to get talent, and where does our story resonate the most?” he said. “It’s the Bay Area and it’s Seattle.”
GoDaddy will face stiff competition in that quest for talent. The company is the latest in a wave of out-of-state tech giants to arrive in Seattle with an eye toward hiring top engineers. Google, Facebook, Zynga, Salesforce.com, Hulu and Twitter are some of the companies that have already expanded to the Seattle region, competing for talent not only against Microsoft and Amazon but against the region’s strong lineup of technology startups and emerging tech titans.
Asked about that competition, Irving said he believes GoDaddy is in a unique position, Its growth so far has happened through its strong brand and customer service, without having a strong engineering focus. Irving says the company is now building that engineering discipline, and aiming to fuel additional growth in the process.
“Engineers can go to one of the companies you described, and they can work on a portion of a product that’s maybe an extension to a product line,” Irving said. “GoDaddy, while it’s a company that has been established for quite a while, it’s really like a startup. It is well funded … but it is still pretty darned nascent in terms of the value proposition we offer.”
He added, “Somebody can come into this company and say, ‘I was responsible for turning that into something that’s giant. I didn’t join a giant company and be a cog in the wheel that helped make it bigger. I actually started this thing out, and took it from a billion-dollar company to a $10 billion company that services not 11 million customers, but 100 million customers.’ That’s different, and so far it is resonating really powerfully with every engineer we’ve spoken with.”
One other potential challenge: GoDaddy’s controversial initial stance last year in support of SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, which drew strong opposition from many people in the tech industry and resulted in calls for a GoDaddy boycott at the time.
Irving said that hasn’t been an issue. “It’s kinda old news, and all the guys in the leadership team that were making decisions around what we were going to do, they’re gone. For the life of me, I look at the decision was made with a giant, ‘What?!’ I’m sorry, I don’t even get it. It’s very clear where we stand. We stand with every other Internet company. We’re in the business of protecting users and making sure that they are being treated fairly. We’re not about government control.”
GoDaddy is famous for its irreverent Super Bowl commercials, which have been a big part of shaping its brand.
Danica Patrick isn’t going away, but Irving said “the way that we deliver the brand is going to change significantly” over the next year, citing this commercial from this year’s Super Bowl as an example of where the company is headed.
Irving will be in town next week to meet with local officials and prep for the opening of the new GoDaddy office.