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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

April 16, 2013 at 5:39 PM

Go Daddy expands in Seattle, Blake Irving hiring 50

Former Microsoft executive Blake Irving still has a few friends in the area, apparently.


Irving, who left Microsoft in 2007, became chief executive of Internet services company Go Daddy in January and immediately began building up the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company’s software team.

Last month he hired Microsoft veteran Arnold Blinn as chief architect. Word got out and Irving was flooded with “just a ton” of interest from Microsoft employees, he said.

“I had enough queries within a week from people within the company to make it very clear we should open a facility here,” Irving said.

Now, Go Daddy is planning to create a major office here and hire about 50 people over the next year. It’s planning to lease about 10,000 square feet in either Bellevue or Kirkland, a space that it could outgrow in a few years. Five people have been hired so far.

Irving simultaneously is building up an engineering office in Sunnyvale, Calif., where he was Yahoo’s chief product officer from 2010 to 2012. That office opened in February — with Yahoo and Microsoft veteran Elissa Murphy as the cornerstone and chief technology officer — and it already has about 50 employees.

He’s also been hiring people from eBay, Google, and startups.

Go Daddy probably needed someone like Irving to successfully recruit in Seattle, where pretty much every prominent tech company has come to tap the local software talent pool.

Irving was at Microsoft from 1992 to 2007, rising to become vice president of Windows Live services, leading engineering and product management for the company’s Internet services.

During an interview at Kirkland’s Woodmark Hotel — where he stayed when Microsoft first recruited him — Irving said lots of people in the greater Seattle area have stayed in touch.

“You make a lot of friends, everybody knows everybody and if you’re actually a good leader, you’re kind to people, you get stuff done, you make them feel good about what they’ve accomplished, they tend to keep track of you — [via] Facebook and LinkedIn — and they’re seeing what you’re doing and they’re immediately saying, ‘Wow, that’s interesting,’ ” he said.

While Irving mingles with old friends and potential job candidates at a reception tonight, Twitter is doing the same thing in South Lake Union, where that company is hosting a recruiting event at its satellite office near headquarters.

Irving said he’s not overly worried about the recruiting competition; the Go Daddy reception today is “oversubscribed,” he said.

Like Twitter, Go Daddy also has the added appeal of a big public offering down the road. Irving said an IPO is likely in the next year or two, after the company, which has more than $1 billion a year in sales and 3,400 employees, sees its new strategies for serving small businesses in the U.S. and internationally are moving ahead.

Go Daddy does take a bit more explanation though, since it’s known mostly as a domain registrar with sleazy Super Bowl commercials.

Irving said the company has dropped the racy promotions and is developing a new “inspirational” branding approach.

Go Daddy also is pursuing a strategy to become a provider of online business services to small businesses, helping them with everything from setting up websites to marketing their online presence and even handling payroll and taxes.

The company already provides a range of services directly and through vendors, but it’s a hodgepodge. Irving said he was hired for his product expertise “building consistency in the experiences.”

Customers may reserve a Web domain at Go Daddy because they have an idea for a business. Irving wants to make it easier for them to pursue that dream build their business with Go Daddy’s tools.

“If the path to doing that is light and easy, more people will pull the trigger and convert,” he said.

Irving, 53, didn’t realize this before Go Daddy persuaded him to join and give up his semi-retirement surfing and being a dad in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

“If you’d asked me a year and a half ago if you thought I’d be at Go Daddy, I would say, uh, no, because I didn’t really know what they had,” he said. “I thought they were basically a domains business. But this is the best front door for small business that there is on the Internet today – they do $1.3 billion in revenue a year.”




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