How Bob Parsons Almost Went Broke Building GoDaddy

Bob Parsons, founder of GoDaddy, gave an interview on Golf Digest that I just discovered. He mostly talks about his new venture that has to do with golf clubs but he also gives a peak on the inside story on how he built GoDaddy from the ground up. He almost went broke but that didn’t stop him.

Here are some of the most interesting parts regarding Go Daddy from the interview:

I’VE NEVER HAD A BUSINESS PARTNER. I always go it alone. Why? I started GoDaddy with $35 million. It was a good product, but in the white noise of the dot-com boom, we struggled to be heard and quickly started bleeding money. My bank account shrunk to $32 million.

I thought, I’m not going to worry about this until it goes to $28 million. It goes to $28 million. Now I’m worried, but I decided to go until it goes to $25 million. It goes to $25 million. Then $20 million … $18 million … $12 million … and down to $6 million. At that point, I went to Hawaii to figure out my next move. I was staying at the Four Seasons, and a guy about my age parks my car. This man just oozed contentment. I thought, What’s wrong with this picture? This guy is probably broke, but he’s happy; I’ve got $6 million, and I’m miserable. I decided to go back to Arizona and keep working on GoDaddy. If the company went broke, I’d go broke with it. But GoDaddy didn’t go broke. If I’d had partners, there’s no way they would have tolerated it going down to $6 million and possibly going broke. They would have been gone, maybe for good reason. When you’re in it alone, only you draw the line. So, no partners.

SO GODADDY TURNED A CORNER, and in 2005 we had built up a war chest of $10 million. It was time to advertise on a big venue. I chose the 2005 Super Bowl. Not cheap, and I was worried our ad would get lost while viewers were drinking and talking. We needed something a little risqué that would catch people’s attention. So we created an ad in which the GoDaddy Girl, Candice Michelle, did a parody of Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. The ad was to show twice, once early in the game and again at the two-minute warning. After the first showing, our servers shook from traffic. The second one, Fox Sports decided not to show. They said it was “out of tenor” with the other ads. But it didn’t matter. The ad was out there, and our market share went from 16 percent to 25 percent that week. We didn’t pay for the second ad, of course, and got a full credit for the first one. To this day, that ad is taught in every important class on advertising as an example of what an advertisement can do.

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About Konstantinos Zournas

Konstantinos studied Computer Engineering and Computer Science in London and lives in Athens, Greece. He loves domains and building websites. He is online since 1995, learned about html in 1996 and got into domains in 2002. He started the OnlineDomain.com blog in 2012.

5 comments

  1. Hello Konstantinos,

    The Go-Daddy of today is a far different Profit Center because of the valuable .COM assets they now control. Parsons was lucky experienced Wall Street Minds took over where he left off.
    The .COM headwind he had to fight, today is even stronger than back then. We see ominous signs for the new Google backed TLD Strategy.

    Gratefully, Jeff Schneider (Contact Group) (Metal Tiger) Former (Marketing Analyst/Strategist Rockefeller I.B.E.C.) (Licensed C.B.O.E. Commodity Hedge Strategist)(Domain Master UseBiz.com)

  2. “The ad was out there, and our market share went from 16 percent to 25 percent that week.”

    I am not sure that I agree with Bob’s assessment of that ad. If the ad had not been “risque'” their market share may have grown much larger and it would have been shown twice. There is no credible metric to say that the growth was due to being “risque'”…….Most advertisements in Super Bowl history shows that making an emotional connection is much more effective. The Budweiser dog and pony show is a great example, as is the historic ‘Mean Joe Green’ and the kid in the famous Coca Cola commercial…It is my opinion that GoDaddy has a great product and great service and this has been the main contributor to their success. However, they have completely missed the mark in advertising. For example, they had rights to Danica Patrick as she is the only women competing with men in professional sports. She is on parallel to the many of small business’s that compete with giant corporations. GoDaddy should have made an emotional connection with Danica Patrick and small businesses, their main target market.

  3. “He almost went broke but that didn’t stop him.”

    Ah well. What could have been, eh?

  4. Wow! started with $35 Million and dropped to $6 Million struggling at finding the right formula for his business model. That’s $29 Million dollar drop. To think that if he only had $1 million or $28 million he may have been forced to sell or close the doors. Talk about a huge asset risk on a journey to success.

    That really puts things in perspective for other start-ups struggling. No matter how bad it gets, you just keep dedicated, dig in your heels, and try new strategies until finally find one that works for you. Sadly, most new start-ups don’t have a $35 million budget, let alone a $1 million budget to keep them floating until they find the right direction.

  5. Inspiring story. Thank you for sharing.

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