The Jay Kim Show #70: James Carroll (Transcript)
This week’s guest is James Carroll who is the head of Global Platform Development at GoDaddy.com. James drives the architecture and development for all of GoDaddy’s global business and product platforms. Before coming to GoDaddy, James was a senior vice president at Yahoo! where he directed the company’s R&D centers in China, India, and the Middle East. He also oversaw Yahoo’s content, social, and membership platforms.
Now GoDaddy is obviously a household name, but it’s also a 20 year old company, which means that it survived the ups and downs of the market and economy. The reason it’s been about to do so is because of the company’s ability to adapt to change. James talks about this and their international expansion plan and how they were able to successfully roll out globally in just a few years. Let’s get on to the show.
Jay: Hi, James. Thanks so much for joining us. And welcome to the Jay Kim Show.
James: It’s great to be here. Thanks for inviting me.
Jay: Yeah. I’m excited to have you on. The last time we spoke in person was actually here in Hong Kong at the RISE Conference. I’m glad we actually made this happen. For the audience listening in, maybe you could give us a quick introduction of who you are and what you do.
James: Sure. I’m James Carroll. I’m chief platform and globalization officer for GoDaddy. So that’s a big title. Basically, what it means is I head up all platform efforts for GoDaddy. I can get into that in a bit more detail. I also head up all globalization efforts and was on point to bring the company global over the last three to four years. So I look forward to talking with you about that.
Jay: Yeah, absolutely. GoDaddy is a very household name for most people. Let’s do our audience a favor and take it one step back. Maybe you can give us a little bit of background on how GoDaddy actually started and obviously I think everyone knows or has used your service at some point in their past. But maybe we could start there.
James: Sure. You may or may not know, GoDaddy has been around for about 20 years. It’s very much been around all through, really, the internet getting started and built out. It’s headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona and pretty much had started out being in Arizona, Denver, and Iowa, really for the first 16 years of its life. Over the last four years, we’ve built out offices throughout the US. I’m talking to you here from Seattle. I’m in Kirkland, in Seattle. We’ve built out offices throughout California, so in Silicon Valley and in Southern California. We’re in Cambridge in the East Coast, and we’ve built out offices all over the world as part of our going global plans. Now we have offices in Canada and Mexico, in India and China, in Europe…basically all over the place. So we’re really turned from being a very US-specific company to now being a global company with employees and, basically, offerings everywhere.
Today GoDaddy is in over 50 markets with a deep offering worldwide, and we have customers in over a hundred countries around the world. So really, all across the world.
We have about 17 million paying customers. That’s basically using our service on a daily basis. We have 72 million domains under management. So just to give you a sense, that’s over 20% of the total global domain total.
Jay: Wow. That’s incredible.
James: Yeah, it’s quite a large base. Also, just to give you a sense of the scale, we service something like 18 billion DNS queries per day on average. So if you think about someone going in and basically typing in a URL and that hitting the server basically to bring back a site, a lot of that is going through GoDaddy. So a large, as I said, over 20% of the global domains and then aiding, building DNS queries is a large part of the internet usage on a daily basis. We’ve grown over the last few years. So we’re over 7,000 employees globally right now. That’s basically kind of what constitutes GoDaddy.
A lot of people know GoDaddy about domains and basically coming in your domain. But really, it’s about a lot more than domains. It’s about building an online presence. It’s about getting businesses online in a very scalable and easy way.
The company vision is to radically shift the global economy towards life fulfilling independent ventures. So that kind of speaks to it. It’s a global play and basically giving small businesses and individuals the tools and services they need to be able to get online and basically to be open for business 24/7.
Just to give you a deeper view, the mission of the company is to help our customers kick ass by giving them the tools, insights, and the people to transform their ideas and personal initiative into success, however they measure it. Now a few things in here… One, you’ve got the kick ass in there. Not all companies have kick ass in their mission statements. That’s cool. That shows the edgy-ness of GoDaddy in terms of, we’re normal. And it also basically speaks to helping individuals and small businesses basically turn their ideas and their initiatives into a success, basically giving small businesses what large businesses already have.
If you think about a large business is probably backed by a development team. They’re backed by a strong IT department. They’re backed up by everything they need to get online and run an online business. And really, GoDaddy is here to provide the services and care to help small businesses get online. So really soup-to-nuts in terms of everything you would need in a cost-effective way and basically getting all the help you need to get to get online easily and efficiently. So that’s kind of it.
Jay: Yeah. That’s a great intro, James. To your point on the kick ass part, you can pretty much tell by the messaging that you guys have with your logo and sort of the font even that… You guys are still very much a tech company, despite the fact that you guys have been around for so long and have survived. I guess that’s just testament to the fact that you guys are doing something right over there.
Do you actually know what the origin of the name GoDaddy is by any chance?
James: The founder of the company is Bob Parsons. When he went to look for a name for the company, he was actually looking for something memorable. I think — I obviously wasn’t here — but what I’ve been told is that he looked up “BigDaddy” just as a fun name that would be remembered. Taken. Somebody else had it. So then he looked at GoDaddy, and it was available. Really, it was just a fun factor in terms of just a name that’s going to be memorable and something that will catch people’s eyes.
Jay: Yeah. It’s certainly memorable. I think that if you were trying to start a domain registrar now, you would die if you had a name that didn’t have something that was so clear that it was like, domain.com or something like that. But I guess that’s one of the advantages of an early adopter is you’re about to basically build your brand and work it out.
James: I agree. I agree. And I think it was pretty forward thinking. If you think back 20 years ago, in terms of setting up a domain registrar back in the very early days and figuring out how to do that in a very easy way, I can talk more about some of the things that really, to me, made GoDaddy a real success and some of the ingredients that made the company what it is today. I can talk about that a little bit later on if you want.
Jay: Sure. Absolutely. Just quickly on your background, I know that you’ve kind of been in tech for your whole career. Tell us a little bit about how you got started and what path you took to lead you to now being at GoDaddy.
James: You’re probably picking up from my accent already, I’m Irish. If you can’t understand what I’m saying, I apologize. I started out — oh my god — probably about 26, 27 years ago working at Microsoft of Ireland. I was working on internationalization and localization. I think my first product was DOS email.
Jay: Oh, yeah. Nice.
James: I can’t speak a word of Swedish, but that’s the product I was working on. I spent about a year there. I moved on from there to work for Claris, which was a software subsidiary of Apple. I worked on a full suite of Apply and Claris products on Mac and Windows, firstly in Ireland for about a year, then I moved to Silicon Valley for a few years. And then I ended up back in Ireland actually running a large part of their international localization efforts.
After Apple — I was there for about five years. After that — Claris/Apple — I moved back to Microsoft. I actually moved back to Microsoft in the Bay Area, in Silicon Valley again. I held a variety of different roles at Microsoft, everything from managing the international MSN team to running engineering teams in China, Japan, Europe. My last role, I moved up to Redmond, spent about 14 years working in Redmond. My last role there was running the Windows international team. So that included the Windows client, server, Internet Explorer, Windows Live — so about 200 different products and rolling that out to — I don’t know — 200 different countries around the world. So quite a big effort.
After that, I joined Yahoo! So basically, moved back down to Silicon Valley. Again, I was responsible for managing the full Yahoo! Product range deploying globally. So internationalization and localization of that. I also ran R&D centers in India, China, and the Middle East. And then I also ran platforms. So platforms being Yahoo’s content platform and our social platform GEO international.
About four and a half years ago, I joined GoDaddy and basically came in to help bring the company international. That was the first thing. That’s what I did during the first three and a half years of being here at GoDaddy. Basically, I was running all aspects of international, so everything from internationalization to localization to building out care centers around the world to working across every function inside the company to internationalize it and turn it global. And then also building out marketing and regional teams around the world to drive our marketing efforts forward.
Subsequently, I’ve changed role. My latest role is actually running the global platform team for GoDaddy, and that’s where I am now. I’ll be happy to talk more about that as well.
Jay: That’s a nice history, a walk down memory lane for you. As a company that essentially one of the handful that has basically survived, 1.0 and 2.0, a lot of the smaller companies obviously didn’t make it through the first tech bubble. You guys obviously were able to navigate through that, understanding the importance of having to change your business model when needed or adapt to the environment. And I see that you guys are actively doing that with the international expansion. So maybe we can talk a little bit about your expansion strategy into Asia. Obviously you oversee all international now. Actually, let’s just take a bigger view on global and how you guys look at the world, how you look at expanding and then specifically what your thoughts are on the region of Asia and what your strategy here is.
James: Sure. About four and a half years ago, five years ago, I think there was a major shift inside of the company. The company came to the realization that if it wanted to get to the next phase — as you say, 2.0 — it had to do something different. The company did a fantastic job building itself up to where it was very the first 16 years. But it really wanted to get to the next phase, and it had to do something different. And that’s where basically a new CEO came on board, which was Blake Irving, and basically, a new leadership team was put in place, of which I was part of. And a new strategy was put in place in terms of what we were going to do over the next three to five years. A bit part of that strategy was going global and bringing the set of services that the company had, bringing those services globally.
The company had already seen a lot of interest from around the world — people trying to come in from different countries, trying to use the service, basically getting hit with a US website and having to pay in US dollars and US payment methods, sign up and hear about tax here in the US, April 15th. It was all really a US service. Even with that, we could see the demand from around the world just for the set of services that GoDaddy was offering.
So we put a plan in place to basically roll out GoDaddy Global over the next three and a half years. Basically, what that plan entailed was everything you could think of. So in terms of what’s our offering going to be… So what’s the right offering that we basically want to take around the world? How are we going to localize it? How are we going to ensure that we have a locally relevant suite of products that actually meet the needs of small businesses around the world? And how are we going to transform the company, including all functions, to basically turn into a global company in a very, very short time frame, a company that’s been 16 years in the building? In the next three years you’re going to basically bring it global at scale.
So as I said, it included everything from our product offering and the supporting functions, whether it be legal, finance, design, operations, customer care, marketing, and so on. And then basically building out our operations. How are we going to do it? How are we going to do it in a phased way? And how are we going to go around the world in a logical way, learning as we go and making sure that we’re hitting the ground in each location making sure that we’re entering with the correct offering, and basically ensuring that we’re building our offerings for global but showing up local?
So we developed a plan. We put the plan in place, and we started executing on the plan. Honestly, we started rolling out to English-speaking markets. So we tested the water in markets like India and Canada to see. And they’re very different markets — they may be English-speaking, but they’re very different markets — to see what the reaction would be from the market and what the reception would be. And we got a lot of learnings from that, and we continued to build on that, ensuring that we had a local offering in both markets. And then we extended that out to the UK and then other English-speaking markets came next.
After the success we saw in markets like India, we basically had even more conviction that going global and going global in a meaningful way and showing up locally, that the right, correct offering locally and being able to support our customers in any of these markets just the way we support them here in the US, that was the way to go.
So after the English-speaking markets, then we started to roll out to Spanish-speaking markets and Brazilian Portuguese. That gave us Latin America. After that, we rolled out to Europe, broadly across Europe. And then after that, we rolled out to Asia. Actually last year, we rolled out to 11 markets across Asia.
When I say “rolled out,” it obviously starts with having the products ready and the suite of products and services capable of rolling out and being adapted and tailored for target markets. It also includes insuring that we have local customer care, meaning that we have care representatives who understand what it means to live and work in the same market as our customers and also speak the language, understand what it means to run a business and basically be there as 24/7 care. So basically you just have to pick up the phone or contact a customer care center to basically figure out and get help on whatever you need to do to basically get online. It’s basically, it’s like you’re IT support. That’s basically what it’s like.
Jay: I think that’s one of the largest challenges that a lot of companies have expanding into foreign-language-speaking markets is just that, having the localized support. Everything that goes into it, it’s a huge rollout. It’s easy to be like “It’s easy. Just get someone to translate.” But it goes well beyond that. The messaging, everything has to be basically re-done to fit the culture and the style and the methods of communication of that specific country.
I just take Hong Kong, for example. A lot of people have the misconception that Hong Kong was a British colony, so people speak English, so it’s pretty easy to expand in that market, when in fact, the local population, many of them don’t even read or write very well. It’s all Chinese. So it’s crucial to have someone on the ground, maybe hire someone, or have a very strong partner that can help you with that expansion.
Specifically about Asia, how are you guys feeling? Obviously I was thinking, over on this side of the world, at RISE and this sort of thing, you guys are obviously very interested in the market here. I know that you mentioned you’re doing a lot of stuff in Southeast Asia as well. What do you guys think? And what’s your strategy for this region?
James: Obviously Asia is very high on our priority list. As we all know, Asia is very unique, and it’s a very broad region. I think we purposely went very broadly across Asia in terms of rolling out to a number of markets. Each of those markets are very different. Our strategy for Asia is… So basically, we’ve entered, and now it’s a matter of going deeper in each one of the markets. It’s basically figuring out and working to ensure that we’re delivering the right services, the right solutions, basically to support small business across Asia and individuals across Asia, basically to get online and get their presence online.
The good news is, another big thing I’d say, to call out in any company going international is it’s very important to make sure that — you raised the point a second ago — in terms of having the right team, the right people, the right partners who can basically help you enter a market or help you enter a region effectively. Then you want to learn. Then you want to listen to your customer base. You want to learn. You want to get feedback. You want to basically want to be hand to hand, or hand in head I should say, with your customer base in terms of helping them do what they need to do and make sure that you’re hitting the mark for each one of those markets that you’re going into and honestly serious about.
All the things I talked about in terms of having local language, local adaptation, tailored products for the markets, and local customer care, and basically an offering that shows up and is going to support the customer base in the market or region, basically, is what we’re doing for Asia as well. So we have local teams on the ground in Asia. We have local partners in place, and we’re continuing to build on the offering that we that we launched last year. We’re seeing some… It’s very positive right now. We’re there for the long terms, so that’s basically it.
Jay: When you say — you alluded to this before — a complete suite of offerings, because you guys started off as a registrar, that’s what you’re best known for. You guys do an extremely good job of being a place where you can go and buy a domain and host it and this sort of thing. Tell us about some of the other products offerings that you guys actually have. It might be a good place to showcase it to the audience so they can actually different in a little bit deeper and look at what else you guys offer as a company.
James: I’d highly recommend… Honestly, before I joined GoDaddy, I didn’t really know the full suite of GoDaddy offerings myself. I knew some of them. As you said, everyone is very familiar with domains and the domain offering. That said, we not only carry the main domains like .com and .org and .biz, we also have CCTLDs, so country code top level domains, market domains, for countries all over the world. So whatever country you’re in, you can get that local country, top level domain for your country. So you also show up as being local.
In addition to the top level domains, the CCTLDs, we also have rolled out GTLDs, so local top-level domains. So if you think about those, they’re everything from .shop to .guru to hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of these where not only does it allow you more opportunity to get your brand, it allows you to get something that’s very, very specific, and a domain that’s very, very specific to the space you’re in. In other words, you can get your name, and you can get your proximity to the business area that your business is in. So that’s domains, and there’s a whole business around domains in terms of, obviously buying domains, using domains, selling domains and even investing in domains. A huge, huge, huge, very deep business in all of that.
In addition to domains, there’s a number of other services. If you go up to the site, there’s something like 40 different services that are up there. Obviously, website building is a big one for us in terms of having a very, very easy way to be able to get your website created and not only build a website but really build your digital identity in an easy, convenient way that’s cross-platform. We provide all the tools to be able to go and do that in a very easy, efficient, and cost-effective way.
In addition to that, we have hosting. So not do we provide the tools to create your website, we also provide hosting, a number of different type of hosting services. We also provide email. So email services where not only can you get your domain, but you can have your email associated with your domain whereby you come off looking professional by having an email that’s your business name as opposed to a generic Hotmail or whatever third party it may be.
And then there’s a slew of other services, everything from marketing services. So once you have your business up and running, you then can market to your customer base.
After that, we also have news services, which are coming on all the time. One of the recent services that we’ve brought on is voice and telephony. It’s a smart line. So you can basically get up and basically get yourself a second or third or fourth phone number associated with your own phone number. And you can get it from GoDaddy where you can have different phone numbers for your business, your sales team, your whatever, your care team, and basically, we provide that.
So just to wrap it, whatever stage a small business is at in terms of its own life cycle, we try and provide the tools and services that are needed at that point in time. And as the business grows, we then can provide the next set of services and the next areas that you can grow your business and the next set of tools and services to run and expand what you’re doing and then basically build on it from there.
It’s really, as I said earlier on, it’s really the full set of services that you need to basically get online and to run your business to whatever extent you want to run it to. We provide all the services to basically do it.
It’s a fantastic one-stop shop to go to actually work through the different services and figure out what’s right for you at the right point in time. I’d say small businesses around the world are different and also very much the same in terms of once you’re paying, you sign up and you’re paying for something that’s bringing value to you and value to your business, you’re going to be happy, and you’re going to basically continue with that service. And that’s exactly what GoDaddy wants, basically a win-win. So you’re only adopting services at the right point in time for you, where you are in your own life cycle of your business, basically whatever service you’re picking up, it’s accruing value.
Jay: I think that’s really valuable, actually, James, because there’s a lot of startups, and there’s a lot of entrepreneurs out there starting companies. The ones that are able to scale to the next level, the last thing that you want to do is hit capacity constraints on whatever service provider you’re using. Whether it’s an email service or just data or whatever you need, as your business grows, it’s the most frustrating thing in the world to have to switch service providers. Having that ability to provide enterprise level solutions to your customers as they scale is valuable in my mind.
As we look to wrap up, James, I know that when you were here in Hong Kong, you were mentioning that you guys are getting your name out there by participating in a number of events around the region and being sponsors and this sort of thing. What are some of the other exciting things that you guys are working on currently in Asia that maybe our audience can look forward to?
James: Obviously from a local market point of view, we’ve done a number of things. What we try and do is we try and show up locally around the world. Again, we want our services to be locally relevant, to actually hit the mark for customers of small businesses in whatever region or market they’re in. We also have engaged in a lot of marketing around the world. We’re involved in the MMA in the Philippines and a number of different other sponsorships and marketing activity around the world, which is very local. If we’re… Things in the past, I was over in the UK, where it’s soccer. If we’re in India, we’re in cricket. So that’s been happening around the world, and that’s exciting.
I think one of the most exciting things that we’re working on right now is really, from my perspective, building out more capability from our platform point of view in terms of building a global platform that’s going to support GoDaddy into the future and make that easier for customers, basically, to come online, to interact with GoDaddy to get the care they need. And then also, we want to be a trusted partner out there, adapting what we deliver to make sure that we’re doing it in a very unique, relevant and personal way for our customers around the world. And that’s including Asia.
Jay: Right. That’s awesome. So, James, thanks so much for your time, man. I really appreciate you coming on, and I think at some point in the future, we’ll have to have you on again because I think that you guys provide a pretty good case study for companies that are trying to expand globally and do it the right way. I think that you could provide a lot of value with talking about some of the lessons you’ve learned or maybe giving some advice for some of these companies looking to expand. But for our audience that are listening in, obviously everyone knows GoDaddy.com, and I guess they can go there and find a little bit more information about the suite of product offerings that you guys have. Specifically for you, James, I don’t know if you’re accessible or on any types of social media or anything like that, but is there anywhere that people can find you or follow you or connect with you?
James: Absolutely. On LinkedIn, basically I’m James Carroll. So you can find me there. On Twitter, I’m @James_MCarroll. That’s me on Twitter. And then on WeChat, I’m James-Carroll. That’s how to get me.
Jay: Nice. You’ve got the WeChat as well. That’s awesome, which is probably the largest of those communication platforms. Well, thanks again. We appreciate your time. And we’re looking forward to seeing you guys expand globally and all the awesome stuff that you’re doing around the world.
James: Excellent. Thanks for having me on.
Jay: Alright. Take care. Bye.
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