Occasionally I get invited to speak at events that are a bit out of my wheelhouse. Normally I’m asked to speak on subjects related to technology, product development, leadership, education and, more and more, small business. For topics outside of those, I usually end up declining—simply because it’s too hard to imagine what I’d have to say on a random topic that anyone else might care to sit through for an hour.
When I was first asked to speak at this year’s Global Retailing Conference my first instinct was to decline for the just that reason. After all, only 20% of GoDaddy’s customers are retail providers and almost none of them operate near the scale of the global enterprises attending and speaking at the event; think Macy’s, Home Depot, Nike, Whole Foods and the like.
There was, however, a hypothesis that’s been bouncing around in my head for the last couple months that needed a test run to an enterprise audience. The idea, that as enterprises continue to automate and reduce their workforce that more and more people will move to become their own bosses—and that they won’t go back to being employees because 1) cloud services are starting to make being your own boss a much more attainable goal and 2) doing what you truly love for a living brings rewards that are beyond monetary.
Above is the video of the keynote and below is the transcript. Let me know what you think.
Keynote: With a bio like that, what in God’s name am I doing here? I’m not a retailer. If you were going to preface this with that old Sesame Street riff “One of These Things Doesn’t Belong Here,” maybe it would be me. This is going to be a little professorial. The thesis for what I’m going to talk about is about the little guy. It’s not about retail. It’s about the little person who toils, working their tail off to make means doing what they love. It’s a rare thing that very few people get to do. We represent about 12 million of them at GoDaddy. That’s our customer. I’ll talk a little bit about that and what that means.
I do believe that that customer is going to form the next big step that our economy … the global economy, actually … takes. I’ll talk a little bit about why I believe that thesis is true. I’ve hired a ton of people in the last 15 months at GoDaddy that also believe it’s true and are building technology and partnering with technologists to do that very thing.
Just a quick story. I flew in last night pretty late, and we were starving. Landed, asked our driver where we should go. We went up and looked on Yelp. I’m in Tucson. I want to go to amazing Mexican food … actually, fantastic. We found a little place called … let me look at my phone real quick and make sure I remember. Suzana Davila was the woman who owned the place … Cafe Poca [Costa 00:01:57]. Does anybody know this restaurant? Unbelievable restaurant.
We ate for an hour, hour and a half, and started chatting with the wait staff, who, with great reverence, was talking about the proprietor. Actually, the driver on the way in had talked about the proprietor and said she’s an amazing woman. She was actually a model. She started doing clothing design, then she went into furniture design, and then she got passionate about this restaurant. She built this restaurant and has been running it for 29 years, 29 years. The reason I know this is because every person who was checking in said, “You have to meet this woman.”
We called her over to our table. We closed the restaurant with her, and sat there and had a drink with her for an hour after she closed. She is this woman. It’s not the same person. They don’t look exactly alike. She is so passionate about what she does, I swear to God, I wanted to open a restaurant when I finished with her. The food was amazing. The experience was great. Her wait staff treated her with amazing reverence. She’s insanely passionate about what she does. I’ll talk about how rare and how lucky she is.
Here’s an interesting statistic. This was a Oxford University study that was done in 2013. Over the next 20 years, 45 percent of America’s workforce will be replaced by automation. That should either scare the shit out of you or make it maybe one of the most incredible opportunities you’ve ever seen. Because if I go back to this person and say, “My gosh, 45 percent of America’s workforce is going to be replaced by robotics,” what are those people going to do? What are they going to do?
This is not something new. It’s happened before. Hearken back to the Industrial Revolution. Hearken back to people actually leaving farms where they could make better money and have more flexibility working for somebody other than the landowner, because a lot of farmers, frankly, the people that were farming, weren’t the landowners. They were people that were working hard for the landowners and trying to make their way. That is a rough job. That is a dawn-to-dusk kind of gig, except in the wintertime, and then you were wishing it wasn’t winter. Then it’s dawn-to-dusk again. What were people doing? People were actually doing jobs that were incredibly hard but maybe had a little bit more flexibility and, frankly, paid a lot better.
You’ve seen this before, and it’s about to happen again. Those industries, a bunch of those industries, started growing and growing, and actually started requiring managers, requiring people to run them, organize them, make sense of them. These white-collar jobs actually started to produce an American middle class of people that were … Let me ask this question. How many of you love your job so much that you can’t imagine doing anything else? That’s less than 50 percent. For those of you who did raise your hand, good on you. I’m actually in that group. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to be able to do things that I love, and I’ve felt like I’ve never worked in a day. Very few people have that luxury.
The middle class that grew didn’t have that luxury. “Don’t touch my stapler.” A hundred years later, a hundred years later, wages and working conditions are way better than they were with those guys that looked like they were toiling in a mine for ten hours a day. Most people, most people, even in this room … and the folks who raised the hand, you guys in the front row, you couldn’t see it. Most of your peers behind you weren’t raising their hands … aren’t rewarded by what they do. That’s not unusual.
My pitch today will be successful if you all quit and go do your own thing. I’m kidding, but I’m going to make a point about what’s happened with technology and what it has enabled small people that are figuring out how to turn a passion into a gig, allowing them to do what they really love. It sounds terrific to get paid to do what you love. It’s pretty unrealistic, wouldn’t you say? Why is that? That doesn’t make sense to me. It certainly shouldn’t be the case. With all the tools we have available to us, it should not be the case.
If you think about this from a thesis perspective, there’s two things: there’s what you’re good at, and then what pays the most. The Venn diagram between those two things really probably isn’t that connected. I know for me, most of my career … I know the bio was, frankly, whatever it was. I started in this business as a type designer. I designed typography for laser printers and workstations back in 1981, because I couldn’t make money as a musician. That’s pretty pathetic, don’t you think? Doing what I loved certainly wasn’t what paid the most, and frankly, I couldn’t do what I loved professionally, just couldn’t pull it off. Most people couldn’t.
That little skinny sliver of green in there sometimes doesn’t even connect. They’re just two circles standing alone. Let’s add a third. What pays the most, what you’re good at, and what you love. That is a very, very tiny intersection that even fewer of us have the ability to pull off. I was not a bad musician. I was a pretty good musician. I was a pretty good typographer. Turns out, people don’t pay much for either. I was worse. I was a jazz musician. Turns out that if you love to do something that other people will do for free, it’s a really bad decision, bad decision.
I remember when I told my father and my grandfather, both of whom were attorneys. My dad had one of those really weird career arcs where he was a child star … go look up Jimmy Fay on IMDB … then became a jazz musician, then became an attorney, then became an FBI agent, and then became an attorney again, and then went back to being a jazz musician. I should have listened to him, because he told me I wouldn’t make money being a jazz musician. Didn’t pay attention to him. Then I told him, “Dad, I’m not going to be a jazz musician. I’m going to go to art school, become a designer.” All he could conjure up in his head … and my grandfather as well, who at that time were both attorneys … All they could imagine me doing was either working at a 7-Eleven or a Renaissance fair.
Strangely enough, I ended up doing neither and getting sucked out of design school to build typography on a computer. Imagine 1981. Most of you think desktop computers didn’t exist in ’81. Would that be true? In 1981, I had a full WYSIWYG, what you see is what you get, screen with a removable hard drive on the internet with a three-button mouse. Everything I looked at on the screen looked like it was typeset. I got to use that as my first computer. This was at Xerox, and Xerox was an amazing company that just lost their way at some point. Then I remember actually getting my first computer, and it was a DOS-based computer that had floppy disks that you … and it was green-screen. It was like, “What in God’s name is this?” Unfortunately, I ended up working at Compaq, and I ended up using that piece of equipment for roughly five, six years. Pretty rough.
That little juncture right in the middle, that junction of what you love, what you’re good at, and what pays the most, I was just lucky to happen to have stumbled into the center of that. Most people that end up in a gig like mine don’t. They have to figure it out. Let’s talk about these very small business people. Let’s talk about who they are. Most businesses in the world are very small businesses. If you talk to Microsoft or Google, Microsoft and Google will say, “Small businesses are 50 people and less. That’s a small business.” In fact, most folks that, if you go to research firms and you say, “Give me all your best data on small businesses,” they actually call the segment “SMB,” small and medium-sized business, and it includes companies that are 500 people and 50.
The stats tell a completely different story to a massively underserved market that nobody has really cared much about. Seventy-five percent of businesses in the United States are sole proprietorships. Nobody’s working for them. Eighty-five percent have less than five employees. Eighty-five percent. Eighty percent have been around more than three years. Folks say, “Small businesses, they turn over like crazy.” Not so much. Twenty percent of them do. Eighty percent aren’t retailers. They’re service-based. They’re your window washer. They’re your masseuse. They’re mowing lawns. They’re painting houses, whatever it happens to be.
The 12 million customers that we have at GoDaddy are these people. Most of them don’t want to be big. They don’t want to be. They don’t want to run another restaurant. The conversation we had last night was amazing. “Why don’t you want to be bigger? Why don’t you want to be on the Web?” “I love what I’m doing. This is exactly perfect for me. I don’t want to be any bigger. I don’t want to have another restaurant. I don’t need more money. I don’t need more anything. I just love what I’m doing.”
Most have very humble ambitions for what they want the future to be for themselves. Most people actually go into business not to make a ton of money, because they want to do something they’re very passionate about, and they don’t want to work for the man. They want to be the man, or the woman. That’s what they want. There are 200 million of those people worldwide, maybe more. There’s 39 million of them in the U.S. If you leave the country, and let’s say you go to Nigeria, or Ghana, or Costa Rica, or Brazil, the economy is made up of these tiny little guys. That’s how most businesses interact. Certainly, if you go around the streets … I spent three months or so in Africa with my kids a few years ago, and went through all kinds of communities. It’s all tiny businesses. There aren’t any big ones. Frankly, they’re almost all women-run.
In the U.S. … this is an interesting stat … 58 percent of all small businesses are run by women. Did you know that? Had anybody seen GoDaddy’s ads for the last ten years? You sure as hell wouldn’t know it from those advertisements, would you? I don’t know if you’ve noticed. We’ve actually done quite a big flip in the last 15 months, since I joined the company, and have actually been moving very far away from that, because honestly, it’s not connected to the value proposition and what these people want to do with their lives.
That 200 million people only represents three percent of the world’s population. Why is it only 200 million people? That doesn’t make sense. Because the tools haven’t been available to them to actually start their own thing, and because it is scary. It is daunting. It is scary as hell to start your own business. You have no excuses. You have nobody to complain to. You have nobody that’s giving you a paycheck. It is you. The buck stops with you. Doing your own venture is really alluring. People imagine it. How many people have something you love so much you think you would love to turn it into a career? Usually, it’s about half the room [inaudible 00:15:44]. It’s hard. It’s hard to do it.
I’m going to go through some technologies and just go through a blackboard session of some of the stuff that’s available that are actually turning this number around really, really quickly. There’s a thing called the cloud. Okay, you guys have heard the cloud. It’s overused so much that it doesn’t mean anything anymore. If you think about a series of services that exist in a big data center somewhere … We have a data center in Phoenix, actually … we are a Phoenix-based business … that’s just by the airport that’s the size of about four Costcos that just is full of servers. We have another one in the Netherlands. We have another one in Singapore. It’s just got a bunch of computers that sit there and run people’s websites, and help them get found, and help solve a bunch of problems that I’ll go into.
The most important thing that these little folks need that are trying to figure it out, they just need somebody to help them do it. We actually have 2,900 people at our company that are on the phone that do a million transactions. Not selling stuff. Consulting with customers to help them figure out what the next step they should be doing to run their business, 2,900 of them, also mostly Arizona-based, by the way. We do have an India call center. It services India. Then we have Iowa and Arizona. Arizona actually services the entire Latin American market and the U.S., and every English-speaking country in the world.
Those 2,900 people, I’ll call them “do it with me” people. They actually will get somebody on the phone, help walk them through any problems that they’ve got with technology, and move them along. We’re not the only guys that are doing this. I’ll go through all the people that are and starting to turn this thing on. That Industrial Revolution that happened when people were leaving farms and actually going into an industrialized world is happening again, except it’s completely inverted. It’s people returning to do exactly what they want and what they love.
I’ll go through one-click technology, show you what that’s about, how you can actually just turn part of your business on with a click, real simple, and then predictive technology that actually allows you to think about enough analytics for … I walked in, and the session that I was listening to was Westfield talking about analytics and providing those analytics to retailers.
I want you to think about this. If you have 12 million small businesses and you know that 200,000 of them are dentists, and those dentists all have certain business attributes, and you’ve got a large pool of data that could actually tell you what all those dentists are doing, do you think you might be able to help the dentist that’s not doing so well?
If you can do it with a big retail chain and actually have wonderful data, wonderful analytics that allow you to touch a customer and know exactly what they do at the point of sale, what they do when they’re online, why can’t you do that for a mass-aggregated 100 million customer base, that are all doing similar things, and tell them why they’re not doing really well and what they could do to take the next step to improve their business?
There are four very basic hurdles that these very small businesses need help in and that technology is solving for them. First is getting started, is taking that initial step. Second is getting found, which I guess you should think of as marketing. Next is getting connected, which is also marketing. Then getting paid, which is super important, wouldn’t you say?
Let’s talk about getting started for a minute. Getting started is pretty interesting. What happens … and this happens a million times a day … somebody says, “I have an idea. I’m going to name it.” One of the first things they do generally is they go name it. Sixty-four percent of Americans, when they have an idea, actually, and they want to put it on the internet, register a name through GoDaddy, believe it or not. Fifty percent worldwide. When they register a name, they register it through us, because they had an idea, and, “I think I’m going to do something with it.”
I know I’m in a big company. Turns out I have 54 domains. I’m not a domainer. I’ve had 54 different ideas on what I wanted to do that I was excited about, and then that I just got … I guess I’m just an excitable guy. I didn’t actually pull the trigger. I did do a couple things with family members and did a couple 501(c)(3)s, a t-shirt company, a couple of other little things that are just helping these guys out. Getting started is getting a name. You can do it with us. You can do it with Network Solutions, with Yahoo, with Melbourne IT. There’s a ton of guys out there that allow you to go stake your real estate on the internet and say, “I own that.” It’s pretty cheap, between 9.99 and now with all these new TLDs …
Did you guys know that there are new top-level domains that are starting to happen? Did you know that dot-watch is one of them? Dot-fail, dot-golf, dot-lasvegas, dot-newyork, dot-pizza, dot … on and on. There’ll be 1,000 of them. Dot-com is going to be just marginally descriptive. It’ll be the thing that’s really descriptive on the right side. I actually registered “notonmy.watch” a couple weeks ago. I also registered … and I shouldn’t tell you this, but I will … “iliketo.watch”. I just thought it was provocative and funny, so I just did it.
Getting started is going to be a very, very key thing. Low, low barriers to entry, super simple to do, low cost. Next is business setup. This is one of the things that’s most daunting. How do we become official? Do I got to get an attorney? Who’s going to walk me through all the processes of being … Which state do I actually file in? What’s tax-friendly, what’s not tax-friendly? LegalZoom and Docstoc, two companies, Docstoc, just purchased by Intuit, and LegalZoom, they both do this for you. It’s super simple. Barriers to entry coming down. Allows you to get going really quickly.
Next, online markets. Let’s say that you don’t actually want to have a website. “I don’t want a website. I’m just going to get listed. I’ll get listed in Yelp. I’ll get listed in eBay. I’ll do whatever. I don’t have to have a website.” You can actually conduct boatloads of commerce. I know guys that don’t have a website who sell cars for a living on eBay. They turn 3,000 bucks profit on every one they sell, and they sell enough to make deep into the six digits. It’s just selling on eBay. They don’t even have a website. It works.
Then next, finding a location. How do I actually go figure out, if I want to have a physical presence in a physical store, what do I do? How do I do it? There are services out there that do this for you. If you knock these getting-started things down … and this is the first step for people that is hard to get off the couch, man. We talk to these people a lot. I’ve had a lot of conversations with people that are trying to get started in their business. They literally have trouble getting off the couch and figuring out, “How do I take that first step?” Now they can just bring a laptop to the couch. They don’t even need to get off, and they’re off to the races. That’s getting started.
Next is getting found. This is Kathy Fang, who owns Fang Restaurant … another really good, really wonderful restaurant … in San Francisco. Getting found is becoming almost more difficult. Why? Because you have all kinds of listing services that might have information that’s right, might have information that’s wrong. If you think about Yelp, Urbanspoon, Yellow Pages, there’s a ton of them.
“I want to make sure that all my data is in there correctly. I want to have a website. I want to have a listing that’s accurate that represents me. I want people to be able to search, and find me, and see me indexed as high as possible. I want to be there.” Getting found is something that all of these companies actually are dying to do for them. Frankly, they don’t need to make a bunch of money to make it a profitable business. This is extremely profitable business for us, and we’re only charging in between five bucks and 29 bucks a month for somebody to do this. Getting found, it’s getting easier, helping these people market.
Next, getting connected. You can call it micro CRM. Customer relationship management is something that small business do not grok. If you asked a small business, a little person who’s just a sole proprietorship, what CRM solution they’re using, they’d look at you like, “What in God’s name are you talking about?” If you said, “Do you send email to your customers to let them know when something’s happening they might care about?”, they go, “Oh yeah, I do that.”
There are companies that are purpose-built just to run campaigns for tiny businesses, things like MailChimp, Emma, which is an awesome company and based in Nashville. Super simple. Then there’s actually some very big companies that offer, I guess I’d say, business-class email that make a little person feel incredibly professional. We actually did a deal with Microsoft that we announced and started shipping in January of a product that Microsoft never built before. It was Office, but all it had was mail and basically a big drive in the sky, mail and a drive. It was just for the little guy who wanted to have email, and we offered it for two bucks a month, 2.99 a month, because small business is price sensitive.
Microsoft, remember, they’re thinking 50 … remember, I made this statement earlier … small businesses, 50 people and below. We went to Microsoft and said, “We have data that says you’re wrong. Here’s the data.” Opened our data, showed them the books. I know a bunch of the Microsoft guys was there an awful long. They looked at the data, and they said, “Oh my God, you’re right. We totally missed these guys. We don’t even know who they are.”
We walked them through the psychographics of, “They’re nascent. They’re frightened. They’re up and running, and dreaming big, and they’re now establishing content,” all of these different psychographic phases of them. They said, “What do we have to do to attack this customer base? How do we really satisfy these guys?” They built this SKU that was only mail and drive, and made it available for 2.99 a month. Do you know how many we sold in the first week? Eleven thousand in the U.S. No one else, just here. Microsoft was like, “Oh, I guess you were right.”
It’s very real. If you can make somebody feel like they’re a professional and they get to have firstname.lastname@example.org instead of email@example.com, which conjures up … If you’re doing business with somebody who sends you an email, they show up in your inbox as “firstname.lastname@example.org,” you just envision somebody in their pajamas sitting on the couch, interacting with you, versus having their professional name show up in your inbox, which is where digital presence, by the way, starts, doesn’t it? You think somebody’s official if they show up in an inbox and they actually have their business name behind them. It matters a ton. That’s available, and you can do it with one click.
One of the tricks that I didn’t tell you about the whole Microsoft deal was they did a 22 … Based on the premise that a 50-person company has an IT manager that’s responsible for rolling out email to them, what’s it matter if it’s 20 screens and a whole bunch of setup buttons to configure email? What’s that matter? Who cares? If you’ve got an IT manager, nobody cares. If you got a guy who paints houses for a living and he’s trying to look professional, he cares. We actually took our engineers … Microsoft opened an API so we could write to their backend … and we reduced it to one screen and one click, type the email name you want, and go.
It took Microsoft 24 hours to provision that. A small business can’t wait 24 hours to provision it, which we also gave them some data on how many people were falling out of the process because it was taking too long. Said, “We have to have it under two minutes.” We’re now at ten minutes, which is good. Twenty-four hours to ten minutes, a pretty good reduction. Now they only got eight more minutes to go, and I guarantee you we will work for six months recoding that stuff to get down to the two minutes, because that’s what these little people need. They don’t have time to wait ten minutes. They’re mowing lawns or painting houses.
Then social. Think about getting connected on social networks today. Most small businesses think of a social network as a playground. They don’t think of it as a place where you can do legit business. Turns out that’s totally wrong. The best type of marketing and the cheapest type of marketing is word of mouth. True? Social networking is friction-free word of mouth. It’s an influencer network that has more power than, frankly, any other, whether it’s first degree of separation all the way out to Kevin Bacon somewhere, seven degrees out.
It’s an incredibly influential model. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, which I love, and even Foursquare. Then there’s a whole bunch of things that are vertically oriented that are social as well, like MapMyRide or Strava, those types of things, as well. Making it incredibly easy for these folks to get connected to their customers. Not only that. There are companies or organizations that exist to make sure they get to talk to other people that are in the same boat, whether it’s the American Express OPEN program, which is actually a fantastic program, or SCORE, which is an organization that exists for the sole benefit of small business. It’s the largest small business organization. Getting them connected, super important.
Finally, getting paid. This is actually a guy who runs a brewery in Santa Cruz, California. He’s a customer of ours and a brother of one of our recruiters. This guy works his tail off and makes really good IPAs, by the way. Getting paid is one of those things that is very, very difficult. I know in retail, you think more about point of sale than you do about getting paid online or being able to go send somebody an email. For getting paid, “Hey, I’m an iPhone. Hey, I’m a cash register.” You guys all use one of these? Do you know what the heck this is? You heard of a company called Square? This is actually … it’s a credit card terminal.
I was at an event in Pebble Beach last August. I was talking to this guy who had the most amazing … They have a big car show up there, and I was at this car show. I walked into this guy’s shop. He had this thing that I wanted to buy. I saw it five years earlier, and then the guy just disappeared. I searched the web all over the place. I searched everywhere. I could not find this guy. It’s a stupid thing that I wanted, but it was a Porsche neon sign. I was just dying for it. I looked everywhere for this thing. For five years, I swear to God I did. I went from car show to car show trying to find this dude, and he was nowhere to be found.
I walk in, and there’s the neon sign. It’s a one-of-a-kind thing. Nobody else had bought it. I walk in, and there it is. I walk over to the guy. It’s the same guy. He’s a older, gray-haired guy with a big beard. I said, “Dude, I have been looking for you for five years. What is your website name?” He goes, “I don’t have a website. Why the hell do I need a website?” I said, “Because I could have bought that from you.” He goes, “I don’t need a website.” I said, “I want to buy that.” He says, “Okay, give me your credit card.” Sure as hell, he pulls one of these things out of his pocket and rings me up on his iPhone. I’m like, “You don’t have a website, and you’re using Square?” He goes, “I got to get paid.” “Fuck. Shit. Okay. You got to be kidding me.”
It has become that easy to combine the digital world with the physical world that turns everybody into a retailer, even the service guy. Remember, 80 percent of my businesses, the 12 million that we do business with, are service people. There are guys mowing lawns that are walking around with this thing and walking up to the front door, knocking, saying, “I’m done. Take a look. What do you think, good? Here you go. Swipe your card.” That’s pretty awesome.
Think of all the barriers that have been knocked down over the course of the last five years. Almost everything that I’ve talked about, every technology that I’ve talked about, has happened for this very small business in the last five years. Move out the next ten years, when 45 percent of manufacturing jobs are going to be replaced by robotics. My thesis, I believe, holds that a lot of these people are going to be working for themselves. I have a bunch of investors who believe this thesis holds, as well, that a lot of these people … what we like to call the producer economy, because these are people that are producing things … are actually going to move from working for the man to being the man. We’re going to start looking a lot more like Africa in terms of having lots of little companies and not giant ones that are actually producing, and manufacturing, and providing service. It’s happening. I think the thesis holds, but it’s my thesis, so of course I would.
I’ve talked about the United States pretty much only. I’ve used a couple of examples outside. These technologies, all the ones that I’ve talked about, all go global. Very, very simple. There are companies that are in the business of making sure that payment types, that currencies, that … and there are weird payment types out there, I’m telling you, like the Boleto in Brazil. Bizarre in how you have to actually have to transfer and have disintermediation between you and your customer. It’s pretty unusual. All of these things are being solved right now.
My company alone will go from being a U.S.-based company that only was in English and only marketed in the United States to being in 60 countries by the end of the year. We’re not the only guys. If you think about that growth profile, it’s pretty insane. The opportunity is huge. That C change is going to happen. You’re in the middle of it. All of you who raised your hand and said, “I’m not doing exactly what I want to do,” you could, if there’s something you’re passionate about and you can figure out how to turn it into your living and your retirement. I’m telling you, all those tools are coming online, and they’re coming online super fast. I just am one of those super lucky guys that was in the right place at the right time to actually help make it happen.
This person, this little person, who is proudly making confections rules the day. That proprietor that I spent an evening with last night … sipping the most amazing margarita, by the way, incredible … is going to rule the day. Thanks.