Friday, May 30, 2008

GoDaddy, Cashparking, and Clickfraud...TheBgRetort


GoDaddy is the largest domain name registrar in the 'electric universe'. During the final six months of 2005 approximately one-third of all domain names (the top five) were registered via this registrar. By the end of May 2006, it managed approximately 14.2 million domain names. As a 'best-of-breed' it is also North America’s largest shared website hosting provider. But when TheBigRetort tried to put a series of questions to its founder it met with a wall of silence - unusual considering its founder's usual retort: "If GoDaddy.com is anything, it is an outspoken company and I am an outspoken CEO." So why was Daddy being so evasive? First, a bit of blurb on founder B-o-b P-a-r-s-o-n-s.

Robert Parsons is the CEO and Chairman of GoDaddy. Prior to founding the company in 1997, he also founded Parsons technology. Bob and his then wife grew the software company out a basement kitchen. A decade later the pair sold it for many millions of dollars. Retirement did not sit well... Bob soon turned his attention to domain name registration. He had noted how expensive it was... And the entrepreneur was if anything the archangel of the low priced deal. He founded GoDaddy - a name that came out of the aether - and quickly established him (through dogged determination and chutzpah it must be acknowledged) as the Wizard of cut-price domains. At the age 19 he was a rifleman in the U.S. Marine Corps (1968 - 1970) and the recipient of several medals. He is also a Certified Public Accountant. He remains the titular head of GoDaddy. He and also wears an earring. He likes bikes as much as girls. (Godaddy girls that is. And if you saw them you would understand why.) But, to the nub of our Go Daddy rub...
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In 2006 it was reported that GoDaddy planned to go public. Lehman Brothers was hired to handle the IPO. Prior to that date not much was known about the company's profitability. Go Daddy was a private company and its business was its business, however the S-1 filing was the first public scrutiny of its financial health... it revealed considerable net losses. With the books out in the open it became public knowledge that this had happened every year since the year of its inception. Under "Risks related to our Business" the filing also stated, '.... and may not be able to operate profitably or sustain positive cash flow in future periods.' As investors in GoDaddy's success, it was this that concerned us most. There were others...

GoDaddy planned to use the net proceeds received from the offering to repay approximately $7.2 million indebtedness (in addition to working capital etc). However, although the company was making year on year losses, it was, its founder later emphasised, also experiencing rapid growth.

At that time many wondered if Parsons himself might 'subdue his expressions' once the company went public. "He's one of the most outspoken CEOs in the industry, whose personal and professional leanings are never in doubt. That sort of divisive, outspoken approach may not gel quite as well with Wall Street investment bankers as it does with his blog audience," one online critic remarked. The offering hoped to raise more than 100 million dollars and value Go Daddy at 250 million dollars or more. But the IPO was abruptly pulled.

Dominic Jones later reported that a scrapped IPO is rarely a good thing. "It suggests the company being shopped is a lemon. Companies that pull their IPOs traditionally go off to some dark corner with their tails between their legs ... many observers might well have interpreted the news as Wall Street kicking another dog out to the curb."

However Parsons was never one for hiding in dark corners. (Unless it was in the rice fields of Nam, where it was thought wise to adopt such a position.) He later blogged that the submission was 'approved' by the SEC itself and that this assumption was wrong. There were three main reasons that he decided to pull the plug; (i) the Middle East conflict, interest rate jitters and tech stock weakness; (ii) lack of appreciation for GoDaddy’s cash generating power and, calling the financial media stupid, because none had studied the company's cash flow statements, he claimed (iii) that Daddy was not desperate and had generated significant operating cash flow during each reporting period.

Surprisingly Parsons claims that the submission had been 'approved' by the SEC. However, the S1 actually states: 'Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission nor any state securities regulator has approved or disapproved these securities or determined if this prospectus is truthful or complete.'

Oh Daddy... Bob may not realise it but any representation that suggests otherwise is actually 'criminal' and may make any claimant subject to a long stay at Guantanamo. (Mind you, as this is place he apparently approves of it may be most welcome.)

And that brings us to Cashparking...
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"EARN UP TO 80% REVENUE" "CASH PARKING - TURN YOUR PARKED DOMAINS INTO CASH"

According to the GoDaddy blurb it's easy with CashParking. 'Whether you have one domain or a growing portfolio, CashParking can turn those domains into a cash generator!' The offer is made via a number of Cashparking plans from which anyone buying a domain can
'get ready to share in parked domain revenue'. Really?

Bob Parsons himself, blind to any faults, directly boasts, ''Go Daddy is putting its reputation in the domain name industry to work for our customers so CashParking can provide the highest revenue share payouts, making for quick and easy income potential for domain holders from their parked domain names.'' Which leads to another... really?


GoDaddy itself earned $1.6 million from its own cashparking 'scheme'. But this was prior to sharing it with the persons who owned those domains. Now things are different and B-o-b wants to share his success... So why is it that when TheBigRetort invested in a portfolio of domains 'connoting the top five' we saw the dollars flooding out - not in? (In place of the two domains, TheBaseRate.com and LoanAiduk.com, was a little Sherlock Holmes sign, complete with magnifying glass, saying: This site is currently NOT available. (Emphasis GoDaddy's.)

What oh what had taken place?
We wrote to find out....

Coming soon in TheBigRetort... the answer. (Visit NamePros for domain discussion and advice. NoDaddy.com for informed views on the company.)



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