Go Daddy CEO: Hot for Small Business Owners

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. ( TheStreet) -- When people think about Go Daddy, it wouldn't be a surprise if the first reference was race car driver Danica Patrick. After all, the Web domain services company used the sexy advertisements with Indy -- and more recently Nascar -- "it girl" Patrick in an effort it to get customers interested in what is, frankly, an unsexy business. Yet after a 2011 investment from private equity firms KKR, Silver Lake and Technology Crossover Ventures, Go Daddy is looking to move away from its provocative advertising days and make its services the first reference of small business owners.

"We are all about making small businesses bigger," says Warren Adelman, CEO of Go Daddy. "We're enabling them with a variety of different services to build, launch and market their services."

Go Daddy boasts that it has 10.4 million customers, three-quarters of which are small businesses, and has set up 53 million domain names.

The company offers IT or "web-presence" services, and the domain name is the "inception point" in Adelman's words, for creating a business online, web marketing tools, e-commerce functions, SEO and social media marketing assistance, among other things, including accounting.

In its first acquisition, Go Daddy purchased cloud-based accounting software company Outright. Outright is used by more than 200,000 small businesses and entrepreneurs, who will now have access to Go Daddy's offerings.

The Outright acquisition, which was completed last week, is the first in a wave of small business-centric M&A planned by Go Daddy. While the company won't disclose the total investment made by the private equity firms last year, Adelman was direct on the uses of the recent financing: expanding internationally and acquisitions.

Go Daddy is attempting to capture more of the business owner's attention, bu the company has attracted the wrong kind of attention in the past, becoming embroiled in several controversies that resonate in the small business community. Go Daddy was criticized last year for its initial support of the controversial online piracy legislation in both the House and Senate. The company was also accused by competitor Namecheap for making the process to switch domain names incredibly difficult. Some users have also complained that Go Daddy's customer service is lacking and unhelpful.

Nevertheless, Adelman stays on message in discussing small business. "We're obviously doing many things right," the Go Daddy CEO says in referencing the growth of the customer base to 10.4 million.

"We want to be recognized as a small business company's enabler," Adelman continues. "We have a pretty broad array of services today and what you will see us do is spend more time thinking about how our customers interact with their customers -- how they generate traffic, how they develop leads, how they communicate with their customers...I think you will see an increased focus on marketing tools."

The initiative means Go Daddy will likely encroach on the turf of companies such as Intuit ( INTU) that already provides small businesses a host of services like payment processing, financial account management, web services and other resources. The founders of Outright were Intuit executives. Intuit declined to comment.

Taran Hercules, president of Mom's Originals, an online gourmet pretzel store based in St. Louis, Mo., says given her positive experience with Go Daddy so far, she would be interested in using additional tools and resources.

Mom's Originals, launched in 2008, started with Go Daddy's web hosting and quick shopping cart features. Hercules says she's added services like email since then. She currently uses Intuit's Quickbooks for her financial software.

Outright "is certainly something I would look into," she says.

"Just knowing that it's a Go Daddy product, I'm confident in the stability of the program and the fact that I can trust that it will be there when I need it. They're always focused on the needs of small businesses and filling in the gaps where they see a gap," she says.

Go Daddy has started rolling out its new ad campaign, too, that it plans to air during the Olympics, which kick off on Friday. The ad features "Charlene," dressed in a typically snug outfit, and Carl, the geek in the geek suit. The ad's catchphrase: "Charlene on the outside, Carl on the inside."

Go Daddy may be growing up, but the provocateur isn't going away. The girl in the sexy outfit just has to make more room for the guy who keeps the business owner happy. Or as the tag line of the new ad puts it, "Hot for technology: Go Daddy."

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com.

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