Blake's Blog (CEO, GoDaddy)

AI and the Economy Without You

So, I’ve Been Thinking Recently, I had the chance to sit down for a drink with Grady Booch. For anyone who doesn’t know his name yet, he’s a technology pioneer, innovator, and all-around fascinating guy. He was a primary creator of the Unified Modeling Language, and his career has included everything from work at NASA (where he was literally the guy sitting in front of the big red self-destruct button during launches) to his current gig serving as Chief Scientist for Software Engineering at IBM Research. I can also tell you he makes a mean Hawaiian-twist margarita. Grady’s been at the center of some of the greatest developments in coding and technology in the past few decades which makes him a deep well for serious topics. Our conversation touched a lot of areas, but I was most fascinated by his take on one topic that the technology sector wrestles with every day: the ethics of code. I don’t think it’s contentious to say that digital innovations are driving changes in every industry and sector at a pace that we have never seen before. Some of those changes have led to large-scale, fundamental shifts in the business landscape, and some of them have led to smaller, more nuanced opportunities for new and existing businesses. All of those changes, however, have the potential to affect people in more than just the positive ways we have in mind when we code. From the Luddite Rebellion of 1811 to the Lamplighter’s Union fight against the electric arc lamp in the 1890s, worries about automation displacing human jobs has existed for literally millennia. Those fears have been offset by the reality that change typically takes place slowly. Robots, for a more modern example, didn’t take all the manufacturing jobs overnight.  Instead, robotics has gradually reduced the need for “hands on” humans in the factory over the past several decades.  The jobs lost weren’t effortlessly absorbed into the economy, but the shift happened slowly enough that they could ultimately be absorbed. Today, the fear of automation displacing jobs that can’t be absorbed is far more possible. Technology is progressing at a breakneck speed no matter where you turn, and no industry seems insulated from waves of innovation that use automation to do things more efficiently and effectively. What was once just a concern for manufacturing workers is now a concern for everyone whose work has any analytical or repetitive features. Want to build a car with no factory workers? Look no further than the Tesla plant. If you need an appendectomy on the other hand, you’ll still need a surgeon for their dexterity for the very near future. It’s not far-fetched to imagine a future, however, when an attendant might oversee an automated appendectomy like a Starbucks barista making digital selections on a Mastrena Espresso Machine. The work we’re doing in tech carries incredible weight that we may often take too lightly. Factories or hospitals, the work we’re doing in tech carries incredible weight that we may often take too lightly. We are actively finding ways to increase efficiency in every field—and I laude that. But as our enterprise level efficiencies move up the hockey stick, we need to start thinking about jobs the same way we balance environmental impacts of our work. The impacts of our work goes well beyond the innovations we create. If it hasn’t been asked before, it’s time to ask now: what ethical responsibilities do we have as we use code to transform the world? Concern over the ethics of code opens the door to larger conversation about how Artificial Intelligence, along with the changing ways we work, is incubating a new economic model in the West.  It’s a model that requires different competencies and job types, but it also has the potential to empower humans like never before in our history. The Implications of AI Visions of AI have tantalized, inspired and terrified us for years. From Hal 9000 to Ex Machina, we portray AI as a conscious super intelligence or super villain. The reality is much more benign in the Hollywood sense and more insidious in its potential impact to our economy. The AI that’s real today is known as “Narrow AI” or “Applied AI” and it does very specific work like managing your calendar, finding a song that’s similar to others you like, giving you directions that route you around traffic and beating you in chess. It’s what many of us are working on every day, and, despite our fears of super-intelligence, Narrow AI is what is actually changing everything. Dr. Rand Hindi, founder of Snips.ai, broke this down in detail in an article with a title that I love: “How My Research in AI Put My Dad Out of a Job.” Beyond the ethical jam, his point was that we shouldn’t worry about super-intelligence despite all the big names in tech who have come out with dire warnings. The reality is that super-intelligence could be a distant dream, and as Dr. Hindi puts it, we’re “missing the point that in the next decade, Narrow AI will already have destroyed our society if we don’t handle it correctly.” Though the warning is a bit hyperbolic, it’s true that when we focus on super-intelligence (also known as Strong AI for Artificial General Intelligence) we forget that Narrow AI’s inherently limited scope means that coders are working on discrete uses in every imaginable way. Narrow AI will replace or transform any job where information gathering and pattern recognition drive a volume business. That’s not just laborers. That’s accountants, traders, realtors, lawyers, software developers and on and on. The jobs can be low pay or high pay, but either way, AI can do it faster. We’re already beginning to see how AI will become invaluable in these fields. For instance, one Canadian firm – Blue J Legal – is using AI to help accountants and tax lawyers predict how courts are likely to rule on a given set of facts and client circumstances years into the future. A Palo Alto-based legal startup, Casetext, is enabling lawyers to upload briefs and have AI do the case research work of hundreds of paralegals. In Japan, Fukoku Mutual, an insurance firm, is replacing 34 claims adjustors per instance with AI built from IBM’s Watson. In the US, we are particularly susceptible to Narrow AI affecting the industry. PwC found earlier this year that 38% of all US jobs are at a high risk for automation in the next 15 years. That’s just one of a number of studies that have reached the same conclusion: the next two decades will be a wild one for our economy if we don’t make planful changes soon. Immunity to AI That’s certainly not to say that every kind of job in the US is at risk. There is such a thing as “immunity to AI,” at least for the few couple decades. The simplest way to identify jobs that are insulated is to ask, “Does it require emotional intelligence or ‘non-patterned’ based decision making?” Ultimately, that leads to three broad categories of jobs. The first category is jobs that require meaningful creative interactions with other people. Narrow AI can advise on the most successful closing strategies for a particular case, but it’s not capable of making a compelling closing argument in court. Even if we use an AI system to develop an argument based on the court’s preferences, to identify and incorporate all of the relevant case law and to select words and phrases that most people find persuasive – Narrow AI lacks a clear path to replace the human ability to deliver an argument to humans or to adapt mid-stride in reaction to others. The same can be said for any number of professions. Marketing strategy and design will need human creativity and emotion. HR will need people to listen, empathize and make the right, context-based decisions.  Nurses will need to bring humanity to patient interactions and treatment. Teachers will need to bring expertise and learner-specific strategies to education. Even customer service will need humans in place to receive escalations that go beyond an AI’s ability to address. The second category of jobs are those that won’t be replaced (yet) due to limitations of robotics. Our ability to code has progressed far faster than our ability to build machines capable of fine motor skills or dealing with unpredictable physical challenges. Repetitive physical tasks are one thing, but as a report from McKinsey & Company last year pointed out, even maid service in hotel goes beyond the capabilities of autonomous machines. For example, everyone throws towels and pillows in different places, and automated robots simply can’t deal with that degree of difference in a cost-effective way.  And though we are aggressively developing more advanced robots, it’s expensive and time-consuming to build them, meaning fields like on-site construction will largely have security for the foreseeable future even as the tools of the jobs change. None of that is to say that AI will not impact these first two categories of jobs. In fact, the most likely scenario is that many of these jobs will transform to work side by side with Narrow AI tools sooner than later. The third category of AI insulated jobs are entrepreneurs. Be it a startup founder or a food truck operator who works alone, entrepreneurial roles require aspects of the of the first and second categories to various degrees.  Small business entrepreneurs and solopreneurs wear many hats on any given day—be it CEO, CMO, CFO, CIO, etc.  That diversity of work makes entrepreneurial work very difficult to automate. Ethics of Code So on one hand, we have jobs that are “safe from AI” while on the other we have jobs that are likely to be displaced. Where does that leave us as coders and technologists? If you listen to Grady’s Ted Talk on Superintelligence, you’ll hear him say, “The rise of computing itself brings to us a number of human and societal issues to which we must now attend. How shall I best organize society when the need for human labor diminishes?” I don’t believe we should ignore the “I” in that question. The ethical dilemma we face in technology is one of our own creation, and that, to me, means it’s incumbent on the tech community to deliver the solution as well. Said simply, if you’re aware that the work you’re doing is going to displace jobs, you should be intentional in your effort to leverage technology to create new opportunities for the displaced. Said simply, if you’re aware that the work you’re are doing is going to displace jobs, you should be intentional in your effort to leverage technology to create new opportunities for the displaced. Snap.ai’s Dr. Rand Hindi proposes an interesting idea for social and governmental programs that would support an economic framework that will make widespread, AI-driven transformation sustainable. His argument is that the end result of displaced or altered jobs due to AI is a population that must be more educated to do the job of managing or interfacing with AI. That means we need to incentivize people to have ongoing, skills-based education in technology. Dr. Hindi poses Universal Educational Income, a system in which people would receive a monthly salary as long as they are enrolled in some kind of educational program. There are any number of challenges that come to my mind when any universal income is proposed—from who funds that scope of spending to can it ever be enough to make a difference. It’s not an obviously viable policy but I can certainly appreciate the beauty of the idea: create a system that engineers people into the AI equation.  By incentivizing people to constantly learn, you have a more prepared workforce for a new economy. It’s a fascinating possible solution, and I believe the spirit of engineering our culture into an AI fueled economy is the right one. That said, I believe there are better ways to make that happen. Engineering People In First, I believe a simple premise is true: the faster we advance AI, the more we will drive demand for humans to manage and direct what AI makes possible. The reality is we are heading towards a huge supply of Narrow AI in the economy. Look at marketing for example, a field that is seeing a huge amount of investment in predictive AI technologies. Even as AI becomes acutely capable of optimizing ad spend and placement, the two select roles of the Marketing and Creative Directors actually grow in importance. The repetitive work is displaced, but demand for the creative thinking is actually on the rise. In other words, there has never been a better time to have the entrepreneurial spirit because technology and market forces are in place to support you. Steve Case, CEO of Revolution LLC, gave a perfect example of this in a recent LinkedIn post. Two hundred years ago farming represented 90% of the American workforce. Now, that number is less than 2%. Rather than purely displacing jobs, technology made farmers more efficient and productive, and new jobs were created by the need to supply and support modern agriculture. In a modern context, it’s easy to envision new entrepreneurial roles that wouldn’t be possible without AI—ones made possible by bundling creativity and dexterity with deep analytical insights. What jobs will best augment or enhance what AI can do?  How can the tech industry be as instrumental in creating jobs as we are in displacing them?  These are question that everyone driving tech automation should be thinking about.  I’m pushing (at GoDaddy) to drive a platform to empower entrepreneurs to make their ideas real with the help of machine learning tools and predictive analytics to guide their decision making.  I think that’s one important way to help make our economy immune to AI, but I’d like to challenge the industry to think of a hundred more solutions—and then get working to test them. For entrepreneurial options, our goal should be to deploy Narrow AI in a way that encourages more and more people to experiment with the self-driven ventures. If we engineer tools that reduce the barriers to access through elegantly simple systems and widespread availability, then the technology we build for efficiency can help us empower economic participants at the same time. There’s no doubt that we can be the drivers of a new economy with new companies and new careers – but we have to be intentional about that role. Finally, I think the tech industry needs to be a louder voice in the real risks to our economy that Narrow AI is creating right now. Grady Booch and other luminaries shouldn’t be left to carry the entire load. More of us need to clearly articulate why people should be excited about the promise of AI and its real economic dangers. We aren’t building Skynet, but we might be building something just as dangerous for billions of people if we don’t purposefully create new opportunities as the old economy passes. Where I Land Larry Niven once said, “That’s the thing about people who think they hate computers. What they really hate is lousy programmers.” That’s a timely and true quip in its own right, but it should also remind us that we are the one’s behind the code. We have an ethical opportunity to consider and attempt to address what will happen because of our code. As we create new applications for AI that make it possible for seemingly once magical automation to happen, we should devote some of our time and energy to figuring out how to make more people magicians. Let’s help more people become builders of the new economy by putting the power of what we build in their hands as quickly and simply as possible. That’s how we’ll begin to see the new jobs and businesses emerge that will drive a new economy forward. No matter what, we need to bring our own humanity to bear every time we type a line of code. If we can do that, there will certainly be no reason to fear Skynet – but there will also be a lot to be excited about thanks to the future of AI. Your Voice Wanted One of the best ways for me to mature my thoughts on the ethics of code is to hear from you.  Please share your thoughts below—I tend to be on my blog in the evenings, so look for my responses then.

Trump’s Draft High-Skill Visa Policy Threatens US Economy

Last Saturday a preliminary draft order titled “Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs” surfaced that targets H-1B “genius” visas.  The order signals a second wave of the new administration’s immigration agenda—with potentially catastrophic effects to our economy.  I’ve written and spoken extensively on the H-1B topic recently and, based on hundreds of responses, it’s become clear that there is an overabundance of emotion and a drought of hard facts circulating on this critical issue. Many Americans believe that H-1B visas are being used as a cost-cutting measure to hire cheap foreign labor; in reality, most H-1B workers hold elite jobs and earn on average 20% more than their US citizen counterparts for similar roles.  Many Americans believe that H-1B visas fuel the outsourcing of jobs; in reality, these visas bring the foreign talent into the US—many of whom go on to found startups and a shocking number of Fortune 500 businesses.  And most critically, many Americans believe that there exists a ready supply of high-skilled workers in the US that could easily jump into elite tech jobs with accelerated on-the-job training.  The reality is that for every one unemployed tech worker in the US, there are five open tech jobs.  America has hundreds of thousands of technologically brilliant citizens, but the facts show that we don’t have nearly enough to meet demand. Without expanding the H-1B visa program or some other positive reform to recruit foreign talent, the US risks technological stagnation.  And with the draft executive order currently on the table, we risk much more than that.  The most innovative edge of our US tech sector is built on the combination of brilliant homegrown talent and the infusion of equally brilliant global talent.  Take either away, as is threatened by this draft order, and you have a recipe for disaster.  The research that follows will show that the facts outweigh our emotions on this subject on every point of contention. H-1B Visa Jobs Do Not Save Money for US Employers The most popular bromide I’ve heard resurface this week is that a primary use for H-1B visas is to help corporations cut costs. I have seen stories in the news of a few bad players trying to game the system, but in my 30 years in technology leadership, I’ve never personally seen an H-1B visa used to save money.  When we look past a minority of dishonest players (who have been caught, by the way) and look at the whole system, the raw numbers show that H-1B workers earn 20% more on average than native citizens in the same roles.  H-1B visas are not a cost-cutting tool.  The below summary from the Brookings Institution tells the full story. Source: Brookings Institution – H-1B Visas and the STEM Shortage: A Research Brief H-1B Visas Do Not Contribute to Outsourcing It may be that many people simply conflate the concepts of outsourcing and high-skilled visa workers, but it’s important that everyone understand the distinction.  There are currently more than half a million high-skilled IT and computer science jobs sitting unfilled in the US today.  It seems unfathomable to many, but these are jobs that are so technical that there aren’t enough trained workers in the US to fill them all. The H-1B program was created to help bring highly trained foreign workers to the US to fill those roles. It’s important to know that if a worker is not coming to reside in the US, an H-1B visa would not be needed.  It’s not a tool for outsourcing. Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and labor analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies (a non-partisan research firm) Outsourcing, on the other hand, happens when a company creates a job to be filled outside of the US or ships an existing job overseas.  Outsourcing for cost savings is not the issue being addressed by this week’s draft executive order.  The issue in front of us is H-1Bs for importing elite technical workers, and they have the exact opposite effect of outsourcing—bringing skilled workers to the US who then pay the same Federal, State, Social Security and Medicare taxes as their US counterparts. Last year the US only issued 85,000 H-1B visas out of 236,000 requests.  20,000 of those went to foreign recipients of master’s degrees from US universities and the remaining 65,000 were decided by a highly unpredictable lottery.  The simple math suggests that more high-skilled visa holders in the US mean an overall reduced need for hiring talent offshore.  That means that if you’re against outsourcing, you should be for H-1B visas. H-1B Visas Do Not Take Away Jobs or Lower Salaries for Americans First, let me start by clarifying that I know that there are anecdotal cases of bad players. Just like news of plane crashes or bear attacks, you’ve seen these stories because they are sensational and clearly done in bad faith to American tech workers.  But just like plane crashes and bear attacks, data shows that they are exceedingly rare and are the exception, not the rule.  The statistics tell a much more complete story. In 2014, the Brookings Institution published a detailed study which found that, contrary to the popular myth, high-tech jobs requiring STEM degrees all had consistently rising salaries for the period they studied.  If imported talent were driving down salaries, the data would be trending the other way.  It’s not. Even more importantly though, the study found that there were five job openings for every one unemployed computer worker.  That means that if every unemployed tech worker was qualified to fill one open role, 4/5th of the open tech jobs would sit unfilled without the help of the H-1B visa program.  It’s one thing to be protective of the American worker (I think we all should be) but it’s altogether another to leave 4/5th of all open tech jobs unfilled simply to ward off high-skilled international talent. Source: Brookings Institution – Job Vacancies and STEM Skills This week I’ve heard some argue that if we gut the visa system, we can simply retrain US workers to fill the open roles.  Unfortunately, that is incredibly unrealistic.  The skills needed for elite science and tech roles take dozens of years in study and training.  America is a country full of brilliant people, but on the job training or typical job retraining programs couldn’t scratch the surface of the technical skills an individual would need to develop.  Even the most advanced American worker can’t develop master’s degree level expertise in such a short time.  Ideal candidates for these roles start their focus on math and science in their early education and dedicate years of study to reach elite status.  It’s disappointing to face the grimness of our circumstances, but these are just not the kind of careers where on-the-job training will fix the talent gap. High-skilled Immigrants Are Critical for the Health of the US Economy The Partnership for a New American Economy concluded in a 43-page report that more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children, and these companies created $4.8 trillion in annual revenue and employed 18.9 million people globally. That data is backed up by a 2016 study from the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan think tank based in Arlington, Va., that found recent immigrants started more than half of today’s wave of US-based startups valued at $1 billion or more. Once one understands that the H-1B visa program as a whole doesn’t take away jobs from Americans, doesn’t encourage outsourcing, fuels American innovation and leads to new immigrant citizens who push our economy forward, it’s easy to spot the serious dangers in restricting H-1B visas as outlined in the draft executive order that surfaced this week. STEM advocate and Physicist Michio Kaku described the danger succinctly in a heated debate arguing, “if you remove the H-1B visa, you collapse the economy.  There are no Americans to take these jobs.  These visas aren’t taking away jobs, they are creating industries.”  Dr. Kaku’s fears strike the core fallacy in this draft policy—it’s designed to protect American workers that, on close inspection, don’t actually exist in our economy today. The Path Forward The immigration reforms I’d like to see would focus on helping the US attract the best and brightest minds from anywhere on the planet—and then find successful ways to help them stay and thrive in the US for generations.  I’d couple that with educational reform in STEM from K-12 so future generations of Americans can engage more successfully in the technology job market at elite levels. I want to see more Americans compete for the most elite technical jobs, and the first step begins with significantly better STEM education from K-12.  Our kids entering high school currently rank 35th in the world in math and they don’t fare much better in science. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have any brilliant US tech workers—we have tons.  But our shoddy STEM education means we have way too few young people pursuing STEM careers and many who do find themselves struggling to compete at the most elite levels.  It’s not fun to have to admit it, but with so much technical illiteracy in the US, the H-1B visa program has become America’s secret weapon warding off economic catastrophe. Though STEM education is the clear long-term solution, the US is not going to see a vastly greater pipeline of domestic technical talent coming from our universities anytime soon.  It will take us years, if not decades, to educate a new wave of students from elementary thru their advanced degrees.  Until that next generation enters the elite technical workforce in mass, the most technical jobs (all 545,000 of them) will simply sit open if H-1B visas shrink or disappear.  The cost to the US will be paid in lost technological progress, lost relevance in the global marketplace and an overall weaker America.  I believe we can turn the tide of STEM education, but it’s going to take years and we need to be thoughtful about what happens in the meantime.  Let’s join forces, set aside our emotions to face the clear facts, and find a better path forward together.

The Assured Cost of Clamping Down On H-1B “Genius” Visas

The entire US economy is at stake with Trump’s draft work-visa order About a month before President Trump was sworn into office, CNBC asked me what I would do if I held the executive office for one day. My answer to Kayla Tausche was that I’d work to fix the growing student visa and H-1B visa problem we have in the US.  Well, the old adage that says “be careful what you wish for” couldn’t be more poignant based on the immigration policy rumored to be rolling out this week. On the heels of an executive order temporarily banning US entry to all citizens from seven countries that have a recent history of training, harboring or exporting terrorists comes a potential policy change that could have immediate and harmful effects on the technology industry as a whole.  This weekend, a preliminary draft order titled “Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs” surfaced that, if signed, risks serious consequences for US-based tech companies’ ability to hire elite global talent. To be clear, the entire US economy is at stake with this draft order and tech leaders need to speak out on its dangers. The order specifically goes after the H-1B visas that allow every tech company in Silicon Valley and across the US to hire non-US workers to fill highly technical jobs that perpetually sit unfilled. This system, described by popular theoretical physicist Michio Kaku as “the genius visa,” is a critical vehicle for attracting global talent were not enough US talent exists. “If you remove the H-1B visa, you collapse the economy.” – Dr. Michio Kaku Dr. Kaku described the problem succinctly in a 2011 debate arguing, “if you remove the H-1B visa, you collapse the economy. There are no Americans to take these jobs. These visas aren’t taking away jobs, they are creating industries.” That strikes at the core fallacy in this draft policy—it’s designed to protect a set of American workers that, on close inspection, don’t actually exist in our economy today. An order like the preliminary draft won’t help domestic job seekers and could cripple the US tech industry—that’s clearly not good for America. How H-1B Visas Work There are currently more than half a million high-skill IT and computer science jobs sitting unfilled in the US today. These are jobs that are so technical that there aren’t enough trained and lettered workers in the US to fill them. That gap is a significant problem because every job that sits unfilled is a bit of technological advancement and innovation that we’re leaving on the table. Last year the US only issued 85,000 H-1B visas out of 236,000 requests. 20,000 of those went to foreign recipients of master’s degrees from US universities and the remaining 65,000 were decided by a highly unpredictable lottery. Because the system today is so limited, it’s already needlessly slowing the wheels of progress—but the solution is not fewer visas, it’s more visas—or more immigration reform of some sort targeted specifically at highly-skilled workers. Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and labor analytics Burning Glass Technologies (a non-partisan research firm). Image: Obama White House, 2015 The US Technical Jobs Pipeline Hinges On STEM Education This week I’ve heard a myth resurface suggesting that if we gut the visa system, we can simply retrain US workers to fill the open roles. Unfortunately, that bromide is incredibly unrealistic. America is a country full of brilliant people, but a typical 18-month retraining program couldn’t scratch the surface of the technical skills an individual would need to acquire. The average American worker—hell, even the most advanced American worker can’t develop new master’s degree level expertise in a such a short time. Ideal candidates for these roles start their focus on math and science in their early education and dedicate years of study to reach elite status. “If we want more Americans to compete with elite non-US workers, the solution begins with significantly better STEM education in the United States” If we want more Americans to compete with elite non-US workers (and I believe we do) the solution has to begin with significantly better STEM education from K-12. Our kids entering high school currently rank 35th in the world in math and they don’t fare much better in science. And our high school graduates now compete in STEM skills with some of the most struggling developing nations. With so much technical illiteracy in the US, the H-1B visa program has become America’s secret weapon warding off economic catastrophe. Troublingly, the US is not going to see a vastly greater pipeline of domestic technical talent coming from our universities anytime soon. It will take us years, if not decades, to move a large enough wave of students through primary and secondary schools, undergraduate and advanced degrees to exit the pipeline into the elite technical workforce. Until that day, the most technical jobs (all 545,000 of them) will simply sit open if H-1B visas shrink or disappear. The cost will be paid in lost technological progress, less new energy, less communications, and less commerce and a weaker America. I believe we can turn the tide of STEM education, but it’s going to take years and we need to be thoughtful about what happens in the meantime. Low Hanging Fruit: Stop Sending Technical Degree-earners Home During the final presidential debate, then GOP candidate Trump said, specifically on the question of H-1B visas, “We need highly skilled people in this country and if we can’t do it [with our own citizens] we’ll get ‘em in. We do need it in Silicon Valley. One of the biggest problems we have is people [from outside the US] go to the best colleges—Harvard, Stanford, Wharton—and as soon as they graduate they get shoved out though they want to stay in this country. They want to stay here desperately and they’re not able to it.” On that point, I couldn’t agree more with President Trump. Our culture has made us a magnet—attracting the greatest brains around the world to our universities. It seems patently absurd to train those minds and then force them to go back to their home country when their student visas have expired due to their successful graduation. We need to give everyone who earns a degree from our best technical schools the opportunity to stay and work in the US and this draft order flies in the face of Trumps own (recent) words. Why This Matters to Me  A 2016 study from the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan think tank based in Arlington, Va., found that immigrants started more than half of today’s wave of US-based startups valued at $1 billion or more. The immigration reforms I’d like to see would help the US continue to attract the best and brightest minds from anywhere—and then find compelling ways to help them stay and thrive in the US for generations. I’d couple that with educational reform in STEM from K-12 so future generations of Americans can engage more successfully in the technology job market. As a business, GoDaddy is a global tech company operating in 56 markets around the globe and I want the best for our employees in every country where we operate. The work we do in search, cloud computing, machine learning and predictive analytics requires some of the sharpest, most dedicated and passionate minds out there today. We recruit from the best schools in the US, but some jobs remain open. Much of the R&D work we do at US tech hubs in the Bay Area, Seattle, Cambridge, etc. depend in part on H-1B visas to bring in world-class talent. It’s a critical part of our toolset that I’d like to see expanded—not diminished. We need to be able to match elite technical jobs with elite technical people.  The crippled visa system that could come from the proposed executive order is not a step forward. We can do better. “I want the US to be a place where the best minds in the world want to come to pursue the real American dream” On a personal level, and as a US citizen, I selfishly want America to be a shining star of innovation and technological success. I want it to be a place where the best minds in the world want to come to pursue the American dream of achieving success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative. I have every confidence that such lofty goals are possible and I hope you’ll join me in working toward them. Your Thoughts Welcome If you have thoughts on the immigration challenges facing the tech industry, share them in comments below. I tend to drop in later in the evenings to read and respond.

The Assured Cost of Clamping Down On H-1B “Genius” Visas

The entire US economy is at stake with Trump’s draft work-visa order About a month before President Trump was sworn into office, CNBC asked me what I would do if I held the executive office for one day. My answer to Kayla Tausche was that I’d work to fix the growing student visa and H-1B visa problem we have in the US.  Well, the old adage that says “be careful what you wish for” couldn’t be more poignant based on the immigration policy rumored to be rolling out this week. On the heels of an executive order temporarily banning US entry to all citizens from seven countries that have a recent history of training, harboring or exporting terrorists comes a potential policy change that could have immediate and harmful effects on the technology industry as a whole.  This weekend, a preliminary draft order titled “Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs” surfaced that, if signed, risks serious consequences for US-based tech companies’ ability to hire elite global talent. To be clear, the entire US economy is at stake with this draft order and tech leaders need to speak out on its dangers. The order specifically goes after the H-1B visas that allow every tech company in Silicon Valley and across the US to hire non-US workers to fill highly technical jobs that perpetually sit unfilled. This system, described by popular theoretical physicist Michio Kaku as “the genius visa,” is a critical vehicle for attracting global talent were not enough US talent exists. “If you remove the H-1B visa, you collapse the economy.” – Dr. Michio Kaku Dr. Kaku described the problem succinctly in a 2011 debate arguing, “if you remove the H-1B visa, you collapse the economy. There are no Americans to take these jobs. These visas aren’t taking away jobs, they are creating industries.” That strikes at the core fallacy in this draft policy—it’s designed to protect a set of American workers that, on close inspection, don’t actually exist in our economy today. An order like the preliminary draft won’t help domestic job seekers and could cripple the US tech industry—that’s clearly not good for America. How H-1B Visas Work There are currently more than half a million high-skill IT and computer science jobs sitting unfilled in the US today. These are jobs that are so technical that there aren’t enough trained and lettered workers in the US to fill them. That gap is a significant problem because every job that sits unfilled is a bit of technological advancement and innovation that we’re leaving on the table. Last year the US only issued 85,000 H-1B visas out of 236,000 requests. 20,000 of those went to foreign recipients of master’s degrees from US universities and the remaining 65,000 were decided by a highly unpredictable lottery. Because the system today is so limited, it’s already needlessly slowing the wheels of progress—but the solution is not fewer visas, it’s more visas—or more immigration reform of some sort targeted specifically at highly-skilled workers. Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and labor analytics Burning Glass Technologies (a non-partisan research firm). Image: Obama White House, 2015 The US Technical Jobs Pipeline Hinges On STEM Education This week I’ve heard a myth resurface suggesting that if we gut the visa system, we can simply retrain US workers to fill the open roles. Unfortunately, that bromide is incredibly unrealistic. America is a country full of brilliant people, but a typical 18-month retraining program couldn’t scratch the surface of the technical skills an individual would need to acquire. The average American worker—hell, even the most advanced American worker can’t develop new master’s degree level expertise in a such a short time. Ideal candidates for these roles start their focus on math and science in their early education and dedicate years of study to reach elite status. “If we want more Americans to compete with elite non-US workers, the solution begins with significantly better STEM education in the United States” If we want more Americans to compete with elite non-US workers (and I believe we do) the solution has to begin with significantly better STEM education from K-12. Our kids entering high school currently rank 35th in the world in math and they don’t fare much better in science. And our high school graduates now compete in STEM skills with some of the most struggling developing nations. With so much technical illiteracy in the US, the H-1B visa program has become America’s secret weapon warding off economic catastrophe. Troublingly, the US is not going to see a vastly greater pipeline of domestic technical talent coming from our universities anytime soon. It will take us years, if not decades, to move a large enough wave of students through primary and secondary schools, undergraduate and advanced degrees to exit the pipeline into the elite technical workforce. Until that day, the most technical jobs (all 545,000 of them) will simply sit open if H-1B visas shrink or disappear. The cost will be paid in lost technological progress, less new energy, less communications, and less commerce and a weaker America. I believe we can turn the tide of STEM education, but it’s going to take years and we need to be thoughtful about what happens in the meantime. Low Hanging Fruit: Stop Sending Technical Degree-earners Home During the final presidential debate, then GOP candidate Trump said, specifically on the question of H-1B visas, “We need highly skilled people in this country and if we can’t do it [with our own citizens] we’ll get ‘em in. We do need it in Silicon Valley. One of the biggest problems we have is people [from outside the US] go to the best colleges—Harvard, Stanford, Wharton—and as soon as they graduate they get shoved out though they want to stay in this country. They want to stay here desperately and they’re not able to it.” On that point, I couldn’t agree more with President Trump. Our culture has made us a magnet—attracting the greatest brains around the world to our universities. It seems patently absurd to train those minds and then force them to go back to their home country when their student visas have expired due to their successful graduation. We need to give everyone who earns a degree from our best technical schools the opportunity to stay and work in the US and this draft order flies in the face of Trumps own (recent) words. Why This Matters to Me  A 2016 study from the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan think tank based in Arlington, Va., found that immigrants started more than half of today’s wave of US-based startups valued at $1 billion or more. The immigration reforms I’d like to see would help the US continue to attract the best and brightest minds from anywhere—and then find compelling ways to help them stay and thrive in the US for generations. I’d couple that with educational reform in STEM from K-12 so future generations of Americans can engage more successfully in the technology job market. As a business, GoDaddy is a global tech company operating in 56 markets around the globe and I want the best for our employees in every country where we operate. The work we do in search, cloud computing, machine learning and predictive analytics requires some of the sharpest, most dedicated and passionate minds out there today. We recruit from the best schools in the US, but some jobs remain open. Much of the R&D work we do at US tech hubs in the Bay Area, Seattle, Cambridge, etc. depend in part on H-1B visas to bring in world-class talent. It’s a critical part of our toolset that I’d like to see expanded—not diminished. We need to be able to match elite technical jobs with elite technical people.  The crippled visa system that could come from the proposed executive order is not a step forward. We can do better. “I want the US to be a place where the best minds in the world want to come to pursue the real American dream” On a personal level, and as a US citizen, I selfishly want America to be a shining star of innovation and technological success. I want it to be a place where the best minds in the world want to come to pursue the American dream of achieving success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative. I have every confidence that such lofty goals are possible and I hope you’ll join me in working toward them. Your Thoughts Welcome If you have thoughts on the immigration challenges facing the tech industry, share them in comments below. I tend to drop in later in the evenings to read and respond.

The Days of Invisible Small Business May Soon Be Over

A week ago today, a small business in my community called ‘Costume Capers’ closed its doors after 30 years of continuous operation in the coastal hamlet of San Luis Obispo. When the local Tribune asked partner-proprietors Debi and Keith why they were throwing in the towel, their answer came without equivocation: enterprise business moved into their market and internet shopping made them feel like it was impossible to compete. Their customers slowly drifted away and their revenue stream simply dried up. Costume Capers was in the category of VSB or “Very Small Business,” that massive crosscut of ventures with fewer than five employees that constitute 85% of all businesses in the Western world.  Like 61% of all VSBs, they were well established in their community (3- years-old is the typical success marker) and were women-led, like more than half of all business around the world.  And like most small businesses who wear multiple hats, they struggled to keep up with technology adoption. The unhappy fate of Costume Capers is not unique, but the real tragedy is that they felt like the tools they needed to compete—starting with an effective online presence—were still out of reach for them in 2015. They were far from alone in their predicament. In fact, 59% of very small businesses around the world still don’t have a website according to a new landmark study by RedShift Research that GoDaddy commissioned earlier this summer. For those of us who work in tech, it’s hard to fathom that nearly six out of 10 small businesses are still not online after more than two decades of the Internet’s mainstream popularity. While a few utilize social media or listing sites to gain some semblance of Web presence, many very small businesses in the study said they felt too small, too non-technical and too limited in their budgets to have a site of their own. Those would have been valid concerns 10 (or even five) years ago, but today there’s simply no excuse. Enterprise businesses learned long ago that the Internet was by far the most effective way to reach customers—globally or locally.  With the meteoric rise of the mobile Web, that lesson has only become more important.  In years past, the cost for a VSB to build a website that clearly drove sales was often more costly than the revenue gained by the effort. But as the cost of computing has radically dropped and as consumers have adopted the Internet as a primary means for making purchasing decisions, the true cost of not being online can be catastrophic. According to a study done by Search Engine Land, 91% of consumers now use the Web to research their purchases and 85% now use the Web to find local businesses. Without an online presence, eight or nine out of every 10 potential customers will never even know a small business existed. They are effectively invisible. 59% of very small businesses around the world still don’t have a website. Today they are effectively invisible. Today, all very small businesses need an effective, mobile friendly website, a solid social and listing presence and a clear plan for communicating with their customers online. With DIY site builders from companies like GoDaddy’s (and many others from our competition), anyone can build a compelling website for just a few dollars.  And with the rise of cloud computing, small businesses can get a professional email, marketing tools and even bookkeeping tools for very little money. The good news for micro-businesses around the world is that their fears about getting online are quickly eroding. According to RedShift, over half of the businesses that took part in their study said they intend to get their business online within the next two years. They also expect that having their own online presence will significantly speed growth by making their businesses visible to local, national and international audiences.  Nearly half believe that their business will grow 25% or more over the next 3-5 years with the help of Internet and mobile devices.  That figure is consistent with what VSBs who are already online have reported about the Web’s impact on their business, with 59% saying their business grew noticeably once they had built their website. Given that there are roughly 200 million VSBs globally, their getting online effectively could have a major impact on small business growth as a percentage of the economy. However, there are still some notable distinctions about who is ready to take the plunge. Newer small businesses were nearly twice as likely to want a website compared to their older counterparts and firms with at least one employee (vs sole-proprietors) were farther along in their plans. Getting all 200 million VSBs online will definitely take some time, but it’s a worthy goal. For anyone keeping a close eye on the very small business market as it relates to the global economy, the RedShift study (the full report can be found here) provides some unique insights and is definitely worth a read. Though it’s unfortunately too late for Costume Capers, it’s not too late for Debi and Keith in their next venture—and I’m sure there will be a next one.  The Internet has given enterprise business a big head start, but it is also a strong force in leveling playing fields.  Small, local business have a powerful advantage over enterprise: their ability to provide personalized (and highly personal) service.  If they can just be found online, communicate their unique value to an on-the-go audience and maintain relationships in a way modern consumers want, the world can be theirs. Though VSBs clearly have a long way to go, the RedShift study give me a lot of hope for the future of the small, the unique, and the highly-personal over the big box experiences of past decades. Of course GoDaddy is here to help as you’d expect, but we’re increasingly not alone in our quest — there are a ton of others who can fuel this tipping point. Very small businesses out there, pick up your laptops and let’s change the world for the better. Your time has come. Photo by: C’Est Demode

The Days of Invisible Small Business May Soon Be Over

A week ago today, a small business in my community called ‘Costume Capers’ closed its doors after 30 years of continuous operation in the coastal hamlet of San Luis Obispo.  When the local Tribune asked partner-proprietors Debi and Keith why they were throwing in the towel, their answer came without equivocation: enterprise business moved into their market and internet shopping made them feel like it was impossible to compete. Their customers slowly drifted away and their revenue stream simply dried up. Costume Capers was in the category of VSB or “Very Small Business,” that massive crosscut of ventures with fewer than five employees that constitute 85% of all businesses in the Western world.  Like 61% of all VSBs, they were well established in their community (3- years-old is the typical success marker) and were women-led, like more than half of all business around the world.  And like most small businesses who wear multiple hats, they struggled to keep up with technology adoption. The unhappy fate of Costume Capers is not unique, but the real tragedy is that they felt like the tools they needed to compete—starting with an effective online presence—were still out of reach for them in 2015.  They were far from alone in their predicament. In fact, 59% of very small businesses around the world still don’t have a website according to a new landmark study by RedShift Research that GoDaddy commissioned earlier this summer. For those of us who work in tech, it’s hard to fathom that nearly six out of 10 small businesses are still not online after more than two decades of the Internet’s mainstream popularity.  While a few utilize social media or listing sites to gain some semblance of Web presence, many very small businesses in the study said they felt too small, too non-technical and too limited in their budgets to have a site of their own. Those would have been valid concerns 10 (or even five) years ago, but today there’s simply no excuse. Enterprise businesses learned long ago that the Internet was by far the most effective way to reach customers—globally or locally.  With the meteoric rise of the mobile Web, that lesson has only become more important.  In years past, the cost for a VSB to build a website that clearly drove sales was often more costly than the revenue gained by the effort. But as the cost of computing has radically dropped and as consumers have adopted the Internet as a primary means for making purchasing decisions, the true cost of not being online can be catastrophic. According to a study done by Search Engine Land, 91% of consumers now use the Web to research their purchases and 85% now use the Web to find local businesses.   Without an online presence, eight or nine out of every 10 potential customers will never even know a small business existed.  They are effectively invisible. 59% of very small businesses around the world still don’t have a website. Today they are effectively invisible. Today, all very small businesses need an effective, mobile friendly website, a solid social and listing presence and a clear plan for communicating with their customers online.  With DIY site builders from companies like GoDaddy’s (and many others from our competition), anyone can build a compelling website for just a few dollars.  And with the rise of cloud computing, small businesses can get a professional email, marketing tools and even bookkeeping tools for very little money. The good news for micro-businesses around the world is that their fears about getting online are quickly eroding.  According to RedShift, over half of the businesses that took part in their study said they intend to get their business online within the next two years.  They also expect that having their own online presence will significantly speed growth by making their businesses visible to local, national and international audiences.  Nearly half believe that their business will grow 25% or more over the next 3-5 years with the help of Internet and mobile devices.  That figure is consistent with what VSBs who are already online have reported about the Web’s impact on their business, with 59% saying their business grew noticeably once they had built their website. Given that there are roughly 200 million VSBs globally, their getting online effectively could have a major impact on small business growth as a percentage of the economy.  However, there are still some notable distinctions about who is ready to take the plunge.  Newer small businesses were nearly twice as likely to want a website compared to their older counterparts and firms with at least one employee (vs sole-proprietors) were farther along in their plans.  Getting all 200 million VSBs online will definitely take some time, but it’s a worthy goal. For anyone keeping a close eye on the very small business market as it relates to the global economy, the RedShift study (the full report can be found here) provides some unique insights and is definitely worth a read. Though it’s unfortunately too late for Costume Capers, it’s not too late for Debi and Keith in their next venture—and I’m sure there will be a next one.  The Internet has given enterprise business a big head start, but it is also a strong force in leveling playing fields.  Small, local business have a powerful advantage over enterprise: their ability to provide personalized (and highly personal) service.  If they can just be found online, communicate their unique value to an on-the-go audience and maintain relationships in a way modern consumers want, the world can be theirs. Though VSBs clearly have a long way to go, the RedShift study give me a lot of hope for the future of the small, the unique, and the highly-personal over the big box experiences of past decades. Of course GoDaddy is here to help as you’d expect, but we’re increasingly not alone in our quest — there are a ton of others who can fuel this tipping point. Very small businesses out there, pick up your laptops and let’s change the world for the better. Your time has come. Photo by: C’Est Demode

Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work

Artificial Intelligence has been the topic de jour lately with every corner of intellectual thought sounding in on the perils, and the potential rewards, of synthesizing a machine intelligence that could successfully perform any intellectual task that a human can.  Elon Musk, Bill Gates and even Stephen Hawking have all suggested that an AI with this sort of general intelligence (also known as Strong AI or Full AI) could bring about an apocalypse that sees an end to human civilization, or even an end to the human race. There’s no doubt that Strong AI is the subject of intense research by DARPA, MIT, Berkeley, IBM, Google and many others.  But it’s hard not to notice that despite all the anxiety, Strong AI today lives only in the imagination of science fiction writers and in the hopes and dreams of research scientist.  At the prestigious “Future of AI” conference in San Juan this January, the estimates for when an AI might emerge vacillated wildly from 5 years to a hundred years in our future—its variables are that unknown. While a singularity triggering AI is tantalizing to speculate about, like day dreaming with a lottery ticket in your pocket, it’s still all hypothetical.  So when I was asked to join a panel discussion about “when AI will change our lives” at this year’s Fortune Brainstorm Tech, my first thought was, “who knows, it may not happen in our lifetimes.” That thought was followed quickly by a second thought: “when it happens it will probably just kill us all, so let’s talk about something more practical.” Fortune Brainstorm Tech 2015 But as I thought more deeply on what I could contribute to the conversation, my thoughts turned to the other type of AI—the “Applied AI” that we see in machine learning and predictive analytics.  Also called Narrow AI or Weak AI, Applied AI (AAI) is already here today and already changing people’s lives—for better and for worse. In contrast to Strong AI, AAI does not attempt to perform the full range of human cognitive abilities.  It’s highly specialized like Deep Blue, the first computer chess-playing system to beat a reigning world chess champion in 1997 or IBM’s question answering system, Watson, that crushed the two greatest Jeopardy champions, Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings in 2011.  Apple’s SIRI and Microsoft’s Cortona are also popular examples of AAI, but Yahoo’s Hadoop/Casandra editorial system, eBay’s “Seller Insights” system and the platform we’re building at GoDaddy to serve insights to our customers all qualify under the AAI moniker. GoDaddy’s vision is to radically shift the global economy toward small business by empowering people to easily start, confidently grow and successfully run their own ventures.  We didn’t come to that vision by chance, but rather by identifying the intersection of technological and global economic opportunities—and Applied AI is at the heart of both. Economically, we see a future where enterprise business becomes increasingly efficient by automating much of their workforce using AAI.  Automation will come both from advanced robotics in manufacturing and from computerization of complex analytical tasks.  While this will be a boon for those companies’ bottom lines, it will likely be disastrous for existing or prospective employees if other avenues for employment don’t manifest.  The scale is massive: almost half of all jobs in the Western world (47%) could be automated by computers within the next two decades according to The Economist and researchers from the University of Oxford’s Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology.  The tsunami of social change that will follow presents an incredible opportunity for those, like GoDaddy, who will help people transition from automatable roles into work that is non-susceptible to computerization.  That work will leverage social intelligence, creativity, and advanced skills of perception and manipulation.  There’s nothing that fits the bill for those categories better than small business.  That is GoDaddy’s focus. The chart above, reproduced from data by Peter Orr of 80,000 Hours, shows sample probabilities of job types that will be replaced by automation over the next twenty years.   Non-creative jobs that don’t require a high level of social intelligence or complex manipulation (like a surgeon) will be highly susceptible to computerizaion. Technologically, the same Applied Artificial Intelligence that’s leading to the computerization of enterprise workforces is also the solution to making non-automatable work more accessible to a significantly greater number of people. Specifically, running a small business today is a truly daunting prospect despite its other rewards. Being great at the object of the business (baker, wedding planner, etc.) isn’t enough.  A small business owner has to wear many hats and the weight of those decisions is enough to paralyze most people from pursuing their independent business dreams.  On any given day, business owners are simultaneously the CEO, CFO, CMO, CTO, CIO and many more.  By collecting and analyzing trillions of “business signals” from millions of customers, We’re is beginning to help entrepreneurs wear fewer hats by using AAI to deliver hyper-personalized business insights that take the time and weight out of previously cripplingly daunting decisions.   GoDaddy is not the only one doing this, though I do believe we’re at the tip of the spear. The shift toward small business needn’t be merely about maintaining employment levels; it can be a paradigm shift away from consumerism and toward a producer-based economy.  An economy of individuals, that is, who get their core satisfaction from producing goods and services themselves vs. finding satisfaction in consumption alone because their jobs have left them profoundly wanting. You see, today, most people choose their career at the conjunction of “what they are good at” and “what pays the most,” with little consideration for doing what they love.  But the same Applied AI that’s driving job-killing automation can simultaneously help individuals follow their entrepreneurial dreams.  Dreams that are tied to a third circle in the Venn diagram: “doing what they love.” The ability for vastly more people to do work they love without having to be experts in every aspect of business could fuel a revolution toward a producer-based economy.  An economy made up of millions of individuals who are doing what they love is a welcomed change that AI is helping make real.  In that sense, I say bring on the AI. Afterword – This morning we had our panel discussion on “when AI will change our lives,” at Fortune Brainstorm Tech at the Aspen Institute in Colorado.  The hour was moderated by Fortune editor Stacey Higginbotham and with me on the panel was Guru Banavar, Vice President, Cognitive Computing, IBM Research; Oren Jacob, CEO, ToyTalk; Amit Mital, CTO, Symantec; Shivon Zilis, Partner, Bloomberg Beta and Adam Nash, CEO, Wealthfront. It was a fascinating talk that I hope everyone will be able to see online eventually.   Not surprisingly, the hour served to strengthen my view that the only AI worth talking about today (unless you’re deep in the trenches of Google’s X Lab or the like) is Applied AI.  When we talked about Strong AI, opinions on what our future might look like and when that future might happen oscillated to extremes.  It was only when we brought the conversation to AAI that we could agree on the clear benefits and harms happening from the advance of this technology. Photo by: Adobe

Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work

Artificial Intelligence has been the topic de jour lately with every corner of intellectual thought sounding in on the perils, and the potential rewards, of synthesizing a machine intelligence that could successfully perform any intellectual task that a human can.  Elon Musk, Bill Gates and even Stephen Hawking have all suggested that an AI with this sort of general intelligence (also known as Strong AI or Full AI) could bring about an apocalypse that sees an end to human civilization, or even an end to the human race. There’s no doubt that Strong AI is the subject of intense research by DARPA, MIT, Berkeley, IBM, Google and many others.  But it’s hard not to notice that despite all the anxiety, Strong AI today lives only in the imagination of science fiction writers and in the hopes and dreams of research scientist.  At the prestigious “Future of AI” conference in San Juan this January, the estimates for when an AI might emerge vacillated wildly from 5 years to a hundred years in our future—its variables are that unknown. While a singularity triggering AI is tantalizing to speculate about, like day dreaming with a lottery ticket in your pocket, it’s still all hypothetical.  So when I was asked to join a panel discussion about “when AI will change our lives” at this year’s Fortune Brainstorm Tech, my first thought was, “who knows, it may not happen in our lifetimes.” That thought was followed quickly by a second thought: “when it happens it will probably just kill us all, so let’s talk about something more practical.” Fortune Brainstorm Tech 2015 But as I thought more deeply on what I could contribute to the conversation, my thoughts turned to the other type of AI—the “Applied AI” that we see in machine learning and predictive analytics.  Also called Narrow AI or Weak AI, Applied AI (AAI) is already here today and already changing people’s lives—for better and for worse. In contrast to Strong AI, AAI does not attempt to perform the full range of human cognitive abilities.  It’s highly specialized like Deep Blue, the first computer chess-playing system to beat a reigning world chess champion in 1997 or IBM’s question answering system, Watson, that crushed the two greatest Jeopardy champions, Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings in 2011.  Apple’s SIRI and Microsoft’s Cortona are also popular examples of AAI, but Yahoo’s Hadoop/Casandra editorial system, eBay’s “Seller Insights” system and the platform we’re building at GoDaddy to serve insights to our customers all qualify under the AAI moniker. GoDaddy’s vision is to radically shift the global economy toward small business by empowering people to easily start, confidently grow and successfully run their own ventures.  We didn’t come to that vision by chance, but rather by identifying the intersection of technological and global economic opportunities—and Applied AI is at the heart of both. Economically, we see a future where enterprise business becomes increasingly efficient by automating much of their workforce using AAI.  Automation will come both from advanced robotics in manufacturing and from computerization of complex analytical tasks.  While this will be a boon for those companies’ bottom lines, it will likely be disastrous for existing or prospective employees if other avenues for employment don’t manifest.  The scale is massive: almost half of all jobs in the Western world (47%) could be automated by computers within the next two decades according to The Economist and researchers from the University of Oxford’s Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology.  The tsunami of social change that will follow presents an incredible opportunity for those, like GoDaddy, who will help people transition from automatable roles into work that is non-susceptible to computerization.  That work will leverage social intelligence, creativity, and advanced skills of perception and manipulation.  There’s nothing that fits the bill for those categories better than small business.  That is GoDaddy’s focus. The chart above, reproduced from data by Peter Orr of 80,000 Hours, shows sample probabilities of job types that will be replaced by automation over the next twenty years.   Non-creative jobs that don’t require a high level of social intelligence or complex manipulation (like a surgeon) will be highly susceptible to computerizaion. Technologically, the same Applied Artificial Intelligence that’s leading to the computerization of enterprise workforces is also the solution to making non-automatable work more accessible to a significantly greater number of people. Specifically, running a small business today is a truly daunting prospect despite its other rewards. Being great at the object of the business (baker, wedding planner, etc.) isn’t enough.  A small business owner has to wear many hats and the weight of those decisions is enough to paralyze most people from pursuing their independent business dreams.  On any given day, business owners are simultaneously the CEO, CFO, CMO, CTO, CIO and many more.  By collecting and analyzing trillions of “business signals” from millions of customers, We’re is beginning to help entrepreneurs wear fewer hats by using AAI to deliver hyper-personalized business insights that take the time and weight out of previously cripplingly daunting decisions.   GoDaddy is not the only one doing this, though I do believe we’re at the tip of the spear. The shift toward small business needn’t be merely about maintaining employment levels; it can be a paradigm shift away from consumerism and toward a producer-based economy.  An economy of individuals, that is, who get their core satisfaction from producing goods and services themselves vs. finding satisfaction in consumption alone because their jobs have left them profoundly wanting. You see, today, most people choose their career at the conjunction of “what they are good at” and “what pays the most,” with little consideration for doing what they love.  But the same Applied AI that’s driving job-killing automation can simultaneously help individuals follow their entrepreneurial dreams.  Dreams that are tied to a third circle in the Venn diagram: “doing what they love.” The ability for vastly more people to do work they love without having to be experts in every aspect of business could fuel a revolution toward a producer-based economy.  An economy made up of millions of individuals who are doing what they love is a welcomed change that AI is helping make real.  In that sense, I say bring on the AI. Afterword – This morning we had our panel discussion on “when AI will change our lives,” at Fortune Brainstorm Tech at the Aspen Institute in Colorado.  The hour was moderated by Fortune editor Stacey Higginbotham and with me on the panel was Guru Banavar, Vice President, Cognitive Computing, IBM Research; Oren Jacob, CEO, ToyTalk; Amit Mital, CTO, Symantec; Shivon Zilis, Partner, Bloomberg Beta and Adam Nash, CEO, Wealthfront. It was a fascinating talk that I hope everyone will be able to see online eventually.   Not surprisingly, the hour served to strengthen my view that the only AI worth talking about today (unless you’re deep in the trenches of Google’s X Lab or the like) is Applied AI.  When we talked about Strong AI, opinions on what our future might look like and when that future might happen oscillated to extremes.  It was only when we brought the conversation to AAI that we could agree on the clear benefits and harms happening from the advance of this technology. Photo by: Adobe

Your Digital Privacy Is Under Attack, Again

It’s hard to pick up a paper, or an iPad, without reading about some bit of privacy that Americans have lost—or given up—in exchange for one convenience or another. It’s rare however that such an egregious attack on our privacy, like the one underway against every website owner in the world today and in the future, can march forward so quietly and without contest. The battlefront is inside ICANN (the global body that regulates website domain names) and a powerful group of intellectual property lobbyists who are pushing for new rules that attack the very heart of digital privacy rights on the Web. Here’s the issue. Historically, individuals and businesses who register a domain name can use privacy services that keep their personal information confidential. The private details needed to register a site, including home addresses and phone numbers, are currently held in confidence with the domain provider and only shared with outside parties under narrow circumstances, such as a legal warrant or subpoena. It’s a process that works well to balance privacy protections with law enforcement’s need to root out bad players who would use the Internet for criminal activity. The new proposal, drafted and lobbied for by lawyers from the film and music industry, is designed to give them special access to a website owner’s confidential information so they can identify people they suspect of copyright and trademark violations without “all the hassle” of privacy protections. Though that’s unacceptable in itself, the proposed rules are far more reaching. Under the new system, domain providers like GoDaddy would be required to turn over a customer’s contact information to anyone who makes targeted claims against a website owner—without a subpoena, search warrant, or due process of any kind. And when I say anyone, I mean anyone. Estranged spouses, business competitors, rogue states and clandestine government agencies will all have unfettered access, without need for a single shred of verifiable evidence of wrongdoing. The doors to your confidential information will be effectively propped wide open. Make no mistake, our current domain privacy protections matter for the welfare and safety of anyone who does, or ever will own a website. Domain privacy protects the security of shelters that need to keep their physical locations confidential to safeguard abused women and children. It protects the anonymity of political activist and whistle-blowers around the world who speak out online at great personal risk to themselves and their families. It protects bloggers and Internet personalities from stalkers. And it protects home-based Internet businesses who don’t have the means to secure their assets and inventories to the same degree as brick-and-mortar operations—to name just a few. As CEO of the world’s largest domain registrar and Web host, I want to make it abundantly clear that we do not allow our customers to use our domain privacy services as a shield for criminal or other unlawful activity. We do everything in our power to help law enforcement and intellectual property owners do their jobs—but they must follow a proper legal and evidence-based process. The overwhelming majority of online activity is legal and legitimate—and the newly proposed rules would treat all website owners as guilty first until proven innocent. Though admittedly convenient for lawyers and governments, this policy is as un-American as anything I can imagine. The good news is that it’s not too late to change ICANN’s course. ICANN has opened a window for public comment on this program, and is seeking input from the public. You can email ICANN directly at comments-ppsai-initial-05may15@icann.org or easier yet, you can sign the online petition to protect domain privacy at savedomainprivacy.org. ICANN has set a deadline of July 7, 2015, so the window to act is small. Though our privacy rights seem to be under constant attack, this is one fight we can win if each of us is moved to action. I’d ask everyone reading today to consider what’s at risk. Even if you don’t have a website yourself, your favorite local business, your local charity or your local church almost certainly does. Please help to protect your rights and theirs by sending ICANN a strong message to preserve domain privacy or by signing the online petition to demand the same. PHOTO BY: Versus.com

Your Digital Privacy Is Under Attack, Again

It’s hard to pick up a paper, or an iPad, without reading about some bit of privacy that Americans have lost—or given up—in exchange for one convenience or another. It’s rare however that such an egregious attack on our privacy, like the one underway against every website owner in the world today and in the future, can march forward so quietly and without contest. The battlefront is inside ICANN (the global body that regulates website domain names) and a powerful group of intellectual property lobbyists who are pushing for new rules that attack the very heart of digital privacy rights on the Web. Here’s the issue. Historically, individuals and businesses who register a domain name can use privacy services that keep their personal information confidential. The private details needed to register a site, including home addresses and phone numbers, are currently held in confidence with the domain provider and only shared with outside parties under narrow circumstances, such as a legal warrant or subpoena. It’s a process that works well to balance privacy protections with law enforcement’s need to root out bad players who would use the Internet for criminal activity. The new proposal, drafted and lobbied for by lawyers from the film and music industry, is designed to give them special access to a website owner’s confidential information so they can identify people they suspect of copyright and trademark violations without “all the hassle” of privacy protections. Though that’s unacceptable in itself, the proposed rules are far more reaching. Under the new system, domain providers like GoDaddy would be required to turn over a customer’s contact information to anyone who makes targeted claims against a website owner—without a subpoena, search warrant, or due process of any kind. And when I say anyone, I mean anyone. Estranged spouses, business competitors, rogue states and clandestine government agencies will all have unfettered access, without need for a single shred of verifiable evidence of wrongdoing. The doors to your confidential information will be effectively propped wide open. Make no mistake, our current domain privacy protections matter for the welfare and safety of anyone who does, or ever will own a website. Domain privacy protects the security of shelters that need to keep their physical locations confidential to safeguard abused women and children. It protects the anonymity of political activist and whistle-blowers around the world who speak out online at great personal risk to themselves and their families. It protects bloggers and Internet personalities from stalkers. And it protects home-based Internet businesses who don’t have the means to secure their assets and inventories to the same degree as brick-and-mortar operations—to name just a few. As CEO of the world’s largest domain registrar and Web host, I want to make it abundantly clear that we do not allow our customers to use our domain privacy services as a shield for criminal or other unlawful activity. We do everything in our power to help law enforcement and intellectual property owners do their jobs—but they must follow a proper legal and evidence-based process. The overwhelming majority of online activity is legal and legitimate—and the newly proposed rules would treat all website owners as guilty first until proven innocent. Though admittedly convenient for lawyers and governments, this policy is as un-American as anything I can imagine. The good news is that it’s not too late to change ICANN’s course. ICANN has opened a window for public comment on this program, and is seeking input from the public. You can email ICANN directly at comments-ppsai-initial-05may15@icann.org or easier yet, you can sign the online petition to protect domain privacy at savedomainprivacy.org. ICANN has set a deadline of July 7, 2015, so the window to act is small. Though our privacy rights seem to be under constant attack, this is one fight we can win if each of us is moved to action. I’d ask everyone reading today to consider what’s at risk. Even if you don’t have a website yourself, your favorite local business, your local charity or your local church almost certainly does. Please help to protect your rights and theirs by sending ICANN a strong message to preserve domain privacy or by signing the online petition to demand the same. PHOTO BY: Versus.com

“Who” You Are Always Trumps “What” You Are

…but you shouldn’t wait ’til the end to find that out.Yesterday morning I delivered the commencement keynote for Cal Poly’s class of 2015 engineers.  Beyond simply being a privilege and an honor to talk to this group, it’s also a pretty huge responsibility – and I wanted to leave them with some bit of wisdom that was as far from trivial as I could manifest.  Life is short and we only get one chance to get it right.  Here were my thoughts on how we’ll be remembered: Like many commencement speakers before me, I toiled over what pithy message to deliver that might ring true as you enter this next phase of your life.  You see, as a graduation commencement speaker, one is supposed to impart some few nuggets of wisdom that will cause the collective “you” to reflect on your own personal road ahead.  My job today is to light the fuse that will send each of you out in the world like 1,000’s of sky rockets – burning bright and reaching yet unseen heights. So what was the age old and strikingly sage advice that sprang to my mind? Absolutely nothing.  Nope – nothing – I was a completely empty vessel.  But you know how sometimes when you’re on that edge of sleep and awake, and you have this moment of lucidity that causes you to bolt upright and scratch down your thoughts?  That didn’t happen either. There’s a near infinite list of “deep thoughts” I could share with you about what you should do with your lives – but you long ago set the course and speed of “what” you’ll be doing after today.  Words from me, however salient, on “what” you should do with your lives would simply come too late.  Yup, that ship has sailed. For many of you, however, the question of “who” you will be in life is still not answered.  This morning I want to contrast for you the value “who” – you – are versus “what” – you – are.  I want to impress upon you just how wrong our priorities are between the two – and how much that contrast in value can (or has) already affected your life. I can’t help but notice, on a day like today, that we as a people tend to celebrate life events marking “what we are,” but rarely, if ever, do we celebrate “who we are” – when, in fact, “who” is vastly more important.  Think about this for just a minute.  We celebrate graduations from College, High School, Junior High School, and Elementary School. I even know parents who are going to kindergarten and preschool graduation ceremonies – giddy about the transition to the next “what” their children are to become. We celebrate birthdays, weddings, promotions, victories, retirements, and inaugurations.  We celebrate the passing of a phase or an accomplishment that places you in a new category of “what you are” but we don’t celebrate “who”.  And you know – the only place that I’ve seen “who” celebrated and I mean really celebrated, where human qualities like courage, empathy, perseverance, caring, or sense of humor, are at a funeral or retirement party, both of which are a little too late to really matter. As I stand here today, we’ve gathered to celebrate an achievement that places you in a whole new demographic.  The next time you’re filling out an application for a job, a credit card, a home loan, car loan, or the census for that matter, you can check a box that says “college graduate.”  Now, I don’t mean in any way to trivialize the accomplishment of graduating from this outstanding institution.  In fact, graduating from Cal Poly is a huge triumph and I want to acknowledge first the massive work it took – both to get here and to complete your programs.  I know you’ve worked your ass off to get a seat in those chairs today.  I know intimately the sacrifices you’ve made – I’ve made ‘em myself – and each of you have great cause to celebrate. But, I don’t want the following to be lost on any of you.  This new category of “what you are”, the holder of a degree from a prestigious institution, has vastly less importance and bearing on your future than “who” you are as a person.  Who you are is what drove you to reach this event: this outcome.  Who you are is how you’re going to accomplish the rest of your life.  “Who you are” is the thing that really matters.  It’s the thing that will drive you to your next life event – your next “what”. Now, when you’re in a society that, to all outward appearances, values the “whats” in life more than “whos,” early decisions at macro levels are pretty easy to make.  College student:  That was a pretty easy one.  The value that you and society place as a whole on being a college student was in harmony.  College Graduate, this one is easy too – the value to you and society is harmonious.  The “what” in achieving a degree didn’t stand in sharp contrast with society’s opinion of value. Though your challenges at Cal Poly have undoubtedly been daunting at times, your choices, all in all, have been easy. From here on out, from this day forward, it gets a lot harder.  From here it gets personal.  From here choices won’t be so clear.  From here, life will come at you like a whirling dervish – all fists and elbows. Over time, the choices of “who” you’ll be will write the story of “you” in an ink far more indelible than the calligraphy drying on your diplomas. If “who” you are as a person has been trivial up until today, it won’t be when you wake up tomorrow.  I worry that many of you will get caught up in a vortex of “what” decisions and only discover “who” you are retrospectively – only after you’ve become someone you don’t recognize, someone you don’t like, someone you’re not proud of, as you so deservingly are today.  And that’s a legit totally worry.  I’ve seen it. And unfortunately, it happens so often that the odds against you are staggering.  You’ve been training for “whats,” practicing for “whats,” collecting ribbons, trophies, plaques and diplomas for the “whats” of your life at a steady pace.  It’s “what” you know—to abuse the pun.  But if you continue to go through life focused primarily on what you want to be, versus who you want to be, you’ll find yourself on a road traveling farther and farther away from happiness – and ya know, happiness matters. So where are you now?  Have you had that courageous conversation with yourself about who you are and what you ought to be doing because of it?  If not, you’re in a kind-a scary place right now.  It’s another cross road of sorts, but unfortunately one with no simple roadmap to your next decision.  The degrees of freedom are vast and you’re gonna have to make some decisions without the benefit of “harmonious societal affirmation” for the path you’ll choose. To be truly happy, the decisions you make from here on out had better be built around “who you are” and not what you think is valued.  And you know, as a society we haven’t prepared you to think like this… [Note: At this darkest point in my oration I picked up my notes and briefly feigned walking off stage saying “so best of luck with that, thank you, and good day” just to lighten the mood.]  Ok, just kidding—it’s not all gloom and despair ahead.  The first bit of good news is that the idea of “who vs what” decisions is not a hard concept to get your head around – let me give you a personal example of what I mean: Like you, I made a “what” based decision out of high school to go to college.   I decided to study business because it was expected of me to pick a “path of success.”  After just one semester in business school (where I was failing some classes and hating the ones I wasn’t failing) I made a “who” based decision that was an extremely tough decision for me. I became a fine arts major.  I loved art and design and had always been pretty good at it – but come on, art?  My father and grandfather, both attorneys, were not happy with me and couldn’t believe I would do this.  This was about me uniquely and actually broke their concept of what I was even in college for.  In fact, my father didn’t know “what” I was anymore.  “You’re going to college to become an artist?  You’re throwing your life away, that kind of thing.”  It was an exceedingly uncomfortable time for me, but business school was a lie and art was the truth.  It’s “who” I was and ultimately that decision was oh so right. From that single decision, and some lucky twists and turns, I ended up at Xerox designing and digitizing some of the first typefaces for computers and laser printers while I was still obtaining my fine arts degree.  I was passionate about it.  Truly passionate.  My father and grandfather couldn’t believe that I was working somewhere other than a restaurant, convenience store or a renaissance fair – where an artist most likely would be working.  A cascading set of what in retrospect seem like pretty logical “who” based decisions led me to design systems that created typographic software, to build a business that made money in the creation of typographic software, to win the Xerox Chairman’s award for innovation, and finally led me back to grad school where I got my MBA. This time around, in business school, I found a new passion for business that simply wasn’t in me as an undergrad.  I still can’t tell you what changed in me, or my environment…but in grad school I found more of “myself” than ever before.  That discovery drove me into a deeper career in software development at Microsoft and then Yahoo! where I was very fortunate to build products that changed the lives of millions of people around the world – just by doing what I truly loved.  I’m as passionate about life-changing technology today as I was about art in my youth—and I consider technology an art of its own. You know it’s crazy.  I’m now the CEO of GoDaddy, the world’s largest technology platform for small business.  We bring in nearly two billion dollars in revenue annually, serve more than 13 million small business customers in 37 countries and use technology to fuel the passions and ideas of people around the world to start and run their own ventures.  What an incredible charge. I’m in heaven.  We went public just two months ago and I was the floor of the New York Stock Exchange launching the company.  It was surreal. Now, as wacky and ridiculous as it sounds, and what my father now understands, is that if I wouldn’t have had the courage to make a “who” based decision to be an art major in college, I wouldn’t be the CEO of GoDaddy today, and none of that would have happened.  All of this – because I was lucky enough to make a “who” based decision very early.   All because I had a very scary conversation with myself about who I am and what I wanted to do with my life because of it.  Now, I could have made that decision later on – but I might have had so much investment in “what” based decisions that I wouldn’t have been able to divest.  I’m not telling you that I completely cast aside “what” based decisions – what I’m saying is that answering the “who I am” question actually drove my “what” and that is what I hope you can all take away from this monologue. There are obvious times in life where you have the ability to pause, and take an introspective look at “who you are” and what path you might take because of it.  You are there right now and I suggest you take advantage of it.  That robe and mortar board you are wearing are signals that you are at a crossroads.  Not every crossroads comes with a robe and mortar board, so you’re going to have to look a little harder for your next one. Through my career I’ve had one-on-one conversations with folks about their careers on a weekly basis.  Most of these folks have a “what based” end point in mind when we’re talking…and it’s usually “the next big job” they’ve conjured in their head. These folks ask me what the key is to building their career is – what’s the next thing they ought to be doing.  And I usually frustrate them by answering with questions:  What are you passionate about?  What sends you springing out of bed in the morning?   What is it that brings out the absolute best in you?  What is it that inspires you?  What do you want to do for the world?  What would you do if money was no constraint?  What do you want to be remembered for?  What do you want your legacy to be?   Think about these questions – the answer to these questions are all about who you are and may help you discover what you want to be and what your next step should look like. So today, you’re here to celebrate one of the great “whats” of our society and your life.  You are the 2015 graduating class of Cal Poly and that is a huge deal.  One worthy of praise and celebration.  I congratulate you on this enormous accomplishment. But please, do me this one favor before you or your families leave town, before you start your career, before you start driving to your next “what”, before your retirement, and please, before you’re eulogized. Please. Please celebrate who you are and weigh it with greater importance than what you are.  Celebrate your courage, celebrate your perseverance, your empathy, your wit, your intelligence, your caring. Celebrate your passion.  Celebrate your sense of humor through all of that and celebrate your unrelenting drive that has made this day possible. I celebrate each and every one of you.   Congratulations Class of 2015 – and best of luck. Thank you!

“Who” You Are Always Trumps “What” You Are

…but you shouldn’t wait ’til the end to find that out.Yesterday morning I delivered the commencement keynote for Cal Poly’s class of 2015 engineers.  Beyond simply being a privilege and an honor to talk to this group, it’s also a pretty huge responsibility – and I wanted to leave them with some bit of wisdom that was as far from trivial as I could manifest.  Life is short and we only get one chance to get it right.  Here were my thoughts on how we’ll be remembered: Like many commencement speakers before me, I toiled over what pithy message to deliver that might ring true as you enter this next phase of your life.  You see, as a graduation commencement speaker, one is supposed to impart some few nuggets of wisdom that will cause the collective “you” to reflect on your own personal road ahead.  My job today is to light the fuse that will send each of you out in the world like 1,000′s of sky rockets – burning bright and reaching yet unseen heights. So what was the age old and strikingly sage advice that sprang to my mind? Absolutely nothing.  Nope – nothing – I was a completely empty vessel.  But you know how sometimes when you’re on that edge of sleep and awake, and you have this moment of lucidity that causes you to bolt upright and scratch down your thoughts?  That didn’t happen either. There’s a near infinite list of “deep thoughts” I could share with you about what you should do with your lives – but you long ago set the course and speed of “what” you’ll be doing after today.  Words from me, however salient, on “what” you should do with your lives would simply come too late.  Yup, that ship has sailed. For many of you, however, the question of “who” you will be in life is still not answered.  This morning I want to contrast for you the value “who” – you – are versus “what” – you – are.  I want to impress upon you just how wrong our priorities are between the two – and how much that contrast in value can (or has) already affected your life. I can’t help but notice, on a day like today, that we as a people tend to celebrate life events marking “what we are,” but rarely, if ever, do we celebrate “who we are” – when, in fact, “who” is vastly more important.  Think about this for just a minute.  We celebrate graduations from College, High School, Junior High School, and Elementary School. I even know parents who are going to kindergarten and preschool graduation ceremonies – giddy about the transition to the next “what” their children are to become. We celebrate birthdays, weddings, promotions, victories, retirements, and inaugurations.  We celebrate the passing of a phase or an accomplishment that places you in a new category of “what you are” but we don’t celebrate “who”.  And you know – the only place that I’ve seen “who” celebrated and I mean really celebrated, where human qualities like courage, empathy, perseverance, caring, or sense of humor, are at a funeral or retirement party, both of which are a little too late to really matter. As I stand here today, we’ve gathered to celebrate an achievement that places you in a whole new demographic.  The next time you’re filling out an application for a job, a credit card, a home loan, car loan, or the census for that matter, you can check a box that says “college graduate.”  Now, I don’t mean in any way to trivialize the accomplishment of graduating from this outstanding institution.  In fact, graduating from Cal Poly is a huge triumph and I want to acknowledge first the massive work it took – both to get here and to complete your programs.  I know you’ve worked your ass off to get a seat in those chairs today.  I know intimately the sacrifices you’ve made – I’ve made ‘em myself – and each of you have great cause to celebrate. But, I don’t want the following to be lost on any of you.  This new category of “what you are”, the holder of a degree from a prestigious institution, has vastly less importance and bearing on your future than “who” you are as a person.  Who you are is what drove you to reach this event: this outcome.  Who you are is how you’re going to accomplish the rest of your life.  “Who you are” is the thing that really matters.  It’s the thing that will drive you to your next life event – your next “what”. Now, when you’re in a society that, to all outward appearances, values the “whats” in life more than “whos,” early decisions at macro levels are pretty easy to make.  College student:  That was a pretty easy one.  The value that you and society place as a whole on being a college student was in harmony.  College Graduate, this one is easy too – the value to you and society is harmonious.  The “what” in achieving a degree didn’t stand in sharp contrast with society’s opinion of value. Though your challenges at Cal Poly have undoubtedly been daunting at times, your choices, all in all, have been easy. From here on out, from this day forward, it gets a lot harder.  From here it gets personal.  From here choices won’t be so clear.  From here, life will come at you like a whirling dervish – all fists and elbows. Over time, the choices of “who” you’ll be will write the story of “you” in an ink far more indelible than the calligraphy drying on your diplomas. If “who” you are as a person has been trivial up until today, it won’t be when you wake up tomorrow.  I worry that many of you will get caught up in a vortex of “what” decisions and only discover “who” you are retrospectively – only after you’ve become someone you don’t recognize, someone you don’t like, someone you’re not proud of, as you so deservingly are today.  And that’s a legit totally worry.  I’ve seen it. And unfortunately, it happens so often that the odds against you are staggering.  You’ve been training for “whats,” practicing for “whats,” collecting ribbons, trophies, plaques and diplomas for the “whats” of your life at a steady pace.  It’s “what” you know—to abuse the pun.  But if you continue to go through life focused primarily on what you want to be, versus who you want to be, you’ll find yourself on a road traveling farther and farther away from happiness – and ya know, happiness matters. So where are you now?  Have you had that courageous conversation with yourself about who you are and what you ought to be doing because of it?  If not, you’re in a kind-a scary place right now.  It’s another cross road of sorts, but unfortunately one with no simple roadmap to your next decision.  The degrees of freedom are vast and you’re gonna have to make some decisions without the benefit of “harmonious societal affirmation” for the path you’ll choose. To be truly happy, the decisions you make from here on out had better be built around “who you are” and not what you think is valued.  And you know, as a society we haven’t prepared you to think like this… [Note: At this darkest point in my oration I picked up my notes and briefly feigned walking off stage saying “so best of luck with that, thank you, and good day” just to lighten the mood.]  Ok, just kidding—it’s not all gloom and despair ahead.  The first bit of good news is that the idea of “who vs what” decisions is not a hard concept to get your head around – let me give you a personal example of what I mean: Like you, I made a “what” based decision out of high school to go to college.   I decided to study business because it was expected of me to pick a “path of success.”  After just one semester in business school (where I was failing some classes and hating the ones I wasn’t failing) I made a “who” based decision that was an extremely tough decision for me. I became a fine arts major.  I loved art and design and had always been pretty good at it – but come on, art?  My father and grandfather, both attorneys, were not happy with me and couldn’t believe I would do this.  This was about me uniquely and actually broke their concept of what I was even in college for.  In fact, my father didn’t know “what” I was anymore.  “You’re going to college to become an artist?  You’re throwing your life away, that kind of thing.”  It was an exceedingly uncomfortable time for me, but business school was a lie and art was the truth.  It’s “who” I was and ultimately that decision was oh so right. From that single decision, and some lucky twists and turns, I ended up at Xerox designing and digitizing some of the first typefaces for computers and laser printers while I was still obtaining my fine arts degree.  I was passionate about it.  Truly passionate.  My father and grandfather couldn’t believe that I was working somewhere other than a restaurant, convenience store or a renaissance fair – where an artist most likely would be working.  A cascading set of what in retrospect seem like pretty logical “who” based decisions led me to design systems that created typographic software, to build a business that made money in the creation of typographic software, to win the Xerox Chairman’s award for innovation, and finally led me back to grad school where I got my MBA. This time around, in business school, I found a new passion for business that simply wasn’t in me as an undergrad.  I still can’t tell you what changed in me, or my environment…but in grad school I found more of “myself” than ever before.  That discovery drove me into a deeper career in software development at Microsoft and then Yahoo! where I was very fortunate to build products that changed the lives of millions of people around the world – just by doing what I truly loved.  I’m as passionate about life-changing technology today as I was about art in my youth—and I consider technology an art of its own. You know it’s crazy.  I’m now the CEO of GoDaddy, the world’s largest technology platform for small business.  We bring in nearly two billion dollars in revenue annually, serve more than 13 million small business customers in 37 countries and use technology to fuel the passions and ideas of people around the world to start and run their own ventures.  What an incredible charge. I’m in heaven.  We went public just two months ago and I was the floor of the New York Stock Exchange launching the company.  It was surreal. Now, as wacky and ridiculous as it sounds, and what my father now understands, is that if I wouldn’t have had the courage to make a “who” based decision to be an art major in college, I wouldn’t be the CEO of GoDaddy today, and none of that would have happened.  All of this – because I was lucky enough to make a “who” based decision very early.   All because I had a very scary conversation with myself about who I am and what I wanted to do with my life because of it.  Now, I could have made that decision later on – but I might have had so much investment in “what” based decisions that I wouldn’t have been able to divest.  I’m not telling you that I completely cast aside “what” based decisions – what I’m saying is that answering the “who I am” question actually drove my “what” and that is what I hope you can all take away from this monologue. There are obvious times in life where you have the ability to pause, and take an introspective look at “who you are” and what path you might take because of it.  You are there right now and I suggest you take advantage of it.  That robe and mortar board you are wearing are signals that you are at a crossroads.  Not every crossroads comes with a robe and mortar board, so you’re going to have to look a little harder for your next one. Through my career I’ve had one-on-one conversations with folks about their careers on a weekly basis.  Most of these folks have a “what based” end point in mind when we’re talking…and it’s usually “the next big job” they’ve conjured in their head. These folks ask me what the key is to building their career is – what’s the next thing they ought to be doing.  And I usually frustrate them by answering with questions:  What are you passionate about?  What sends you springing out of bed in the morning?   What is it that brings out the absolute best in you?  What is it that inspires you?  What do you want to do for the world?  What would you do if money was no constraint?  What do you want to be remembered for?  What do you want your legacy to be?   Think about these questions – the answer to these questions are all about who you are and may help you discover what you want to be and what your next step should look like. So today, you’re here to celebrate one of the great “whats” of our society and your life.  You are the 2015 graduating class of Cal Poly and that is a huge deal.  One worthy of praise and celebration.  I congratulate you on this enormous accomplishment. But please, do me this one favor before you or your families leave town, before you start your career, before you start driving to your next “what”, before your retirement, and please, before you’re eulogized. Please. Please celebrate who you are and weigh it with greater importance than what you are.  Celebrate your courage, celebrate your perseverance, your empathy, your wit, your intelligence, your caring. Celebrate your passion.  Celebrate your sense of humor through all of that and celebrate your unrelenting drive that has made this day possible. I celebrate each and every one of you.   Congratulations Class of 2015 – and best of luck. Thank you!

Six Bits of Wisdom For the Aspiring Entrepreneur

This week, Fortune Magazine (as part of their Leadership Insider network series) asked me “What advice would you give someone looking to start their own business?”  You can read the edited version here, but as it happens, I had a bit more to say on the subject than Fortune’s format would allow.  I’ve posted my full length response below: The dream of starting your own business, of being your own boss and becoming financially independent is more within reach today than at any other time in history.  Today, many businesses can get started with little to no capital thanks to the Internet and thrive without outside investment.  Business are seeing  barriers to entry crumble—from product differentiation, distribution and access to analytics—as new low cost cloud-based services emerge. Yet, even with risks lower than ever and rewards closer in sight, the idea of starting a business of your own is a daunting one.  There comes a dizziness of freedom with the very thought of striking out on your own: what to do first, what to do next and what if I fail?  That alone is enough to keep most people on the couch. In my years working in big tech and consulting for businesses large and small, I’ve found that there are six basic principles that successful entrepreneurs know.  Of course, there is no ready-paved road to success, but anyone hoping to start their own venture will be off to a good start with these values in mind. Know your customer.  To put it simply, there is nothing more important in business than to understand who your customer is and how you can serve them better than anyone else.  That seemingly simple insight is far more critical than the most eloquent business plan, the best location in town or an overabundance of startup funding.  It might be because it’s so obvious that is so often overlooked.  When I hear a business pitch that says “our target customer is every adult in America,” or the like, I know trouble is ahead.  Your customers will never be everyone and will likely not be most people.  Understanding exactly who wants, values, can pay for and will choose your service over another’s is hard work.  It will require understanding (or great intuition) of your customers psychology coupled with honest introspection on who you are as a provider of service. Some entrepreneurs are seduced by the idea that knowing their competition is just as good, and far easier, than doing the work to truly know their customer.  This shortcut puts them in the role of perpetual follower and pins their success on how fast they can follow instead of how well they can serve.  In my experience it’s a highly unrewarding way to do business, at best, and an outright recipe for failure at worst.  The flip side is to go beyond just knowing your customer to loving your customer.  The ups and downs of running your own business is taxing.  Loving what you do—and who you do it for—can make all the difference in the world when it comes to getting through challenging times. Know what planning makes a difference.  Everyone starting a business should have a business plan—that’s a given.  But knowing how much to plan and when to just dive in can be tough.  You will never have a 100 percent clear view of your market, total confidence in economic trends or certainty on your returns.  Don’t let that be an excuse for your failure to launch.  Know your customer, understand your costs, lay out reasonable financial projections and get moving.  It’s doubtful that there will ever be a vastly better time than now to make your dream happen. Know when to be flexible and when to stand firm. This is after all your dream, not the bank or the venture fund’s dream.  It will be your hard work to make it a success and ultimately your responsibility if the venture fails.  If you’ve done your homework on who your customer is and how you can uniquely serve them, don’t give up on that idea quickly.  That said, if you’re hitting brick walls with every pitch you make, there’s a possibility that your idea may need major tuning.  While I wouldn’t recommend that you blindly follow every piece of advice you’re given, you should take in every input and consider it closely.  Being able to listen, be persuaded and adjust your plans accordingly is a good sign that you’re mature enough to lead your venture to success. Know what to worry about. Naysayers, on the other hand, are in a category of their own. They aren’t giving advice, they are stealing hope.  The number of naysayers that you’ll come across when starting your business will be surprising and who they are will often be disheartening.  Your parents, siblings, close friends and trusted coworkers will all chime in on your plans.  If they’re only radiating fear or negativity, you have no option but to ignore them and move ahead. I’m not suggesting that you won’t worry—you’ll worry a lot.  You might spend some nights crying yourself to sleep or not sleeping at all.  Your business will likely stress you out more than anything else in your life.  You can however, get aggressively clear on what you can control in your business and what you can’t.  If it’s out of your hands, toss it aside like the voice of naysayers and focus on what you can impact with your attention.  Make lists, ruthlessly prioritize and practice blocking out the noise. Know where to get help. Just because you can start a business with no capital doesn’t mean you should start your business with no capital.  The power of the Internet to lower barriers to entry is incredible, but it also enables you to half-commit. Don’t mistake timidity for thrift. If your business plan calls for investment, do the work to find that investment. That exercise will also help you hone your strategy, test out your assumptions and it will give you a ton of confidence moving into the next stages of getting started. In running your own business, you’ll wear many hats. On any given day you’ll act as CEO, CFO, CMO, CTO and more. In many cases, finding great technology partners will be even more valuable than finding seed money.  You’ll need a dynamic website and listings, professional email, connected scheduling and productivity tools, basic CRM and marketing tools, online advertising, deals, offerings and payments, bookkeeping and more.  Look for technology that is priced to grow with you as your needs grow.  If you look closely, you’ll find technology that can leverage predictive analytics to provide insights so you don’t need to be an expert in every role.  With cloud-based services, it’s now possible to offload much of your marketing, financial and technology work to brilliant algorithms.  With the right technology partners, managing your business, even if you’re doing it alone, won’t be as lonely as in the past.  It’s a smart move and one that you can get up and running for just a few dollars a month—which will be important in the early stages of your business while your books are all still in the red. Know yourself.  Are you a self-motivated individual?  Are you resilient to long stretches of taxing and seemingly unrewarding work?  Are your buoyant against angst and despair?  Do you have the time to invest in yourself and your dream?  Can you afford to work for no pay for the foreseeable future? Do you know why you want to start a business and is it a noble reason?  These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself and honestly answer before you strike out on your own. You don’t need to be superhuman to start your own business, but you do need to be super honest with yourself.  If you are looking for a fast way to get rich or a way to look impressive to your peers, it’s unlikely you’ll find success at the end of your journey.  The businesses I’ve seen succeed are ones fueled by creative ingenuity, passionate about their ideas and focused on delivering exceptional service in their community. As our world becomes increasingly automated, I believe we’ll see a growing segment of our population start small, independent ventures that tap into their passions and creativity.  For anyone thinking of starting a business today, I hope these six principles get you thinking about—and moving toward—your goals. Photo: WebBrush

Six Bits of Wisdom For the Aspiring Entrepreneur

This week, Fortune Magazine (as part of their Leadership Insider network series) asked me “What advice would you give someone looking to start their own business?”  You can read the edited version here, but as it happens, I had a bit more to say on the subject than Fortune’s format would allow.  I’ve posted my full length response below: The dream of starting your own business, of being your own boss and becoming financially independent is more within reach today than at any other time in history.  Today, many businesses can get started with little to no capital thanks to the Internet and thrive without outside investment.  Business are seeing  barriers to entry crumble—from product differentiation, distribution and access to analytics—as new low cost cloud-based services emerge. Yet, even with risks lower than ever and rewards closer in sight, the idea of starting a business of your own is a daunting one.  There comes a dizziness of freedom with the very thought of striking out on your own: what to do first, what to do next and what if I fail?  That alone is enough to keep most people on the couch. In my years working in big tech and consulting for businesses large and small, I’ve found that there are six basic principles that successful entrepreneurs know.  Of course, there is no ready-paved road to success, but anyone hoping to start their own venture will be off to a good start with these values in mind. Know your customer.  To put it simply, there is nothing more important in business than to understand who your customer is and how you can serve them better than anyone else.  That seemingly simple insight is far more critical than the most eloquent business plan, the best location in town or an overabundance of startup funding.  It might be because it’s so obvious that is so often overlooked.  When I hear a business pitch that says “our target customer is every adult in America,” or the like, I know trouble is ahead.  Your customers will never be everyone and will likely not be most people.  Understanding exactly who wants, values, can pay for and will choose your service over another’s is hard work.  It will require understanding (or great intuition) of your customers psychology coupled with honest introspection on who you are as a provider of service. Some entrepreneurs are seduced by the idea that knowing their competition is just as good, and far easier, than doing the work to truly know their customer.  This shortcut puts them in the role of perpetual follower and pins their success on how fast they can follow instead of how well they can serve.  In my experience it’s a highly unrewarding way to do business, at best, and an outright recipe for failure at worst.  The flip side is to go beyond just knowing your customer to loving your customer.  The ups and downs of running your own business is taxing.  Loving what you do—and who you do it for—can make all the difference in the world when it comes to getting through challenging times. Know what planning makes a difference.  Everyone starting a business should have a business plan—that’s a given.  But knowing how much to plan and when to just dive in can be tough.  You will never have a 100 percent clear view of your market, total confidence in economic trends or certainty on your returns.  Don’t let that be an excuse for your failure to launch.  Know your customer, understand your costs, lay out reasonable financial projections and get moving.  It’s doubtful that there will ever be a vastly better time than now to make your dream happen. Know when to be flexible and when to stand firm. This is after all your dream, not the bank or the venture fund’s dream.  It will be your hard work to make it a success and ultimately your responsibility if the venture fails.  If you’ve done your homework on who your customer is and how you can uniquely serve them, don’t give up on that idea quickly.  That said, if you’re hitting brick walls with every pitch you make, there’s a possibility that your idea may need major tuning.  While I wouldn’t recommend that you blindly follow every piece of advice you’re given, you should take in every input and consider it closely.  Being able to listen, be persuaded and adjust your plans accordingly is a good sign that you’re mature enough to lead your venture to success. Know what to worry about. Naysayers, on the other hand, are in a category of their own. They aren’t giving advice, they are stealing hope.  The number of naysayers that you’ll come across when starting your business will be surprising and who they are will often be disheartening.  Your parents, siblings, close friends and trusted coworkers will all chime in on your plans.  If they’re only radiating fear or negativity, you have no option but to ignore them and move ahead. I’m not suggesting that you won’t worry—you’ll worry a lot.  You might spend some nights crying yourself to sleep or not sleeping at all.  Your business will likely stress you out more than anything else in your life.  You can however, get aggressively clear on what you can control in your business and what you can’t.  If it’s out of your hands, toss it aside like the voice of naysayers and focus on what you can impact with your attention.  Make lists, ruthlessly prioritize and practice blocking out the noise. Know where to get help. Just because you can start a business with no capital doesn’t mean you should start your business with no capital.  The power of the Internet to lower barriers to entry is incredible, but it also enables you to half-commit. Don’t mistake timidity for thrift. If your business plan calls for investment, do the work to find that investment. That exercise will also help you hone your strategy, test out your assumptions and it will give you a ton of confidence moving into the next stages of getting started. In running your own business, you’ll wear many hats. On any given day you’ll act as CEO, CFO, CMO, CTO and more. In many cases, finding great technology partners will be even more valuable than finding seed money.  You’ll need a dynamic website and listings, professional email, connected scheduling and productivity tools, basic CRM and marketing tools, online advertising, deals, offerings and payments, bookkeeping and more.  Look for technology that is priced to grow with you as your needs grow.  If you look closely, you’ll find technology that can leverage predictive analytics to provide insights so you don’t need to be an expert in every role.  With cloud-based services, it’s now possible to offload much of your marketing, financial and technology work to brilliant algorithms.  With the right technology partners, managing your business, even if you’re doing it alone, won’t be as lonely as in the past.  It’s a smart move and one that you can get up and running for just a few dollars a month—which will be important in the early stages of your business while your books are all still in the red. Know yourself.  Are you a self-motivated individual?  Are you resilient to long stretches of taxing and seemingly unrewarding work?  Are your buoyant against angst and despair?  Do you have the time to invest in yourself and your dream?  Can you afford to work for no pay for the foreseeable future? Do you know why you want to start a business and is it a noble reason?  These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself and honestly answer before you strike out on your own. You don’t need to be superhuman to start your own business, but you do need to be super honest with yourself.  If you are looking for a fast way to get rich or a way to look impressive to your peers, it’s unlikely you’ll find success at the end of your journey.  The businesses I’ve seen succeed are ones fueled by creative ingenuity, passionate about their ideas and focused on delivering exceptional service in their community. As our world becomes increasingly automated, I believe we’ll see a growing segment of our population start small, independent ventures that tap into their passions and creativity.  For anyone thinking of starting a business today, I hope these six principles get you thinking about—and moving toward—your goals. Photo: WebBrush

Ringing the Bell at the NYSE with Customers and Care

It’s hard not to be on cloud nine this week.  The ramp up to taking GoDaddy public has been invigorating, exhausting, and deeply educational.  Ringing the bell at the New York Stock exchange yesterday morning was the high-point of the week, but it wouldn’t have been quite so amazing without the people there to celebrate with and the people there to be celebrated. Since the photo above was taken, I’ve fielded a number of questions about who the people on the podium with me were and where were the other familiar faces of GoDaddy.  In short, the GoDaddy Board and our Senior Leadership Team were all on the floor of the NYSE to share in the celebration—but they didn’t take the podium.  That honor was reserved for GoDaddy customers and care reps that make up the heart and soul of our great company.  Serene Silva from Metalmorphosis Designs, Dave Cox from Digital Coconut, Kathy Fang from Fang Restaurant, Marc Rosenblum from Santa Cruz Ale Works and Chelle Stafford from recipe for fitness are just a few of the customers who came to New York to represent GoDaddy on our big day.  Candis Jones from Jones Market had the fun of the actual bell ringing and her excitement was nothing short of contagious. Also on the podium were a few of the best of the best when it comes to GoDaddy’s world-class customer care.  Kathryn McMillan, Desiree Bries and Lanie Dibos all flew out to New York to join our customers on the podium for the celebration. Yesterday is a day I’ll never forget and I want to thank all our customers and every GoDaddy employee for their passion and hard work that made a day like yesterday possible.

Ringing the Bell at the New York Stock Exchange

It’s hard not to be on cloud nine this week.  The ramp up to taking GoDaddy public has been invigorating, exhausting, and deeply educational.  Ringing the bell at the New York Stock exchange yesterday morning was the high-point of the week, but it wouldn’t have been quite so amazing without the people there to celebrate with and the people there to be celebrated. Since the photo above was taken, I’ve fielded a number of questions about who the people on the podium with me were and where were the other familiar faces of GoDaddy.  In short, the GoDaddy Board and our Senior Leadership Team were all on the floor of the NYSE to share in the celebration—but they didn’t take the podium.  That honor was reserved for GoDaddy customers and care reps that make up the heart and soul of our great company.  Serene Silva from Metalmorphosis Designs, Dave Cox from Digital Coconut, Kathy Fang from Fang Restaurant, Marc Rosenblum from Santa Cruz Ale Works and Chelle Stafford from recipe for fitness are just a few of the customers who came to New York to represent GoDaddy on our big day.  Candis Jones from Jones Market had the fun of the actual bell ringing and her excitement was nothing short of contagious. Also on the podium were a few of the best of the best when it comes to GoDaddy’s world-class customer care.  Kathryn McMillan, Desiree Bries and Lanie Dibos all flew out to New York to join our customers on the podium for the celebration. Yesterday is a day I’ll never forget and I want to thank all our customers and every GoDaddy employee for their passion and hard work that made a day like yesterday possible.

Catalyst and Cause – Parsing the Challenge of Gender in Tech

This morning it was announced that I was part of the executive producer team for the feature-length documentary “CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap,” which is set to premiere next month at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.  The film takes a critical look at why so many American women and minorities eschew careers in computer science, despite high paying and intellectually rewarding opportunities.  I’m incredibly humbled and proud to be amongst the ranks of Robin Hauser Reynolds and her production team in the mission to better understand the difficulties women face in tech.  Clearly articulating the challenge is the first true step to bridging the technology gender gap once and for all—and CODE moves us toward that goal in an engaging and artful way. For those who know me, my commitment to the CODE film will come as no surprise.  I’ve been a lifelong advocate for the advancement of women’s issues and a passionate supporter of equality for all—be it gender or any other physiological trait.  For those who only know me as CEO of GoDaddy, last month’s Fast Company article on GoDaddy’s transformation or the gender equality op-ed I penned in Fortune this winter will give you some helpful context. It’s a different article, however, that comes to mind as I think about the motivations behind my support for the CODE documentary.  Almost exactly a year ago today I had a brief conversation with activist Gloria Feldt that she subsequently published on her popular blog.  Gloria Feldt is the driving force behind “Take The Lead,” a women’s leadership movement to inspire and prepare women for senior leadership positions in Tech and other industries.  In her post, Gloria concluded, “At the root of social change is always the personal story, the most powerful driver in all realms.”  This exceptionally lucid observation has stuck with me to this day. My personal story is one I won’t linger on here today—it sums up to a life lived with strong, feminist women including my mother, my sister and my wife.  For many years I considered them the cause of my commitment to equality; but after my conversation with Gloria, I realized that they were the catalyst—which is a very important but very different thing.  The women in my life opened my eyes to the reality of a problem of which many people are still blind. Today, the cause of my support for gender equality isn’t any one person.  My motivations are twofold:  First, I understand that a world with more equality for all is a better world; and making the world a better place is a noble cause for my life.  Secondly, the progress and innovation in my industry is almost certainly held back by a lack of diverse thought.  Women are the dominant users of tech and I’ve come to understand that their insights in the development of technology is invaluable to the process.  Together, these two are strong influences in how I view and act in the word.  Unfortunately, I don’t know that I’d have reached the same point without the catalysts’ for change in my life—particularly from my sister Lori. I’ve heard it said in feminist conversations that “men shouldn’t need to have a mother, sister or daughter to ‘get it.’  The challenge of gender inequality is as clear as day if men would only look.”  But bias, particularly the subtle and unconscious kind we’re facing in tech, can obscure our view.   And if men don’t see a problem it will be incredibly difficult to motivate them to effect change in their behavior.  That’s where I believe the CODE film will help at scale. I’ve been fortunate to have a reasonably deep well of lived experience in the cause of gender equality—but I suspect that’s still rare among men.  For others without that life experience, we need to help them see and internalize the problem and inspire them to action.  In short, we need to create catalysts for them like my family was a catalyst for me.  Robin’s powerful look at the difficulties women face in tech can be that catalyst for millions of men. This documentary project brings with it the potential to attract a mainstream audience that few other works of its kind could accomplish.  CODE stands to inspire countless men to find their own personal story, and that’s worth every ounce of energy put toward its production.   With the Tribeca Film Festival now just a month away, I’m incredibly excited to see how it impacts our quest and I’m honored to contribute to, and be associated with, this great work. A footnote:  When it comes to gender diversity at GoDaddy, we’re of course not resting at my involvement with CODE.  GoDaddy is aggressively recruiting talented women from across the tech industry—from new grads to industry veterans.  If you’re interested, we have lots of opportunities in Seattle, the Bay Area, the Phoenix area and a few around the world.  We’re also working with the acclaimed Stanford Clayman Institute this year to help our employees uncover their unconscious biases and to discover their own catalysts for change.  As that gets underway I’ll share more on the program and its results. PHOTO: Nick Gentry  

Catalyst and Cause – Parsing the Challenge of Gender in Tech

This morning it was announced that I was part of the executive producer team for the feature-length documentary “CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap,” which is set to premiere next month at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.  The film takes a critical look at why so many American women and minorities eschew careers in computer science, despite high paying and intellectually rewarding opportunities.  I’m incredibly humbled and proud to be amongst the ranks of Robin Hauser Reynolds and her production team in the mission to better understand the difficulties women face in tech.  Clearly articulating the challenge is the first true step to bridging the technology gender gap once and for all—and CODE moves us toward that goal in an engaging and artful way. For those who know me, my commitment to the CODE film will come as no surprise.  I’ve been a lifelong advocate for the advancement of women’s issues and a passionate supporter of equality for all—be it gender or any other physiological trait.  For those who only know me as CEO of GoDaddy, last month’s Fast Company article on GoDaddy’s transformation or the gender equality op-ed I penned in Fortune this winter will give you some helpful context. It’s a different article, however, that comes to mind as I think about the motivations behind my support for the CODE documentary.  Almost exactly a year ago today I had a brief conversation with activist Gloria Feldt that she subsequently published on her popular blog.  Gloria Feldt is the driving force behind “Take The Lead,” a women’s leadership movement to inspire and prepare women for senior leadership positions in Tech and other industries.  In her post, Gloria concluded, “At the root of social change is always the personal story, the most powerful driver in all realms.”  This exceptionally lucid observation has stuck with me to this day. My personal story is one I won’t linger on here today—it sums up to a life lived with strong, feminist women including my mother, my sister and my wife.  For many years I considered them the cause of my commitment to equality; but after my conversation with Gloria, I realized that they were the catalyst—which is a very important but very different thing.  The women in my life opened my eyes to the reality of a problem of which many people are still blind. Today, the cause of my support for gender equality isn’t any one person.  My motivations are twofold:  First, I understand that a world with more equality for all is a better world; and making the world a better place is a noble cause for my life.  Secondly, the progress and innovation in my industry is almost certainly held back by a lack of diverse thought.  Women are the dominant users of tech and I’ve come to understand that their insights in the development of technology is invaluable to the process.  Together, these two are strong influences in how I view and act in the word.  Unfortunately, I don’t know that I’d have reached the same point without the catalysts’ for change in my life—particularly from my sister Lori. I’ve heard it said in feminist conversations that “men shouldn’t need to have a mother, sister or daughter to ‘get it.’  The challenge of gender inequality is as clear as day if men would only look.”  But bias, particularly the subtle and unconscious kind we’re facing in tech, can obscure our view.   And if men don’t see a problem it will be incredibly difficult to motivate them to effect change in their behavior.  That’s where I believe the CODE film will help at scale. I’ve been fortunate to have a reasonably deep well of lived experience in the cause of gender equality—but I suspect that’s still rare among men.  For others without that life experience, we need to help them see and internalize the problem and inspire them to action.  In short, we need to create catalysts for them like my family was a catalyst for me.  Robin’s powerful look at the difficulties women face in tech can be that catalyst for millions of men. This documentary project brings with it the potential to attract a mainstream audience that few other works of its kind could accomplish.  CODE stands to inspire countless men to find their own personal story, and that’s worth every ounce of energy put toward its production.   With the Tribeca Film Festival now just a month away, I’m incredibly excited to see how it impacts our quest and I’m honored to contribute to, and be associated with, this great work. A footnote:  When it comes to gender diversity at GoDaddy, we’re of course not resting at my involvement with CODE.  GoDaddy is aggressively recruiting talented women from across the tech industry—from new grads to industry veterans.  If you’re interested, we have lots of opportunities in Seattle, the Bay Area, the Phoenix area and a few around the world.  We’re also working with the acclaimed Stanford Clayman Institute this year to help our employees uncover their unconscious biases and to discover their own catalysts for change.  As that gets underway I’ll share more on the program and its results. PHOTO: Nick Gentry  

Changing Course on GoDaddy Advertising

Earlier today we previewed GoDaddy’s Super Bowl spot on a popular talk show, and shortly after a controversy started to swirl about Buddy, our puppy, being sold online. The responses were emotional and direct. Many people urged us not to run the ad. We’ve made a tremendous amount of progress over the past two years, advancing the GoDaddy brand as a company that cares a great deal about small business and is in their corner to help them succeed. People increasingly know who we are, what we do and who we do it for.  At the end of the day, our purpose at GoDaddy is to help small businesses around the world build a successful online presence. We hoped our ad would increase awareness of that cause. However, we underestimated the emotional response—and we heard that loud and clear. The net is we are pulling the ad from the Super Bowl. You’ll still see us in the Big Game this year, and we hope it makes you laugh. Finally, rest assured, Buddy came to us from a reputable and loving breeder in California. He’s now part of the GoDaddy family as our Chief Companion Officer and he lives permanently with one of our longtime employees.

Message Received

This morning we previewed GoDaddy’s Super Bowl spot on a popular talk show, and shortly after a controversy started to swirl about Buddy, our puppy, being sold online. The responses were emotional and direct. Many people urged us not to run the ad. We’ve made a tremendous amount of progress over the past two years, advancing the GoDaddy brand as a company that cares a great deal about small business and is in their corner to help them succeed. People increasingly know who we are, what we do and who we do it for.  At the end of the day, our purpose at GoDaddy is to help small businesses around the world build a successful online presence. We hoped our ad would increase awareness of that cause. However, we underestimated the emotional response—and we heard that loud and clear. The net is we are pulling the ad from the Super Bowl. You’ll still see us in the Big Game this year, and we hope it makes you laugh. Finally, rest assured, Buddy came to us from a reputable and loving breeder in California. He’s now part of the GoDaddy family as our Chief Companion Officer and he’s been adopted permanently by one of our longtime employees.

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