Web Hosting Interview - HostGator March 2011

Web Hosting Interview - HostGator March 2011

Brent Oxley, Founder and Chairman at HostGator

We talked with Brent Oxley, who founded HostGator in his college dorm room at Florida Atlantic University. A CEO of the company in 2002, he became a Chairman in May 2010. Brent oversaw and played an integral part in HostGator's growth from a one-man hosting company into an industry leader with more than 500 employees.

  • HOSTSEARCH: Hi Brent, it's such a great opportunity that we have a chance to talk with you again. As we know you've become a Chairman of HostGator since May 2010. Can you please tell us a bit about your current role for the company?
    BRENT OXLEY: It's great to finally be asked this question in an interview, thank you!

    I have a new title however my role and duties haven't changed at all. I like to think of myself as the email CEO while Lance Custen is our phone and in person CEO. The titles may have changed, but this is how we've operated for years. I receive hundreds of emails a day and out of necessity that's how I prefer to do business. It would be impossible for me to communicate with hundreds of people a day in person or on the phone. Lance on the other hand does very few emails since all of his time is taken up on the phone or in meetings. Today Lance toured a few potential buildings for Hostgator expansion while I sat at home knocking out emails. It would have been very difficult for me to handle both, very CEO worthy tasks.  The emails I handle consist of a little bit of everything…

    Helping Customers
    Helping Employees
    Handling Contracts
    Brokering Deals
    Working on affiliate and advertising issues
    Paying bills / keeping up with financials
    etc, etc.

    I still make about a dozen phone calls a day to various Hg managers, and recently I've made it a goal to meet with our over 400 Houston based employees one on one. Unfortunately this goal is taking much longer then expected due to all of my other responsibilities eating into so much of my time.
  • HOSTSEARCH: How many customers do you have? What growth rate is the company experiencing and what are your targets?
    BRENT OXLEY: We are hosting over 5 million domain names.
    We have about 400,000 customers.
    We will grow 40% to 50% in the next year.
    I don't really have a growth target since we grow as fast as we can hire qualified people.  If we could find the manpower I believe we'd be able to easily double in size within twelve months.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Web hosting is a very competitive business. What are the keys to a successful Hosting company?
    BRENT OXLEY: The most important aspect to a successful hosting company is a happy customer base. If your customers are happy they will spread the word, which in turn will result in plenty of business.

    In order to keep them happy you need to provide amazing 24/7 customer support, 99.9%+ uptime, plenty of features, all at an affordable price.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What do you feel are your strengths as an organization?
    BRENT OXLEY: This all comes down to our employees. If you replace everyone in our company we become just another run of the mill hosting company. Hostgator isn't doing much different then the thousands of competing hosting companies; we're just doing it better than the rest.

    I'd say some of our biggest strengths are the following…

    We have 100% in house support.
    We have some of the best technical people in the world.
    All of our management is promoted from within the company and required to get their hands dirty. It doesn't matter how small a customer is, they're able to talk with anyone in management.
    We don't get caught up on hype and buzz words.
    We are a powerhouse when it comes to spending money on marketing.
    And most importantly we do our best to keep things real.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What advertising and PR channels are you using to promote the company?
    BRENT OXLEY: Our biggest advertising channels would be our affiliate base and Google. We are currently paying out over $400,000 a month to our affiliates and hundreds of thousands more to Google. We also have tons of smaller campaigns that when added together become a very respectable source of business. The closest thing I'd say we have to PR channels would be our presence on Twitter, Facebook, and our blog.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Can you give us an idea about Green Hosting, the Green concept and how you have gone Green?
    BRENT OXLEY: Everyone has a different idea of what being green is and what exactly green hosting is. Servers put carbon emissions into the air so the general consensus is that in order to be considered a green hosting company you must purchase enough Renewable Energy Credits to offset this carbon impact.

    The average server produces the same emissions as a 15 mpg SUV. So what Hostgator has done is purchased enough REC's in the form of Texas wind credits that is equivalent to…
    1. Removing 444 cars from the road for a year, or
    2. Powering 321 homes with clean energy for a year, or
    3. Saving 5,654 barrels of oil, or
    4. Protecting 551 acres of forest for a year
  • HOSTSEARCH: We know that HostGator offers variety of products and services - Shared, Reseller, VPS and Dedicated hosting. Do you plan for any new lines of services?
    BRENT OXLEY: I'd love for HostGator to launch windows shared hosting, cloud hosting, and cdn hosting. It's all planned and very easy to do assuming we had the staffing in place to handle the growth. We grow as fast as we can hire and with us slowing down sales already the last thing I want to do is throw many more new products into the mix.

    We will be going after Go Daddy directly in the next few months by offering discounted domains. The pricing offered will be increased or decreased based on how well were able to cope with the growth in sales.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What do you think about the future trend of web hosting business? And how does HostGator plan to adapt to the trend?
    BRENT OXLEY: I really don't see the future of hosting being that much different from the present other then ipv6 adaptation. In time every website will have its very own ipv6 dedicated ip.

    Hosting companies are going to continue to be gobbled up into large conglomerates.

    Analysts and fools are going to continue to argue that unless shared hosting companies migrate to cloud they'll become extinct. Naturally they'll be arguing this as the majority of us have record month after record month.

    I believe the biggest trend with a meaningful overall impact will be foreign website owners shifting their hosting needs to companies that have a local presence.

    If Hostgator wishes to continue to be a world hosting leader it will require us to setup a presence in countries all over the world. We have already established a base in Brazil and are currently in the process of launching in India as well as Turkey. Hosting companies are going to be forced to become more global in order to compete.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What are the Long-term and Short-term plans for the company?
    BRENT OXLEY: In the next month we hope to have Hostgator selling discounted domains.

    In the next few months we plan to open numerous offices around the country. We are currently exploring Orlando, Salt Lake City, as well as a second office in Houston.

    Assuming we can get staffing in place we hope to have Launchpad.com up and running within six months. Launchpad will be our brand to directly compete with Go Daddy and give them a real run for their money.

    In about a year from now we hope to have sitebuilder.com operational and focusing on beginners looking to build their first web site.

    Anywhere from a year from now to possibly never we may or may not have a datacenter. This depends directly on the pricing Softlayer gives us as well as the quality of support they choose to provide us with.

    In ten years from now the plan is to be the largest hosting company and registrar in the world.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Well Brent, thank you for your time today. We looking forward to see your continued success.
    BRENT OXLEY: Thank you.

More HostGator interviews:

Web Hosting Interview July 2009

Web Hosting Interview April 2005

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