The Entrepreneur: Stefano Maruzzi, vice president of GoDaddy EMEA

The VP of the 'world's largest' domain registrar discusses delegation, the future of the Internet of Things, and why you should "walk the talk"

Founder: Bob Parsons – Maruzzi is vice president of Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA)
Company: GoDaddy
Website: http://uk.godaddy.com/
Description in one line: The largest tech provider dedicated to small business.
Previous companies: Worked for Microsoft, Google, Condé Nast Digital
Turnover: NA
12 month target: NA

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • The only small business solutions provider that knows what it takes to turn ambition into a one-of-a-kind digital identity.
  • Businesses around the world know how vital it is to be noticed and discovered by customers on digital platforms, and GoDaddy offers a wide range of solutions to respond to these needs.
  • A leading technology provider to small businesses.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

Setting up GoDaddy operations in EMEA has been a rewarding and exciting experience. Since late April, we now have 20 websites across Europe in local languages, another big initiative to get closer to our customers and tailor our commercial messages according to local needs.

In addition to my work at GoDaddy, I’m also particularly pleased with almost doubling Google Italy’s revenue in two years, as well as setting up a series of technical conferences under the umbrella name of WPC that are currently run by Microsoft on a worldwide basis.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

I look at all the usual figures, revenue breakdown by country and product line, sales volumes of new initiatives, customer engagement and website traffic to name but a few.

To what extent does your business trade internationally?

GoDaddy is a global company, operating in more than 35 countries worldwide, with my remit specifically focusing on Europe, the Middle-East and Africa. We interact and serve customers all over the globe, supporting them 24/7 by sharing technical advice and acting as consultants to address their needs and requests. Out of the 12 million current customers, approximately 26% live outside the US, making the international aspect increasingly important.

Describe your growth funding path:

GoDaddy has just filed for an IPO this year and has big plans for the future, we unfortunately can’t comment further so soon after the IPO launch.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

It’s very hard to pin down one thing that has made the biggest difference to GoDaddy. In recent months, the launch of Office 365 has proved a massive success as cloud technology grows in importance for all businesses. Our Office 365 package allows small business owners to work with an email that comes from their domain, gives 25GB of secure cloud storage and also comes with 24 hour email support that has so far been very positively received.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

We have recently launched in 21 new markets across Europe during 2014, so will be looking to help lots of new businesses across Europe get online, in addition to supporting our existing customers around the world.

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

Alluding to one of my previous answers, the work I did for Google in Italy was certainly some of the most challenging that I have faced in my career. A lot of long nights, tough choices and hard work went into making that side of the business a success.

What was your biggest business mistake?

Certainly something never easy to admit, but learning from your mistakes can be the best learning process. I think that my biggest mistake was initially missing how disruptive and influential privately owned websites could really be.

In the late nineties I was working for a large Italian media company and I started our .com business including the online version of our flagship news magazine. In those days it seemed to me the most logical and natural evolution for the news business.

What I didn’t see was the opportunity for a generic Joe to launch a competing product, something that in those days seemed simply absurd and illogical. History has proven me wrong with multiple examples of successful online news ventures, attracting millions of viewers every month.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

In some markets registering a simple domain requires an incredible amount of documentation sufficient to discourage even the most passionate entrepreneur. Simplicity, agility and a business friendly ecosystem are the main requirements to ensure new ideas can be easily transformed into business ventures.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

Being an entrepreneur is a really tough job, much more than being a manager. I guess the ability to truly delegate when an organisation reaches a certain size is probably the toughest challenge for someone who has built a business from scratch, considering the emotional element often associated with it.

How will your market look in three years?

Your personal identity will be very closely tied to your digital identity in the future, so keeping it in good shape will be vital. The Internet of Things will become a reality and everything we do on a day-to-day basis will be connected to the internet; from ordering groceries by scanning an empty carton of milk to hosting family gatherings entirely over Skype.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Follow your instincts, walk the talk, and pay attention to micro signals as soon as they emerge. We live in a world of data and I’m a strong believer in the value added by analytically dissecting a problem or a business case.

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

I love digital photography and I’m a super loyal Canon customer. The click of my camera is almost like a magical sound to me. No matter where I go, my camera and several lenses are with me.

Executive education or learn it on the job?

Both. I don’t think one can be successful without a solid academic education combined with relevant job experiences and exposure to the complex situations that make up to the day-to-day of any business. Having a mentor – either explicitly or indirectly in the form of a role model – is another valuable source of inspiration and personal development.

What would make you a better leader?

It’s not talked about much, but the ability to deal with ambiguity is such a relevant trait in these days of constant changes, disruptions and precarious stabilities. A leader should also inspire people, extract the best out of each team member, shield them from the complexities and intricacies of organisations, and always describe the direction that needs to be taken.

Business book:

I’m currently reading The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. I’m loving it, probably because it is a well-structured and organised piece of work documenting the inevitable return to the constant introduction of new technologies and the impact on jobs.

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