Friday, April 01, 2011

The Elephant in Bob Parsons’ Business

You know Bob Parsons. He’s the bigger than life “Go Daddy” CEO of Everybody who builds websites or otherwise does business on the Web knows of and has probably bought at least one domain from Parsons has built an empire from popularizing the once obscure and nerdy business of domain name registration. You’ve surely seen his “Go Daddy Girls” on Super Bowl commercials, posing as a mashup of Hefner’s “Bunnies” and Hooter’s waitresses in a frenetic effort to elicit even more business from online wannabes who think they’re only one website away from being just like Bob.

And why not? Bob Parsons has a storied past that includes being wounded as a Marine rifleman in Vietnam and surviving to be decorated with several medals. After earning a college degree magna cum laude, he went on to leverage his accounting degree into a software business that sold to Intuit for $64 million. Now as head of the Go Daddy Group, Inc., he’s rich, famous and in a position to create a legacy in the world that will define his life the way Bill Gates is wiping out contagious diseases in Africa or the way Andrew Carnegie founded libraries across America a century ago.

What has Bob Parsons chosen to make his mark on society? He’s become a big game hunter. In case you think that avocation went out with Teddy Roosevelt or the writings of Ernest Hemingway, be advised that it still exists in stark contrast with all of the conservation awareness and efforts to protect endangered species in recent decades. For Bob, it’s still no later than the 1930’s, an era when game was endlessly abundant and no animal, save man, was more than mere meat on the hoof.

In his naive bliss, Bob proudly shot himself an elephant in Zimbabwe and then produced a slick video of his trophy kill for worldwide acclimation. Take a look. Note the smug smile of satisfaction on Bob’s face and his sense of humanitarianism from killing a beast that was trampling native crops and then letting the lucky bystanders strip the carcass of anything worth consuming.

Does this video wash over you with a warm sense of pride that man is still king of the beasts, with the absolute power and right to dictate at whim when they are better destroyed than suffered? Do you see the vision of a conquering hero who is ridding the African continent of the scourge of elephants and other beasts that stand in the way of making Africa more developed and less “wild”?

What could be the proudest moment of Bob Parson’s life is now morphing into a horrific backlash that might just be his undoing. The elephants are in full stampede and administering nothing less than a trumpeted stomping of Go Daddy assets.

By elephants, I mean not just the physical manifestation of pachyderms that have inhabited the African Savanna since before human DNA can be traced back. I mean the entire community of elephant conservationists, supporters, aficionados and just plain fans. People love elephants. They’re majestic, social, perhaps as intelligent as humans... certainly some humans... and rare.

Yes, rare. The various elephants of Africa and Asia, once numbering in the millions have dwindled to the thousands, in some cases hundreds of individuals. The causes are many. Swelling human populations and a move from hunting & gathering to agrarianism and industrialization have usurped ancient elephant territories. These migrating animals are now fenced out, chased out or hunted out of “civilized” land plots. Poachers claim thousands more, not for the meat but for the ivory that is worth a small fortune to eager buyers. Often they discard the meat in situ, negating the noble notion that people need this bush meat for survival.

Elephants, and indeed other big game animals, are so rare that protected reserves and sanctuaries are popping up worldwide to preserve what remains of the species. People who care about the fate of elephants perhaps outnumber the individual elephants themselves. What’s more, they are now networked through social media like Twitter, Facebook, and even websites running on the same servers that fuel the Parsons empire. Well, perhaps not for long on those servers.

The international outrage resulting from Parsons’ “vacation” video has been both immediate and intense. Starting with organizations that support elephant welfare and quickly spreading to caring individuals, the reaction has been disgust, not admiration, followed by a cry of “where is a good place to move my domain and website?”

There are numerous hosts and registrars that aren’t promoting their CEO’s testosterone driven blood lust, but how to choose? What would be ideal is a technically solid, competitively priced organization that is at least sympathetic to the cause and preferably supportive.

Into this void jumped They are also an entrepreneurial company with growth driven by aggressive pricing and feature-rich services. Namecheap tweeted disgust at the Parsons’ video with an offer to be the safe refuge for elephants lovers wishing to transfer their domains away from Go Daddy. To demonstrate their sincerity, Namecheap offered to donate $1 per transfer to Save The Elephants, an organization dedicated to the conservation of African elephants.

Update: More resources are now available at: Go Elly - Elephant Friendly Domain Registration and Web Hosting Services

Does anyone else see the irony here? What started as the hubris of bringing down a majestically powerful creature for sport has resulted in a backlash that could end with the bleached bones of a once majestically powerful technology organization abandoned in the marketplace, after being brought down by a more intelligent consciousness and picked clean by competitors. The law of the jungle is still in full force.

In the way of full disclosure, I should state, without snickering too much, that I’ve already taken advantage of the Namecheap special to open an account and transfer 10 domains away from I expect to move additional domains to Network Solutions and to take advantage of their special pricing. I appreciate these opportunities, but was on the hunt for a new registrar even before the special offers were announced. I can no longer be associated with Bob Parsons or his organizations in good conscience.

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