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Behind the Scenes at – Ben Gabler (

By MailChannels | 65 minute read

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In this episode of the podcast, Ben Gabler, CEO and founder of, shares his journey from delivering pizzas to pioneering in the web hosting industry. With over two decades of experience, Ben offers a candid look into the entrepreneurial spirit that drove him from the ground up, highlighting key decisions and partnerships that shaped his path. The discussion delves into the strategic shifts and technological innovations that have enabled to thrive in a competitive market, emphasizing customer-centric approaches and agile responses to industry demands.

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[00:00:00] Ben: But the most important thing you can do in any business, no matter what it is, is know your customer and talk to your customer and listen to your customer. 

[00:00:06] Ken: has has gotten to 5 million a RR in three and a half years, which is amazing. Like, wow.

[00:00:12] Ben: So I reached out to Michael from and I said, Hey man, I need

[00:00:18] Ben: And he laughed. He’s like, yeah. He’s like, yeah, right dude, that’s gonna be a million dollars. Yeah. I’m like, no, find out. And sure enough, he’s like, dude, I won’t even be able to get them to answer me for less than seven figures. Blah, blah, blah. Geez. And I was like, well, I’m like, alright, how about Rocket Do Net, that’s for sale.

[00:00:32] Ben: And you know, long story short, I ended up buying for 50,000, uh, and I had 10,000 an arm. So it was probably the biggest bet I’ve ever made in my career. Wow. And it paid off more than any bet I’ve ever made in my life.

[00:00:59] Ken: So Ben, uh, it, it is so nice to have you on the podcast today. Uh, we have, you know, virtually known each other for many years, but actually haven’t gotten a chance to meet in person. Uh, and you are a, uh, figure in the web hosting industry, going back a really long way that a lot of people, uh, will, will be familiar with.

[00:01:20] Ken: I wondered if we could start by talking a bit about your history, how you got into the industry, uh, and then, and maybe we can work forward in time to the present and what you see, uh, as the opportunity in the space, what you’re working on, you know, in, in the coming years. Sure. Um, so can you take us back to the beginning and, and share what inspired you to enter the web hosting industry and, and eventually start host nine?

[00:01:47] Ben: Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, thanks for having me. My name’s Ben Gaber, I’m the CEO and I. I’ve been in the hosting industry about 22 years now. Um, got my start in early two thousands. Uh, funny enough, I was delivering pizza at the time and I spent a lot of time on IRC. It was kind of, uh, what I did.

[00:02:07] Ben: I didn’t really, you know, I surfed a lot in high school, but other than that I was excited to get home and kind of jump on IRC and talk to my friends. So when I did that, I met somebody, uh, his name was, I think it was Adam Tuttle, and he was based out of Toronto. And I had just got home from work that night and probably made like 50 bucks delivering pizza.

[00:02:23] Ben: And he told me about this awesome business. He had, I think it was even like web host wizards or something. And I was like, what is host thing? And, uh, you know, at the time I had purchased my first server ever from fdc and it was a free BSD box. Had no idea what I was doing. I basically bought it to run an IC server.

[00:02:43] Ben: And then when I found out about this hosting thing, I, I learned about cPanel. So I think it was cPanel version three or so back then, maybe four. And, uh, I ended up re um, reloading the box to be Red Hat seven I think it was at the time, and installed cPanel and the rest was kind of history. You know, I, I got to learn, I.

[00:03:04] Ben: Uh, from the ground up, really just, you know, server management, uh, working with the command line, working with cPanel and WHM and you know, I just kind of did a little hosting company back then and, you know, probably had like, I think it was like 60,000 a year in revenue or something like that. And I found that one of the largest hosting companies that was on the up and up was host skater.

[00:03:25] Ben: And this was in 2006. And I realized they were 30 minutes south of me. So I was like, I gotta talk to ’em. I gotta see what they’re doing. I need to figure out the tricks. How are they growing so fast? And when I went down there to interview, I actually ended up hitting it off with Brent Oxley very well.

[00:03:39] Ben: And I think at the time, uh, I decided, hey, you know what? I’d like to work for host skater. And um, you know, I think I was 20 years old. I, uh, I was employee number eight and, um, you know, I, I got to really see the early days of, of host skater and, and how we scaled. You know, back then there was a lot of outsource support.

[00:03:55] Ben: You know, many people may not know that, but we used, uh, you know, a company called e Euch support, I think outta India. And we were starting to, you know, get to the, get to the phase where we didn’t need that anymore. So we were starting to hire more locally. Um, you know, and, uh, it was really neat to watch the company grow and eventually Brent moved the company to Houston.

[00:04:15] Ben: I was 21, I had a girlfriend, my family, and, you know, I was like, ah, I don’t really wanna make that move, you know, I’m not ready for that. So I ended up staying back and, you know, I left host skater and started host nine. Uh, grew that to a little under 2 million a year in a RR, you know, it was early twenties.

[00:04:30] Ben: Completely bootstrapped living out in my parents’ house. The whole, the whole shebang. Um, you know, and then I ended up moving to Houston. Uh, you know, not really knowing where Host Skater was at the time. You know, Houston’s a really big area, funny enough, ended up in the same neighborhood as some of the host skater guys, but, you know, I went out there just to kinda try to scale the company a bit, hire some local folks out there.

[00:04:51] Ben: Back then, you know, with CPA EV one and, and the Planet and Server Matrix. There was a lot of talent in, uh, in the Houston area. So, you know, moved out there and, you know, ended up linking back up with Host Gator a couple years later and decided to sell Host nine to host skater. And, uh, went on to to COO there once we kind of merged that Host nine brand under those small orange, uh, section with Site five.

[00:05:14] Ben: And, uh, you know, about a year in Brent said he, he decided he wanted to sell the company. And at that point I had been, you know, five to six years on the grind, just going and going and going. And I came back to visit some family in South Florida. I’m like, you know, like I, I accidentally bought a boat when I was visiting my family and, you know, I’m like, man, I just wanna be back in Florida.

[00:05:35] Ben: So when I found out the company was, you know, gonna sell, I, uh, I departed host skater and took a, a solid year off and fished probably every day of my life. And, uh, really kind of got a good break in. And, uh, and yeah, you know, I’ve, I’ve just always been, uh, super in interested in the hosting space. As crazy as it might seem.

[00:05:55] Ben: It’s a, it’s not an easy business, it’s not an easy industry. Mm-Hmm. Um, you know, the only person that’s on call more than me is probably a heart surgeon. Right. So, um, you know, but I love it, you know, in between that, as you know, we’ll, we’ll discuss a little bit about, I, you know, tried to venture out from hosting and get a break and do some SaaS startups to really learn more about software engineering and development.

[00:06:17] Ben: And then found myself right back in hosting. 

[00:06:20] Ken: Yeah. I mean, tell me, tell me about that. Uh, you know, what is it about web hosting that is just so engaging and intriguing? What do you love about it? You 

[00:06:28] Ben: know, I think it’s, it’s the only thing I, I consider that I’ve ever been good at. And, and it’s like, you know, everybody, you know, if really good at something, whether you’re a football player, a baseball player, or an investor, um, you know, different things like that.

[00:06:42] Ben: You know, I, uh, I didn’t go, I, you know, never went to college or anything, so, you know, you know. Learned, even as, as funny as it is, I learned a lot about business while I was working at the pizza delivery place. I learned about, you know, filing taxes and I learned a very important lesson, uh, in business, which is, you know, when you open a business, you should be able to do as much as possible in every certain role, whether it’s making pizza or sweeping the floors, or washing the dishes.

[00:07:07] Ben: The owner of that business, you know, of that pizza shop could do everything. So if somebody didn’t show up to work, he wasn’t sitting there with, you know, unable to do his business. So, you know, with hosting, I’ve kind of just naturally over the years, been able to really stay heavily involved in server management, um, you know, product development and, you know, develop.

[00:07:26] Ben: I think for me it’s just been something like, it just seems natural to me. Like, it, it’s not like it’s very challenging, don’t get me wrong, and I’m still learning stuff every day, but it’s, it’s something that I’m very interested in. So it’s, it’s never been a job, you know. 

[00:07:39] Ken: Wow, that’s, uh, that’s amazing.

[00:07:41] Ken: ’cause a lot of people would look from the outside at web hosting and think, man, that is the most commodified industry. I mean, just, you know, you, you put a, the perception is you, you load cPanel onto a bunch of servers. I. You find some data center space, you try and haggle for the cheapest deal and everything.

[00:07:59] Ken: You run a bit of web advertising and you’ve got customers and, and it’s just a customer support operation and a marketing operation. But yet you find it so fascinating. So everything you like from the inside view, 

[00:08:11] Ben: everything you just said is exactly why I find it fascinating. E everything in this industry is, is so complacent.

[00:08:17] Ben: You know, this industry was truly built on, here’s C panel, go sell it. Here’s C panel, go sell it. So what do you have? At the end of the day, every single company on the planet is selling the same product. And you know, with Rocket, we’re, you know, completely bootstrapped. I own a hundred percent of the company.

[00:08:33] Ben: We’ve gone from zero to 5 million in a r in three and a half years. And, you know, we don’t do any paid media, right? Like our, our marketing efforts are WordCamp, uh, community based things around WordPress, uh, different conferences, um, which traditionally would never work in hosting. But in what we do, it, it, it goes a very long way.

[00:08:52] Ben: But, but more importantly is investing in the product and the platform, right? Like we, initially, when I built the company used a lot of very familiar technologies. Like as a customer, you would never know. cPanel is involved behind the scenes because it’s just an orchestrator. cPanel is not our product.

[00:09:08] Ben: It’s a part of the platform that makes our product. So, you know, unlike all the other companies out there, we built our own product. And, and what that product is, is the interface that we have and the API that we have. To do all of the things that result in the solution. We provide this market. So because of that, you know, we have some of the largest hosting companies in the world reselling our product.

[00:09:30] Ben: Um, you know, I think, I think that’s what really sets us aside, like our CTO. You probably know Dave Coston, um, him and his brother built cPanel. Uh, so, you know, one of the is we really truly have a SaaS approach and we build our own platform and product, 

[00:09:50] Ken: a SaaS approach to web hosting.

[00:09:52] Ken: I mean, I guess we’ve seen that a little bit in the last few years with companies like WP Engine. Uh, you know, who built a, [00:10:00] a SaaS business all around WordPress, you know, which is a, a, it’s technically a hosting company, but they didn’t come at it in the typical hosting way. I, I doubt they ever had a single cPanel machine in their infrastructure.

[00:10:12] Ken: It was kind of from the ground up to support WordPress as an application. And there’s other providers who are, who have also come up focusing on WordPress. Um. You, so, so you guys have, at Rocket Net, you’ve have cPanel at the heart of what you do, but you’re 

[00:10:27] Ben: extending it. So cPanel is a small fraction of what we do.

[00:10:30] Ben: I mean, you could think of creating an account, right? Like an n engine X config, you know, and a, you know, whatever. The web server config like that, that’s where the role that that cPanel plays in And the way that we’ve built our platform is, it’s not, it, it’s, it’s swappable, right? Like we’re not vendor agnostic.

[00:10:47] Ben: You know, we can work with any edge provider in the world, uh, Fastly, CloudFlare Edge, you name it. Um, we can work on any, uh, platform in the world. You know, we do, we procure all of our own bare metal and then we deploy our own virtual virtualization layer on there. So if we decide that, hey, you know, we, provider A is not working out anymore, we wanna move to provider B, we can live, migrate a VM from one location to another.

[00:11:12] Ben: Change some ips and some configs on our edge platform and traffic immediately swings over. Our customers may see a two minute blip. Um, so we’ve kind of taken all the benefits of public cloud and implemented them in a private cloud, which is a third of the cost, right? So, you know, it’s, it’s been incredible.

[00:11:28] Ben: And you know, I think, I think when I say SAS, it’s a little bit different, right? Like, yes, you know, software is a service, the traditional definition, but I. You know, again, like nobody in our space had CloudFlare Enterprise at the very beginning of their product. Rocket did. Right? And then the rest of them kind of followed suit, right?

[00:11:44] Ben: And, and we’re kind of driving this evolution of, of hosting, which is really about content delivery at the end of the day. And, you know, WordPress is literally a content management system that outputs html, css, js, and images, right? So, mm-hmm. We created this layer that is, you know, deploying that, you know, to as many eyeballs as possible.

[00:12:03] Ben: And we deliver like a 98% patch ratio. So our origin servers literally just managing WordPress at that point. Um, so I think, you know, with us, it’s, it’s kind of in our DNA, right? Like we have all of this hosting experience, but then I have the most intelligent CTO ever that has built software his whole life, right?

[00:12:23] Ben: Like if you went back in time and told Dave Coston in 2006, he was gonna work for a hosting company, he’d laughed, said, you’re crazy. And if you ask him today. He’s not gonna tell you. He works at a hosting company. He works at Rocket Do Net, which is a, you know, a managed WordPress platform. Right. So it’s, it’s a, it’s a big difference.

[00:12:37] Ben: And we continue to push the envelope with just, you know, a customer success, like a customer first approach. So like everything we do, whether it’s a PTO policy or a feature, every discussion is how does this affect our customer? Right. And I think one thing that you also don’t see in this space is, is product management.

[00:12:56] Ben: Right? Like, I think you see CTOs are typically infrastructure [00:13:00] CTOs, right? Whereas ours software, um. You know, so I think, I think that’s kind of the, the big thing that, I mean here, like Rocket launched with an API, some of the, some of our competitors doing 50 million a year in revenue, just launched one an API last year, right?

[00:13:13] Ben: So it’s, it’s kind of like we’ve, we’ve solved a lot of these problems. We’re working on some really big stuff right now to, to help kind of stop the bleed to Shopify for WooCommerce. And it’s far more than just deploying these fast Google Cloud CPUs that everybody can go deploy, right? Like we’re really putting a lot into the product and doing things.

[00:13:34] Ben: You know, so many people in this industry will tell you the problem is CPU, you need 192 cores and we’re, Taylor Swift has to be on our platform. But the reality is the real problem is a software problem that needs to be solved, right? And it usually points at something, whether it’s MySQL or some certain bottleneck, doesn’t matter if you have 256 cores, doesn’t matter.

[00:13:55] Ben: So, you know, that’s, that’s what’s been so exciting for us. Um. We continue to really invest in our people, in our customers and the brand. And you know, a big part of that is staying focused as a SaaS provider, you know, with that, that SaaS mentality. 

[00:14:10] Ken: So, uh, you know, what I’ve noticed in the market is, uh, hosting companies do tend to segregate into addressing different, uh, types of end customers.

[00:14:21] Ken: So there’s definitely, you know, what you would call mass market hosting companies that have hundreds of thousands to millions of domains under management. And it’s, it’s, you know, focused on the tiniest SMB customers. Uh, and then there are hosting companies that are much more boutique oriented, that have a handful of really large customers they’re managing, uh, but providing white glove support to, uh, and then there’s other kinds, but where, where would you place

[00:14:49] Ken: What kinds of customers are in your sweet 

[00:14:52] Ben: spot? So, you know, everybody in in our space would tell you agencies, um, which is, which is very true here. Uh, we have, you know, the, the best part about working with an agency is you could host 2000 websites with one point of contact versus 2000 end users. Um, lately we’ve been, you know, just nationally moving up market.

[00:15:12] Ben: Um, you know, we do a lot of enterprise engagements. You know, we host some of the largest, you know, blogs in the world, like natasha’s, well, You know, one of the early wins on the platform was You know, I’m not political, but these are very big websites that have a massive demand for scale.

[00:15:28] Ben: And, you know, it, it’s been incredible to see that, you know, we have, you know, um, my Florida license is another example. Like we have all of these big important government entities and, and just, just companies of all shapes and sizes leveraging this platform. And, and that’s what’s been really incredible is, you know, um.

[00:15:50] Ben: At the end of the day, like we, we don’t take it lightly. You know, we just announced, uh, we now have two layers of backups. So we have two encrypted backups for every, every single server and every single site. Um, two different complete locations. And, you know, we, we understand that people are trusting us with millions and millions of dollars of business and their livelihoods.

[00:16:09] Ben: So, you know, we, uh, did over 45,000 chats last year and, uh, a sub one minute response time, and a 97% customer satisfaction rate. So it just kind of, the, the data really speaks volumes to, to how much we truly care about the business. And, you know, we are not driven by spreadsheets and targets and, and things like that, right?

[00:16:32] Ben: Like, yes, we have to maintain profitability. We have a very healthy business running out of 50% ebitda. But, you know, I’m not hammering Chad every day to hit his quota, you know? Um. We don’t do outbound emails, you know, like we, we don’t do any of that stuff. Right. And we’ve been very fortunate to, to continue to focus on, on, you know, this platform and, and our customers that it’s just driven the word of mouth and, and, and influencer growth like crazy.

[00:16:59] Ken: So let me get that straight. You guys don’t do traditional marketing to promote You’re relying on word of mouth and attending events like WordCamp, I ha like, I get 

[00:17:10] Ben: yelled at by, by marketing when I, when I say it the wrong way. Um, you know, because at one on one podcast we’re like, we don’t do any marketing.

[00:17:16] Ben: It’s like, yes, we do. Um, it, it’s not that we’re relying on it, right? Like it’s a, it’s, it’s, the channel is so big between some of the partnerships we have, some of our resellers and the word of mouth that we, I’m not sitting here trying to become a billionaire, right? I want to continue to have fun and, and create an amazing culture like we have.

[00:17:42] Ben: And service the customer as best as we possibly can. So you know, whether we’re growing, you know, six figures a are month over month, or you know, there is no, we have to hit this. We’ve gotten to the point where we’re profitable. We have an amazing team. Our team’s very happy. Our team is compensated very well.

[00:18:04] Ben: I’ve paid for childbirth, I’ve paid for moves, I’ve paid for weddings. I mean, you name it, I, I, the, the company. Weddings. Oh, absolutely. Weddings, you know, if somebody needs financial help with that on our team, you know, we, we do whatever we can to help. Wow. And you know, that’s what it’s really all about.

[00:18:18] Ben: Like every single person at Rocket shows up ready to go the distance for our customers. And that’s because we also invest in our people. So, you know, I think, you know, it’s not that we rely on it, you know, I’ve had like our team’s coming on site next week to talk through our strategy and, and, and what we wanna achieve this year.

[00:18:36] Ben: And we do have the playbooks for outbound sales and paid media, uh, retargeting, all that stuff. And if we, if it comes to a point where we need to start implementing some of that, we can. But right now we’re not trying to, you know, every single hosting company I know that has just exploded and grown as fast as they possibly freaking can, has never worked out.

[00:18:56] Ben: Well, you know, the, the, the ball on customer service always drops. So, you know, for us, you know, we added, um, you know, we grew 150% last year, uh, you know, and we added five heads, right? And that’s not because we’re trying to stay, you know, thin. It’s because that’s all we needed. You know, we have a lot of tooling and automation in place that, you know, uh, enables our customers to self serve or our team to just really be extremely efficient.

[00:19:22] Ben: You know, we have one minute response times, but I don’t care if a chat takes six hours, if that’s what it takes, right? That’s what we do. 

[00:19:29] Ken: You know, you’re, you sound a lot like another hosting CEO that I had the pleasure of, uh, talking with a lot, you know, back in 20 12, 20 13, uh, the founder of, uh, well, I guess I’ll leave him nameless, but the founder of one of the companies that ended up joining the Endurance International Group, uh, and he.

[00:19:49] Ken: Uh, had a distributed team, a very fast growing company, lots and lots of success. But what really distinguished him, uh, in my mind was his sort of, uh, fervent absolute dedication to the company. Uh, you know, he would be the guy at three o’clock in the morning answering tickets if that was what was needed, even when he was really big.

[00:20:11] Ken: Uh, and I get the sense that that’s new as well. I’m trying to think if I 

[00:20:14] Ben: know who it is. Uh, company. Start with an a 

[00:20:19] Ken: It might. It might, it might. 

[00:20:20] Ben: Yeah. I think I know who you’re talking about. Um, 

[00:20:22] Ken: yeah. Yeah. But we, we actually worked with this guy, uh, uh, in, in creating our cloud email delivery service. So he was the first customer because he was so keen to solve, uh, problems for his customers, and he was willing to try anything to, to fix email delivery problems that he was having, uh, and gave us.

[00:20:43] Ken: A lot of rope to figure that out, uh, as, as a, a cloud service provider. So, uh, yeah, I’m just saying you sound very similar in that, in that kind of fervent dedication, you know, uh, that that might not be something you would imagine seeing, um, in the executive suite at one of the large hosting providers, uh, which honestly seem to be run by accountants these days.

[00:21:07] Ben: Absolutely. I mean, even when, you know, in 2013, I was at GoDaddy, I relaunched the entire hosting product line. The first thing I did was, you know, everybody at GoDaddy, no matter what role you’re going into, has to go through orientation. So part of that orientation is shadowing some calls. So I went into the hosting support division and literally the first call somebody needed a PHP extension.

[00:21:29] Ben: And that was, we don’t do that, right? So Selma VPS, I’m putting ’em on mute. I’m like, hold on, hold on, please hold. And I’m like, what are you doing? Like this is literally a one second fix. Like, they just need PHPI mat, you know, oh, we can’t do that. And then he tries to sell ’em VPS. I’m like, man, this is, this is a problem.

[00:21:47] Ben: And, and it occurred to me that the, the support team was a revenue generator. And that’s a problem. Yes, it is. And it’s an unsolvable problem. Like towards the end of GoDaddy with, with my one year stint, I, I just couldn’t take it anymore, was they wanted me to take on, you know, hosting support and I said, it’s, it’s impossible.

[00:22:03] Ben: You know, I might, you know, there, there is no way to win that role because I. It’s gotta generate revenue and support. It doesn’t generate revenue. It keeps revenue. Right. And you know, I think, I think the challenge was we had one of the best products on the market and it was amazing. And it’s, we were doing 2,600 c panel accounts a day, like insane, like way more than host Gator ever saw, you know?

[00:22:26] Ben: And I thought Host skater scale was crazy. And the reality was as soon as the product really took off and we rounded that corner of becoming like a real hosting company, like I had the opportunity to move a needle at a billion dollar company, I was all over it. I’m like, this is incredible. Yeah. You guys have never been a hosting company.

[00:22:42] Ben: We’re gonna be a hosting company. And I remember tweets like, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but ho GoDaddy’s hosting is amazing, right? And then what happened is the rest of the business wanted to get in that, right? So like, how many products can we shove down there? Like when I launched cPanel, I put live chat and a help desk.

[00:23:01] Ben: I broke like every rule at GoDaddy. Inside of cPanel because we had a six day delay on tickets. So I knew, and, and granted we didn’t open it up to the world. This was like call center selling it, and 1% of website traffic. You know, I, you know, I remember I was doing like 70 tickets and chats a day, and I knew that my product would fail if it went through the same support channel.

[00:23:25] Ben: So I ended up, when they realized what I was doing, they’re like, well, we can’t go back on this, but what we need to do is we’re gonna, they called it the bullpen, and they would gimme eight people for two weeks, and I would work with eight people to train them on exactly how to support this product. And we effectively ended up carving out a cPanel support team, because I try, I had to explain to Godad, like, this is a way different breed of customer and a way different product, right?

[00:23:45] Ben: Like, they six days, they’re already at another hosting company after three hours, you know? Um, so absolutely. It, it was, it was crazy. Um, but those are some of the things that I had to do. And, you know, when you look at it, it, it was just, uh, it, you know, there was, there was you. Of, um. Like upselling and cross-selling and just all, all this stuff that would take place.

[00:24:10] Ben: But then there was also a lot of like missing knowledge in certain areas to where like, some of these things would come in and I would end up continuing to do support. So a big part of the success was I would live in the call center and all, all my buddies that were on the internal support team were like, dude, what are you doing here?

[00:24:23] Ben: You’re a product manager. Like, go out there. I’m like, no way. I need to figure out why we suck, how we’re not gonna suck, and what we’re gonna do better and what, what problems we have today. And that’s where I was like, cool. We need to enable the IMAP extension on every cPanel box by default, right? Based off of customer action.

[00:24:38] Ben: So going back full circle, you know, the, the most important thing you can do in any business, no matter what it is, is know your customer and talk to your customer and listen to your customer. So it it, it paid off massively at GoDaddy. It made the product a huge success. And that was something that I continued to do the, you know, till the end of my time there and, you know, it just got a little too corporate for me.

[00:24:57] Ben: And, and that’s when I kind of wanted to venture out and, and do more than just cPanel. And that’s when I started, you know, do a couple little software startups. 

[00:25:05] Ken: Right. I mean, so let’s talk about that easy rent, uh, dot com. What was, uh, what was that all about? How did you get started? You know? Yeah. How did you get the idea?

[00:25:13] Ben: So, I, I actually, I was living in Phoenix or Scottsdale working for GoDaddy, and I had bought two townhouses in South Florida where I’m originally from. And obviously I don’t, I, number one. I didn’t wanna pay 8% to a, or 10% to a property management company, but I’m also not gonna go back and forth constantly to collect rent or do whatever.

[00:25:31] Ben: So I’m like, couldn’t find any system out there outside of like, massive enterprise solutions. And I’m like, man, there’s a, there’s a really big need here, uh, for this. And you know, it was super early. I think at its peak it was processing like $300,000 a month in rent. And then Brent said he, you know, he had, uh, fallen out with the CEO of and he had a ton of money invested there, and he, and he really needed me to go take it on.

[00:25:56] Ben: So I kind of stopped the effort on easy rent. I, I wasn’t very passionate about it. I learned a lot. Um, but, but it wasn’t really interesting to me. Um. And I think that’s super important as a founder and a and a CEO. Like you gotta be interested in what you’re doing. So, you know, somebody else had taken that over and it, and it had sold off.

[00:26:14] Ben: Um, nothing crazy. Like it wasn’t a massive thing. It was literally like just kind of somebody else take it over. And, uh, I did and, and that’s where the first thing I did was I brought Dave Coston in. He was that CloudFlare at the time. And I was like, he’s the only guy I know that could, that could do what we need to do.

[00:26:29] Ben: And that’s effectively before omnichannel really became a term, is build a true omnichannel solution. And I could tell you right now, if I had been able to launch help and it’s state with Dave, I’d be retired right now. I, I, I’d be worth hundreds of millions of dollars because that problem that we were trying to solve back then still exists today, right?

[00:26:49] Ben: The challenge. 

[00:26:49] Ken: So what is that? What is that problem? What is that problem that still exists? 

[00:26:53] Ben: So there’s real, no real good solution allowing you to do multiple different types of conversations. So like even today. If there’s a live chat and there’s a very specific experience, live chat, then you have a help desk, right?

[00:27:05] Ben: Very specific, you know, uh, solution like, um, need for a help desk. So what’s missing is the true all-in-one solution where we have to use live for our chat, and then we have to use Zendesk for our help desk. Zendesk is a help desk. Yes, they bought zop and they tried to merge it in, but it’s just, it, they’re, they’re not live chat, right?

[00:27:24] Ben: Live chat is a great live chat solution, but it’s not a help desk. So there really is no all in one solution, right? And we are doing crazy Like if you came in to chat, we’d look your email address up in Magento and find your order details. We would look it up in W-H-M-C-S and find your account details.

[00:27:40] Ben: All just integrations that we did and that, that stuff didn’t exist back then. Um, so, you know, I think, I think the, um, I, I, I think the, I think the term I had for the phrase I had was intelligent customer service, powered by your data. And that was back in 2016 or something. And that’s how we kind of wanted to shape it, is it’s enabling you to do this intelligent customer service based on your actual data and your customer.

[00:28:07] Ben: Um, so we, you know, unfortunately there, there it was, it was really challenging for us to launch the product because, um, you know, there was some disagreements from the investor on when it was ready. Um, you know, and software is never ready. Um, so, you know, ultimately after a couple years I just, you know, I had to move on and, and that’s when I took the chief product officer role at StackPath.

[00:28:28] Ken: Yeah. Right. Okay. So StackPath, I mean, StackPath a bit of a legendary company in terms of like who founded it, who, you know, who was, uh, providing funding right at the start, uh, and some legendary hosting industry people or were involved. Uh, tell me about StackPath. How did you, uh, how did you get brought in there?

[00:28:47] Ben: Yeah, so Lance, you know, at the time when I was looking to make a change and help, uh, Lance had reached out to me and, and he had a, you know, I actually met with Lance, uh, at the very beginning before StackPath even had a name. And I met him in New York City and he had told me about the, you know, the idea of building the security platform.

[00:29:03] Ben: And, uh, you know, we had a great, great time, but I was still kind of in the middle of Easy Rent and So I didn’t want to leave the investor high and dry. And I was just like, Lance, I’d be in yesterday if I, if I could, I just didn’t have the ability to do it at the time, otherwise I would’ve been on that founding team.

[00:29:20] Ben: Um, but you know, I kept in touch with Lance. Uh, they, they struggled with product ma you know, just, just product development, you know, product was kind of being ran by marketing at the time and it was not being ran well. So, you know, they were, they were, you know, just kind of needed some help in the product department.

[00:29:34] Ben: So Lance was one of my best friends, you know, through the industry. I, I did a lot of business with Lance over the years with Soft Layer, you know, I, to this day I miss soft layer, you know, I, we work with Phoenix Snap. It is the closest I’ve been able to come, uh, to Soft Layer Phoenix Snap does a hell of a job, but, you know, really kind of took for granted what soft layer really enabled back in the day.

[00:29:52] Ben: And it, it was, it was awesome. You know, I got to work with the team that built that platform, um, you know, at StackPath, which was great. [00:30:00] And, you know, we, we built some products and, you know, consolidated some brands and, you know, I learned a lot. You know, one of the last things I did is we went on the road and raised 180 million.

[00:30:09] Ben: Uh, never done that before. Right? So that was, that was a wow, neat learning experience. But, you know, ultimately one of the brands we bought was Max CDN. And we had like a 90% churn rate because WordPress users could not figure out how to use the CDN as a outside of just asset delivery, which still creates a problem for the initial request.

[00:30:31] Ben: So I kind of pitched it to the board. I was like, Hey, like there’s this huge opportunity. We can go out, we have the largest affiliates in WordPress today. Like we can go out with a product built just for this. I, I was talking to, you know, like even Kinta at the time, you know, they were still trying to, you know, get their market share and their co-founder of Brian Jackson left and you know, the conversation fell off, but board was like, yeah, that’s cute.

[00:30:51] Ben: Like we’d rather go chase Disney. Right? Which, funny enough, rocket’s platform host hosts. Um, you know, they weren’t interested. So I said, Hey, like, I’m out, you know? And, uh, I, I decided to go out and build what would become Rocket and, uh, you know, I bought on for like 3,500 bucks on Brand bucket.

[00:31:11] Ben: And, you know, I got to about 10,000 an hour R and, and I, I sponsored a, uh, the, the Palm Beach Tech Association. And when I saw our logo and it said Rocket, I’m like, man, this is, nobody’s ever gonna find us. Uh, so I reached out to Michael from and I said, Hey man, I need And he laughed.

[00:31:29] Ben: He’s like, yeah. He’s like, yeah, right dude, that’s gonna be million. And I’m like, no, find out. And sure enough, he’s like, dude, I won’t even be able to get them to answer me for less than seven figures. Blah, blah, blah. Geez. And I was like, well, I’m like, alright, how about Rocket Net? That’s for sale. And you know, long story short, I ended up buying Rocket Do Net for 50,000, uh, and I had 10,000 an error.

[00:31:49] Ben: So it was probably the biggest bet I’ve ever made in my career. Wow. And it paid off more than any bet I’ve ever made in my life. Um, we have built serious, you think the, the domain. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Um huh. You know, I do, I think Rocket would’ve been successful without it. Yeah. But I, I think at the end of the day, there is so much value to ha investing in a domain name.

[00:32:10] Ben: You know, I, I can’t even imagine being just fits so well with what we’re doing. And granite, I’m biased. It’s burned into my brain. You know, I, I wear a t-shirt every day of my life, right? I got, I got a rocket, you know, cups, you know, like, I’m just obsessed. Um, but, you know, the, uh, which, which, funny enough, actually, as we’re, as we’re on this call, this is my mouse pad.

[00:32:33] Ben: The Host nine logo. Um, but, but you know, I, I think it was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life because we’ve been able to really brand it so well, and, you know, there’s a lot of benefits to having a, a domain name as your brand, right? So like, anytime somebody recommends us on Facebook, it’s an immediate link to our website.

[00:32:49] Ben: Nobody has to go look for us. We’re like, oh, who’s They click on it. Um, so, you know, I think, you know, I think it’s, it, it’s, it’s been a, an incredible, uh, part of the journey and, and it was definitely a huge bet, but, uh, uh, I wouldn’t change it for the world. 

[00:33:04] Ken: Isn’t that something? Yeah. I mean, back when, uh, when I was, um, trying to think of a name for Mail channels back in the day when, when the company started, no, nobody knows this, but we were actually working on disposable email addresses.

[00:33:19] Ken: My friend had this cool idea where you could make disposable email addresses out of subdomains. Uh, so, you know, you would have like your, you know, your username part, uh, at. Some random characters dot your Uh, the idea being that instead of using a disposable email address service, you would just have a thing that can manipulate the DNS and create subdomains.

[00:33:43] Ken: And, and there’s a cool side effect of that in that when you disable a disposable address, you’re actually shutting off the DNS record. And so it’s not even resolvable. Nobody can even find your mail server at that point. So I, I thought that was really cool. But anyway, we were trying to figure out a name for, for that concept, and I must have looked for two days at, at hundreds and hundreds of potential names and domains and, and mail channels happened to be available back in 2003.

[00:34:09] Ken: Uh, and, and so that’s what we settled on, and, and it’s a, it’s cool how that, that one name has, you know, two, two aspects to it. One is that it is memorable and it’s easy to type into a browser if someone mentions it to you. Um, and two, the concept of mail channels can be applied to many different things related absolutely to mail.

[00:34:27] Ken: Absolutely. Right. It’s just channels, whatever that means. And so we, we switched from, uh, disposable email addresses, which just we couldn’t make pay back in 2004, 2005, uh, over to, uh, over to outbound mail delivery as a service where obviously it makes a lot of sense the concept of having channels of mail.

[00:34:45] Ken: Sure. No. And so similarly, you know, rocket is an amazing, an amazing concept. It’s just a single, uh, what five letters word, you know, uh, that, that is so, so easy to, to tell other people about and have them just type it into their browser. 

[00:35:01] Ben: Yeah. You know, I mean, and, and to touch on mail channels, you know, look, I’ve been in the industry a very long time and we move, we were moving a, a very large agency customer over, I think, uh, they had like a hundred websites.

[00:35:13] Ben: And one of the things they really needed was the transactional emails, but not a lot like password resets. And, and you know, with our platform, we can move a site from one, like one part of the world to another in real time. And that means the IP can change behind the scenes, doesn’t affect delivery because of CloudFlare, but that would affect SPF records as you can imagine.

[00:35:33] Ben: So we didn’t really have a good solution and we also don’t want to be in the email game at all. It, it’s a pain. So I started kind of looking around at, at what others were doing to solve this and I ended up reverse engineering a couple different solutions. And I was testing, um, can’t remember the name of it, but I was testing another, another pretty big provider.

[00:35:53] Ben: I think Cloud Ways uses them. And then I was testing mail channels and within four hours I was able to actually. Create a white labeled domain with wild card records that covered, you know, the SPF for mail channels and, you know, the way that we creatively create unique email addresses on the fly for each, uh, each, uh, website.

[00:36:15] Ben: But I was able to have x recognize that domain. And if it matches my WP emails, then we’re gonna send it off the mail channels, right? Mm-Hmm. So we were able to, I was able to knock that out in like four hours, which is incredible. And, and we had, like, I had to do a lot of custom stuff, you know, like there was a couple of examples out there for getting XM to play nice with it, but not in the exact way that I needed to do it.

[00:36:35] Ben: So I was able to get it working and for us it was just now we literally override the send mail, uh, past and PHPI and I for anybody that needs to use it. And anytime it’s my WP emails in the email address, it knows to use mail channels. So we’ve been incredibly happy with it. Um, you know, it’s, it’s solved a very big pain point that we had, but the next step for us is we’re gonna allow vanity domain so that way a customer of ours can say, Hey, I’m an e-commerce shop, especially with this WooCommerce product we’re working on.

[00:37:04] Ben: I need my emails to be lobster, right? So we’re gonna start, you know, that’s kind of our next phase, but over the last probably year and a half, I wanna say that we’ve been working with mail channels. It’s been a great experience and, you know, it’s, uh, it truly is a unique solution to the point where I was asked the other day by Dolly and they’re like, who do you use for email?

[00:37:22] Ben: I’m like, oh, you gotta use mail channels. I’ll do an intro. Right? And it, and it’s just, it’s a very, it’s a very, um, simple solution, but obviously a complex problem to solve. 

[00:37:34] Ken: I, I appreciate the flattery. Uh, you know, I think, um, if you wanna win at any business, what you have to do is. You have to obsessively solve a problem for one particular kind of customer and not stop doing that forever.

[00:37:52] Ken: And, uh, and so whatever that kind of customer needs, you address that particular problem no matter how hard it is. And if you do that, eventually you’re the only one doing it. And there’s nobody else who can do that. Right. And, and I remember when we engaged with one particular large customer, uh, you know, they were having all kinds of problems delivering through one of the other transactional mail services that isn’t really designed for hosting.

[00:38:16] Ken: Uh, and they got their ips blocked, uh, by one of the big block lists. And, uh, and the provider said, Hey, you know, you gotta do some spam filtering here. You know, that’s why you’re getting blocked. And they were like, well, what you mean we don’t know anything about spam filtering? And, uh, and so they, they somehow found us, uh, and.

[00:38:37] Ken: In conversation early on, I remember their, their, uh, you know, chief technical officer said, you know. You guys are like, you’re the only ones for this, aren’t you? You know, like you’re the guys kind of like, we’ve got this other problem that we have to solve and there’s like one vendor that does that for us, and you guys are the guys for this particular problem.

[00:38:56] Ken: Within a problem, within a problem. And I’m like, yeah, pretty much. Yep. Yeah. And it’s, and it’s, but the, the challenge for us is, uh, there’s a lot of noise in the email space. There’s a lot of different providers who, especially right now, right? Who right. They, they send transactional mail. How many, there’s dozens and dozens of companies that send transactional mail, but their use case is absolutely not what hosting providers need, right?

[00:39:21] Ken: Where you have a shifting matrix of, uh, of customers sending all kinds of random stuff all day long and where abuse is actually the primary issue. Absolutely. If you’re, you know, if you’re just looking for an individual account to send, uh, a, you know, mail out to your mailing list, we’re, we’re not that.

[00:39:41] Ken: You know, don’t, don’t come to mail channels, but if you’re a provider and you have thousands of customers of your own, who have thousands of their own users that you can’t really control, that’s our sweet spot. 

[00:39:51] Ben: Definitely. You know? No, it’s, it’s literally a one click integration for us, for, and, and, and it’s not the best solution in the world for our customers because again, it’s, it’s using on behalf of, and it, it’s, it’s way better than any PHP mail solution, but it’s, uh, it, it’s still not something that we’re like, oh, don’t worry about email itself.

[00:40:09] Ben: Like, not at all. We’re like, Hey, this is like a stop gap for critical emails, but you’re gonna want to, IM implement your own s and TP plugin or something like that. But again, this, you know, hopefully by Q2 we’ll have the full integration with mail channels to where customers can bring their own domain.

[00:40:24] Ken: Yeah. And you know, we’re working pretty hard on that. Uh, uh, at the moment, one of the things that has changed this year is Google announced that starting in February, they were going to really crack down on bad email practices. So they’re requiring anyone who sends from their domain to more than, you know, 5,000 recipients per month on Gmail, that they have, uh, a good DAC policy in place that they de Im sign all of their messages.

[00:40:52] Ken: And like this has really ramped things up, especially, uh, for smaller customers within hosting who probably do meet that threshold of sending, but they don’t know what D IM is. Right. And so we’re getting a, we’ve been getting a lot of requests to solve that problem. We’re gonna do something about that inside of Nelson.

[00:41:10] Ken: Have you ever met Nick Nelson before?

[00:41:11] Ben: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, so my, you know, I, I just moved recently and I have, uh, my, it’s, I’m in this residential, commercial, uh, location. So I have a 1200 square foot office here and I’ve got a big conference room. So Nick was actually here yesterday, he lives like 20 minutes from me now, right here in South Florida.

[00:41:30] Ben: And he’s working on a startup that he, he’s launching called Mail Mechanic. So it might be interesting for, for you guys to kind of link up ’cause he is heavily focusing on Dmar. I mean, he showed me a lot of stuff yesterday and helped me get our dmar and everything all set up. Um, but it’s something that we’re actually gonna start offering to our customers, you know, just as like, here’s a service we recommend.

[00:41:49] Ben: ’cause you know, I’ve known Nick forever and, you know, I, I believe in what he is doing and it’s a great solution. You know, it’s just, I think it’s mail but, you know, I know he is still getting ready to launch and, and build it out, but maybe worth [00:42:00] you guys having a conversation to see if, if, uh, if there’s a way that he could team up with you guys.

[00:42:05] Ken: You know how far back we go with Nick? So he bought our very first outbound mail. Filtering solution. Okay. Uh, and and he was the first customer for that, a UK two group. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. In London. I, I remember going and meeting with him, uh, on Brick Lane in East London. That’s awesome. And he probably doesn’t even know that he was the first customer.

[00:42:26] Ken: ’cause I was probably like puffing my chest out and saying, we want, you know, thousands of customers, but Sure. Uh, yeah, for sure. We go way back. And he, yeah. He was at Sac Path as well, right? Mm-Hmm. And he’s been all over the, all over the industry, um, for years, so. Okay. So like, when you look ahead to the future, um, at and at the, at the hosting industry in general, what do you see?

[00:42:49] Ken: I mean, I. Something that is constantly intriguing for me is that there are these giants like GoDaddy in the industry, or one-on-one, uh, or Ner or you know, nevermind Amazon and Google Cloud. And yet there’s this froth of much smaller companies constantly popping up in the industry, and that never seems to die.

[00:43:11] Ken: I’m just, wait, you know, I keep waiting for the industry to sort of, uh, ossify, uh, and just become three giants. Uh, yet you can’t seem to kill the entrepreneurial spirit in this industry. Like, why does that happen and what do you see coming down the pipe in the next, you know, five years, let’s say, um, in hosting Where, where, where’s the excitement these days?

[00:43:31] Ben: So, you know, I think for a long time everybody thought it was gonna be like new fold versus GoDaddy and at the time, endurance, right? And then you’ve got Wix and, and a couple other things. But you know, the reality is WordPress is, is rounding up, powering half the internet. Um, I don’t see that going anywhere, especially after companies like Webflow Jack prices 26% and you’re completely locked in.

[00:43:56] Ben: Um, you know, I, I, I think, I think WordPress is super interesting too. Um, I think with Gutenberg, it’d, it’d be like ordering a Tesla. Going to the factory and watching it be built, right? Like when you see the first door go on, you’re like, Hmm, I don’t really get it. But the door opens kind of easy, but I don’t see it.

[00:44:19] Ben: Right? But if you order a Tesla and then you wait until it’s done and you pick it up, you absolutely love it. And I think what a lot of people, people may not see is they’re actually watching the Wix Killer and Web Float Killer be created right in front of their eyes. But it’s very hard to digest and understand that because you’re seeing the bugs, you’re seeing the pain points, you’re seeing, you know, all of that stuff, um, you know, along the way before it’s a finished, polished product.

[00:44:50] Ben: Uh, so me personally, I don’t, I don’t see WordPress going anywhere, anytime soon. I think it’s gonna continue to be a, a, uh, a defacto standard for, for web development and agencies because of the low overhead. Um, I also think there’s a relatively low overhead to get into the hosting industry, which is why you’ll continue to see some of the smaller companies pop up.

[00:45:11] Ben: Um, I’m starting to see some, some people out there like, uh, you know, whether it’s Elementor or Buddy Boss trying to launch hosting products, um, I always try to advise them unbiasedly, like, don’t do it. And the reason is hosting is not easy. Um, yeah. You know, so let work with a partner that specializes in it, right?

[00:45:33] Ben: Like if you build a page builder. What makes you think you can run a hosting platform? Right. And I love Elementor. We do joint events with them. You know, Miriam over there is great, um, CEO, like they’re all really good people. And I try to tell ’em like, hey, like we’ve solved this problem, like just resell our product or, you know, whatever it might be.

[00:45:48] Ben: Add a bunch of options of hosting companies, whatever. Um, but I think you’re starting to see some of the other angle, right? Like software developers that have plugins at scale trying to get into the hosting space [00:46:00] to increase their arpu. But the reality is it’s a very hard industry, you know? Um, it’s very difficult.

[00:46:05] Ben: So, you know, I think we’ll see some more of that. And, you know, I think ultimately we’re, we’re already kind of seeing the evolution of content delivery where. You know, you, you can’t really find a hosting product today that doesn’t mention CDN anymore. Right? So there is the, the days of pointing to a server, a single server are kind of gong, you know?

[00:46:24] Ben: And, and we’re to blame for that as, as human beings. You know, if, if Netflix takes one too many seconds to load, then you’re used to, you’re going to Hulu, you’re Netflix is down. Yeah. Even though it just needed like one more second. So that’s the same thing with content delivery. You know, like if you go to natasha’s, it’s immediately loading up.

[00:46:39] Ben: If it took three to four seconds, you’re like, oh, her site’s down. I’m going somewhere else. So, you know, human beings are very impatient and, you know, iPhones and all these devices that we have, have, have made us that way. So, you know, I think that’s kind of like what we were able to, to break into the market with is that edge first approach.

[00:46:56] Ben: Like, our customers don’t have to know anything about CDN or waf. It just works and it always works. Um, and it’s always on. And, and we’ve spent years perfecting our integration with CloudFlare to do that. And, and it’s, and it’s not so much CloudFlare, but it’s the edge. You know, like we have Fastly and GIO as well delivering, you know, we can deliver them in a multi CN approach.

[00:47:15] Ben: Like we’re not vendor locked anything CloudFlare does. We don’t use workers for anything. It’s pure CDN. Um, so, you know, which came from years of running A CDN. So, you know, I think, I think we’ll continue to see the, the, that content, uh, evolution and you know, like we’re focused on now figuring out how to help.

[00:47:31] Ben: Get WooCommerce on the map against Shopify. Like how do we help solve some of these scaling issues? You know, having, having a guy like Dave Coston on board allows us to do some really creative stuff that, you know, may not be, you know, traditionally seen in the, uh, WordPress developer’s eye that’s been contributing to core for 10 years.

[00:47:49] Ben: You know, you’ve got a guy that’s built cloud, you know, helped build a lot of CloudFlare and. CPA and all these systems at scale, throw him into the core code base and let’s see what we can do. Right? So, wow. So we’re working on some really cool stuff there. Um, you know, and I’ve been asked in some of my tweets, you know, do we plan on giving back any of the, the, the, uh, technology?

[00:48:06] Ben: Absolutely. Um, we’re gonna be open sourcing as much as possible. Um, you know, you know, we’re part of five of the future, uh, five for the future at Rocket, which, you know, we have 5% of our employees contributing to WordPress core. Um, our competitors doing 50 million a year in revenue, don’t contribute at all.

[00:48:22] Ben: Right. So, you know, we, we heavily believe in, uh, giving back to the community. And that’s, that’s a large reason why we sponsor work camps. Like, yes, we need to grow. Yes, that’s a part of business. But I love buying lunch for every, you know, you know, contributor that’s at work camp because we appreciate them.

[00:48:39] Ken: Huh. So that, that’s really interesting. So like you mentioned, uh, has, has gotten to 5 million a RR in three and a half years, which is amazing. Like Wow. Uh, and you’ve also mentioned that, you know, you don’t have targets, you don’t, you know, you’re not looking to grow at a particular rate, but getting to 5 million a RR in three and a half years in this bloodbath industry, that’s like extremely tough as you acknowledge that, that’s, that’s quite an accomplishment.

[00:49:07] Ken: Where, where do you think you might be five years from now? 

[00:49:11] Ben: Sure. So, I mean, I should probably, uh, you know, add an asterisk to the, um, you know, uh, no targets. You know, we definitely have financial models and growth. Sure, sure. Like trajectories, but. When I say that, it’s more along the lines of, I’m not breathing down Chad ne like next saying, where’s the sales at?

[00:49:29] Ben: Where’s the sales at? Right. Go upsell. Go upsell. Right. And we’re starting to see that. And, you know, WP Engine, you know, we win a lot of deals where people are spending 10 grand a month. That just doesn’t make any sense at all, but it’s upsell, upsell, upsell. And uh, you know, for us, you know, I, I, I think we’re on track to, to come close, if not, uh, doubling the business this year.

[00:49:51] Ben: You know, we have a lot of initiatives at play. Um, we have some massive reseller engagements, you know, we’re working with, we’ll actually be announcing some investments of our own, uh, into some WordPress companies that we’re gonna be pairing up with. So, you know, I, I think five years from now, you know, my goal is to effectively have this fungible platform, uh, that, that’s, that’s focused on WordPress.

[00:50:15] Ben: And, and if something pivots down the road and maybe it’s X, Y, Z instead of WordPress like we already have. This vendor and edge agnostic platform that can literally, if I wanted to deploy anything tomorrow, we could, but I don’t want to, I don’t want to take the focus off WordPress. I’m not here to do that.

[00:50:33] Ben: I think it’s, yeah, I think it would be the biggest mistake ever and, and we would fail. Um, so, you know, five years from now, I, I, I hope that we continue to, to, to have the same, uh, healthy business model that we have today along with some, you know, game changing technology and solutions for the end user to make work, make it easier to use WordPress and, and scale their businesses online.

[00:50:56] Ken: So, because, you know, one of the elephants in the room these days is, is this generative AI stuff like GPT, uh, generative images, et cetera. We, we hear a lot of stories about, uh, and nevermind stories. We’ve all received, those reach out emails, cold prospecting emails, uh, that start with, you know, I hope you’re, uh, I hope you’re doing well, right?

[00:51:19] Ken: I hope this email finds you well and blah, blah, blah. And you just know that was auto-generated. Um, how is generative ai, uh, playing a role? Is it playing a role How do you see it coming into the picture in, in the next few years? Or is that just not really an, a, a, a core issue? No, 

[00:51:37] Ben: I think, you know, when we launched, or we announced not too long ago, our rocket edge, uh, you know, initiative, it’s, you know, at the end of the day, AI is, is machine learning, right?

[00:51:48] Ben: It’s been around forever. Um. I think, I think it’s really incredible what you can do to crunch a ton of data. Instead of asking one doctor what the cure for cancer is. You can ask a million doctors and get a response in 10 seconds, you know, a. So I think, I think there’s definitely a lot of, uh, uh, value, and I’m not completely ignoring the AI craze.

[00:52:10] Ben: Uh, for Rocket in particular, you know, machine learning slash AI is, is gonna be extremely important, uh, for us as we venture down the multi edge platform this year. And we, we, we will be able to tell like, Hey, Brazil is a hundred milliseconds slower than usual on CloudFlare. Let’s flip it to Fastly. Right?

[00:52:28] Ben: Right. And then using AI and machine learning to look at all of our access logs to find all the brute force attacks and block them right then and there. Um, you know, so I think, I think there’s a but, but all of that stuff, like, we did that at StackPath with machine learning, you know, that’s what any, any real laugh has been leveraging AI forever.

[00:52:44] Ben: Right. So, you know, I, I think, um, I think it’s gonna be interesting to see what happens when people that have. Copy written things that end up in, you know, chat GPT to provide solutions that, you know, like who’s gonna get paid for that? Like, you know, Microsoft’s making all this money or whatever. So I think that’s like a whole can of worms that is yet to really be open.

[00:53:05] Ben: Um, but, but also I think, I think at the end of the day is as scary as it might be to think Google and Bing and all these are just AI is gonna give us all the answers. And I don’t, I don’t think so. Um, you know, I, I don’t see, you know, uh, computer generated content outranking real human generated content, right?

[00:53:25] Ben: Because something about the national park two years ago that is now in an answer that’s, you know, computed today is gonna be different than somebody that visited that national park yesterday. Right, right. So, so I think, you know, at the end of the day that that AI is only as smart as we were years ago, right?

[00:53:42] Ben: Not as smart as we are. Um, and I think a lot of people that aren’t really into technology might think that it’s Skynet and it’s over there just learning and becoming so smart, and it’s gonna be smarter than us and take over the world. But the reality is it’s literally only as smart as all of us. But it can take all of that knowledge in an unbelievable way to just com compute a solution that not, not one person may be able to do.

[00:54:04] Ben: Right. Um, right, right, right. So I think, I think it’s interesting, uh, you know, I think it’s definitely, if anything, gonna help the web grow because I think it’ll help kickstart some, you know, like if I’m a plumber and I’m building a plumbing website through an agency, it might be easy for them to, to scaffold up a, uh, plumbing website using some, you know, generated text and things like that.

[00:54:23] Ben: Um, you know, I think it’ll, I I think it’ll help, you know, I, I think it’s a sidekick and not the main star, if that makes sense. If leveraged properly. 

[00:54:33] Ken: Yeah, that makes sense in the hosting, in the hosting realm, that it’s a sidekick and not the main star. Um, but one of the big concerns that I’m hearing about, uh, is, uh, is that generative AI is now sort of, it’s so flooding the web with, with generated content that the actual ai, uh, algorithms are having to be trained on AI generated content and you, and sort of after a while, everything becomes the same color.

[00:54:57] Ken: Yeah. You know, it all just turns gray. Uh, so the large language model, uh, companies, one of their big challenges is finding clean data, actual human generated data that’s, that’s sort of unique and not just re rehashed and reprocessed, uh, in the, in the abuse side. Uh, the main industry organization that we belong to is the messaging, um, messaging, malware, mobile, anti-abuse working group.

[00:55:22] Ken: It’s a, a mouthful. Uh, and, and last June. Um, uh, a few people within the group started a new initiative that’s all about ai, uh, threats, AI threats, and I, I think that it’s, it’s, you know, likely, uh, maybe more likely than not that AI is going to become a whole separate track alongside the other three that the organization already covers because, uh, of, well, for example, uh, just recently OpenAI announced that they had shut down a number of state actor groups who were using their platform to perform a, a variety of cyber threat, uh, intelligence activities.

[00:56:04] Ken: Uh, and, uh, I think that must be just scratching the surface of what these, uh, these new generative AI technologies are gonna be used for. But that’s kind of outside of the purview of what, no, I mean, look, 

[00:56:15] Ben: I’m excited to see AI in the medicine world, honestly. I think, I think that’s a no brainer for sure.

[00:56:19] Ben: Um, I think that’s gonna be incredibly powerful. Uh, I think it’s gonna be able to tell us things that no single doctor could ever tell us, but again, all 10 of the smartest doctors in the world created this, this data. Right. So. Right. I, I, yeah. You know, if, if I led the AI initiative, I would, I would heavily focus on medicine first.

[00:56:35] Ken: Right. Interesting. Yeah. Interesting. So, uh, for, for, uh, you know, as a way of closing, um, I wonder if you could, uh, give some advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, uh, whether they’re looking at doing a hosting startup or not. Obviously, I think you’d try to turn them away from that. Um, but, uh, you know, what, what advice would you give to, uh, somebody who’s [00:57:00] looking to set it on their own and start a company these days in this environment?

[00:57:04] Ben:Yeah,  I mean, you know, I think, you know, just do it. You know, like pull the trigger, go for it. Um, responsibly, of course, if you have a family to feed, right, you have to find a way to balance both. And you know, like me, when I started Rocket, I had a, a consulting, uh, job that I did as well, but I was very upfront that Rocket is my main focus.

[00:57:25] Ben: Um, so, you know, I would say don’t hold back and, and also dare to be different, you know, like, yes, you want to be familiar, but vaguely familiar may not be such a bad thing. You know, you don’t, if every single business in in your sector that you’re gonna try to break into has the, the navigation menu for their control panel on the left, put yours on the left, not the right.

[00:57:48] Ben: Um, right, right, right, right. Keep, keep things familiar, uh, but also, you know, uh, dare to be different. Push the envelope, uh, and be innovative. You know, think about the customer and, and the solution that you are and the problem you’re solving for that customer and how it will impact their life. And I think when you work it backwards, you know, one, one of my favorite things that I contributed back to the founder 500 was, you know, writing a press release first.

[00:58:14] Ben: I, I think it’s one of the most helpful things, whether I’m building a new feature at Rocket or launching Rocket, I start with the press release first, because when you do that, and, and I guess this was a very popular thing at Amazon and I had no idea. Yeah. Yeah. It just seemed like a natural thing for me.

[00:58:27] Ben: Um, like I wrote a press release for GoDaddy Pro and Jeff King was like, where’d you learn how to do that? I’m like, what do you mean? He goes, he goes, that’s a huge Amazon thing. I’m like, oh, I had no idea. I’m like, I just, I figured if we’re gonna go do this, we should start by figuring out how we want the ahas and the wows from the world by starting with a press release.

[00:58:43] Ben: Then we can work it backwards. And yes, that, that list will change quite a bit as you venture down the journey, but. It’s always a good starting point, and it’s like kind of also forces you to be disciplined with a mark in the sand. Like, this is what we’re building, this is what we’re committing to, no scope creep, which sometimes it always happens no matter what.

[00:58:59] Ben: But you know, I I truly, one of my favorite things, and I was just telling, uh, a, a customer of ours this morning who’s become a good friend. You know, if you’re not truly, if you’re not embarrassed by what you’re about to release, you’ve waited too long. And it’s, and it’s so true, Uhhuh, you know, like I, 

[00:59:12] Ken: if you’re not embarrassed about what with Yeah, that’s great.

[00:59:15] Ben: If you would’ve saw the first version of Rocket You, it was, it was built in W-H-M-C-S. Uh, you couldn’t really tell, like even Matt Pugh from W-H-M-C-S was like, how’d you do that? Uh, we made it look completely different, but it was very, very rough. Uh, but it, but it, but it allowed me to validate the market.

[00:59:31] Ben: It took 72 days and, and 20 something thousand dollars for our MVP and, uh, you know, so definitely, uh, minimal viable product. And, you know, just go for it. 

[00:59:41] Ken: Very interesting. And, and I guess in this, in the digital space, you can do that. You’re not, you know, not like, uh, doing a 70, uh, k experiment, experimental airplane that is gonna kill people.

[00:59:54] Ken: Right. It’s like, you know, go for it and it’s gonna be ugly and under the hood it’s a bunch of duct tape and WHM modules or whatever. But, you know, it lets you test it out. Stage advice, sage advice, Ben, and, and you have the track record and success to prove it. Uh, I, I really look forward to seeing where gets to in the next few years.

[01:00:14] Ken: I’m sure, uh, it will look nothing like it does today, three years from now, other than perhaps the core values of the organization. 

[01:00:21] Ben: That’s absolutely right. Um, thank you. And you know, you’re right about that last statement. Yes. The business will continue to evolve Mm-Hmm. And, and, and mature. But the, the culture and core values that we have here about customer success will never, ever, ever change.

[01:00:38] Ken: Awesome. Awesome. It’s been such a pleasure talking to you, Ben. Uh, and, uh, we should catch up again in the future and, and see how you’re doing. 

[01:00:46] Ben: Absolutely. Thanks again for having me.

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