Episode 70: Ben Gabler – His Journey in Tech & Business, Building a Web Hosting Company, Differentiation

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Today I’m joined by Ben Gabler. Ben is the Founder & CEO of Rocket.net (a web hosting company). As we do with all our guests, the first episode is always about the person and their journey. So we dive into his backstory and how he fell in love with his craft.

His family always operated businesses so it was natural for him to gravitate toward building a business. Uniquely, it was delivering pizzas where he really learned about the fundamentals of business. From there he fell in love with tech through the lens of being able to communicate with anyone on the planet using the Internet.

As years go by he found his way to HostGator, did some startups, and ended up at GoDaddy.. until we eventually land on where he is today and built his hosting business. We finally talk about differentiation and what he thinks sets them apart in the marketplace. And so much more.. enjoy!

Ben Gabler

Ben Gabler is evidence that when you couple a passion for team building with an entrepreneurial spirit, you can build technologies that simplify daily tasks, improving quality of life. With a proven record growing technology businesses, Gabler has expanded market share for major global Web hosting brands and brought technology startups from initial idea to success.

He has spent most of his career building and managing various hosting companies/platforms including HostNine, HostGator, GoDaddy, UK2Group, IX Web Hosting, and StackPath.

Today, Gabler is focused on accelerating and protecting WordPress at the edge as CEO & Founder of Rocket.net.

THE MEAT OF IT!

  • CEO, Founder of Rocket.net
    • In the hosting space for about 20 years.
  • Family – always operated businesses when he was a kid.. around that.
  • Got into computers very early on – Prodigy in the early 90s.
    • Chat rooms, bulletin board.. spent a lot of time on the Internet.
    • Dialup to DSL to Cable
  • Delivering Pizza…
    • Learn a lot about business delivering pizza.. from bookkeeping, pricing etc..
  • Was on IRC
    • Learned from a buddy he made money from hosting ..
  • First server, 2002. cPanel v3.
    • And his own IRC server.
    • Fell into the hosting thing in High School.
  • 2006 – Doing well, but heard about HostGator.
    • Had an interview.. started next day.
    • Employee #10.. merged his little company in.
  • 2006 – also started, HostNine
  • 2010 – Sold HostNine to HostGator
  • COO at HostGator..
  • Due for a break..
    • Year off. Lots of fishing.
    • Started doing contracting work for hosting companies.
    • Landed Senior project manager role at GoDaddy
      • GoDaddy → From domains to offering web hosting.
      • reLaunched Hosting Product line ..
      • First, one of the first managed WordPress hosting products.
    • Learned about Agile Project Management..
  • Learned it was too corporate for him.
    • Went back to South Florida..
    • Couple startups..
    • Chief product officer at Stackpath – CDN provider
      • Acquisitions – Max CDN .. popular in WordPress space
    • Learned the issues WordPress users were having..
    • Couple years…
  • Decided to create Rocket.net .. something that didn’t exist.
    • Everyone else was selling the same thing. Made no sense to him..
    • Be more creative and outside of the box
    • Applying what he learned at Stackpack in web hosting.
  • Pause.. What is a CDN for our listeners?
    • Similar to why 5G is so popular.. helps with content scale.
    • Pushing content closer to the eye balls. Caches your website around the world. Same speed everywhere.
  • Matt taking so many notes and things he wants to dig into …. great way to spend the 70th episode.
  • REWIND
    • His passion to what he does ..
    • Why did he gravitate to tech when he was young.. who influenced him.
    • His Dad’s computer set up. PC Anywhere. Always a computer in the house.
    • The AOL era. Instant messenger.. buddy list. Communication to the digital level.
    • Long conversations on AOL instead of sitting on the phone.. multiple things at once.
    • Tech was always a good outlet.. networking.
    • Learning beyond text books. From other people and other life experiences.
  • His passion was launched from the social aspects of technology.
    • For introverts.. easier to be social.
    • Not the popular kid in high school.
    • When he went online.. ability to communicate and socialize with people LIKE HIM.
    • Being able to understand what he/they are doing.
      • Understanding the building blocks behind what they are doing.
    • Not social in high school.. social butterfly on IRC.
  • Knowing your domain .. how it contributes to success.
    • Knowing how things work under the hood.. having done it. Helps a lot.
    • Great foundation.
    • Customers get shocked when they see him in the ticket center.
  • Passionate about helping people in support .. even when he’s not supposed to.
    • Get more respect .. example at GoDaddy.
  • Example of another business..
    • Helping someone get something .. a house. Very satisfying.
  • Same with Rocket..
    • See the results of what they do..
    • Improved SEO ..
    • Bringing value to others business.
    • Part of the passion.. customer first thought process.
  • He’s having fun.. but he also cares about the work.
    • He’s gotta help people – leading by example.
    • Importance of having someone with the energy, focus.. and caring about what they do.
  • Matt’s examples about helping clients.. and how satisfying it is to see the results.
  • His focus on agencies..
    • An extension to teams.. for those that don’t have Dev Ops etc..
    • Helping with things outside the bounds of what they do. That’s the level.
  • End to End customer experience – Customer Success.. the new term.
    • Support, usability, affordability.. etc..
    • That’s their focus.
  • Others trying to copy what they are doing..
    • They have years and years experience with their approach.
    • Innovate or die.
  • Why everyone is now thinking about performance.
    • All the things to improve.
    • Without using PHP ..
    • Server-less computing for the web.
      • Just write the function and it does its job.
      • Scaling checkout processes ..
      • Easier to solve with one product.
  • How flexible WordPress is… as a framework.
    • All the different ways to use WP ..
    • Does he find this challenging as a Web Host?
      • .. ?? Tune in to find out the answer. :wink:
    • One product, one framework.
  • Differentiation.
    • Can you ‘sell’ support?
    • The importance of USPs..
      • On a product and feature level.
      • Fully bootstrapped company.. traditional digital marketing was out of the picture.
      • Heavily focused on doing something others weren’t doing..
        • It would just be a matter of time.
    • Base of brand ambassadors through customers.
    • Different stages a company goes through..
      • Infancy stage – features first approach was massive.
        • Talking with people familiar with WordPress and hosting in general.
      • How GoDaddy had a different persona to what they were doing.. GD was a stepping stone to the Internet.
    • As they get more popular.. they don’t get a lot of questions about speed anymore.
      • An expectation..
    • Other questions..
      • Support, pricing, location questions.
      • Evolved into a competitive approach..
    • Main proposition now (they solved the speed and other problem already)
      • Extension of your team.
      • We are the support.
      • Affordable pricing.
    • Continuing to serve real world problems for customers.
      • Creating new, innovative tools/features.
    • Since day 1 → Simple, Fast, Secure.
      • Keeping it simple.
      • The customer experience is most important..
        • How you support all 3 of those.
      • Customer support or service isn’t a feature .. or selling point.
        • It’s another box that should be checked.
          • A world class experience to match ‘x'.
      • Wouldn’t change headline to be the best support in the world…
        • Unless an agency coming in on a landing page.. didn’t want to manage servers and they did care about speed of support.
        • Depends on the audience
    • Here’s the solution we are providing instead.
  • Going the extra mile.
    • Looking for ideas and opportunities from the customer.
    • Doing things that aren’t your core offering.
  • The future of Rocket.
    • What stage are they in?
    • Any plans…
      • Yes!
    • Organic and word of mouth
    • New features ..
    • New technology ..
    • WordPress scales well vertically..
      • Handling 100s of orders a minute.
        • Business as usual.
    • Solving the dynamic content problem.
      • At the Edge ..
    • Always BUILDING !!
      • Ahead of the game.
  • Where can we find him…
    • Twitter, Linkedin.. Rocket.net.
Matt Levenhagen
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