Bob Parsons was once just another Highlandtown kid who was scared of the mean nuns at his Catholic school, joined the military after graduating, and worked at Bethlehem Steel after returning from Vietnam. But his story has a different ending than most: last year, he sold the majority of Go Daddy, his domain registration company, for $2.25 billion, and gave $1 million of that to his alma mater, the University of Baltimore, to endow a professorship. So how exactly did Parsons get from there to here?
The stereotypical dot-com billionaire is a 26-year old Stanford grad with a degree in computer science; when Parsons founded his first company in 1984, he was an accounting nerd with an interest in the growing field of personal computers, according to the story he told UB students this week. After a few years of struggle, Parsons hit paydirt when he lowered prices and marketed aggressively. Ten years later, he sold the company for $64 million and, soon after, started Go Daddy. That business was also a huge risk, and Parsons’ wealth dwindled to a (relatively) paltry $6 million before the company took off.
Since retiring as CEO last year, Parsons and his wife have started spending lots of money on good causes. Along with nonprofits serving AIDS patients, schoolchildren in Haiti, and severely wounded veterans, the couple donated $1 million to Parsons’ undergraduate home, the University of Baltimore. The funds were earmarked to create a program in digital communication, which unites several skills valuable in today’s marketplace: computer programming, web design, writing, etc. Parsons himself has signed on to guest-lecture several times a year in order to share his experience on entrepreneurship and digital marketing.
The company Parsons founded has been struggling a bit since his departure. Once (in)famous for scandalous Super Bowl ads, Go Daddy’s 2012 Super Bowl commercial featuring NASCAR driver was ranked last of 55 ad spots. His fondness for ads featuring women in, shall we say, Hooters-style outfits and his personal beliefs about business regulation and internet freedom have drawn ire from some quarters. But we salute his dedication to his alma mater, and we’re excited to see what new entrepreneurs emerge from the program that Parsons has funded.
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