We were recently given the opportunity to have a short interview with Brent Oxley, the CEO & Founder of HostGator. HostGator is a web hosting provider started in 2002 that has skyrocketed into the spotlight. Their company now provides service to over 500,000 websites and doesn't intend on stopping there.
During the interview we touched on a number of topics ranging from HostGator's success, growth & plans for the future. I'd like to personally thank Brent for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions.
Enjoy the answers!
Q: HostGator as we both know is one of the older, more reputable providers in the industry. Prior to launching in 2002, what made you start HostGator?
"My entire life I was always starting some type of business with the little money that I had. I used to go around doing car washes at the age of ten. At twelve, I had about half a dozen kids selling candy for me at their schools. When I turned fourteen I had my own business selling watermelons on the side of the road. (2 for $5) It wasn't until I was 16 that the internet became my friend and I started playing with different business ideas. It wasn’t long before I was receiving few hundred dollars a week for doing nothing but updating my web sites.
I gained a lot of hosting experience over a few years of web mastering, and in 2002 HostGator was formed from my college dorm room.
We all have to make a living and many of us do that by going to college in hopes of one day getting a good job. I went to college for one reason and that was to buy time until I could figure out a way to be successful. Towards the end of my first year of college HostGator began to take off. I was constantly walking in and out of classes to take support calls. It became very clear that I wasn't going to have time for both HostGator and college. I had to make a choice between putting school on hold and giving my dream a chance or quitting the gator. I chose to drop out of school to run HostGator and have never looked back."
Q: Hostgator's name is one of the more memorable aspects of the company. What made you choose the name Hostgator?
"I probably tried at least a hundred other names first that were taken. HostGator was the best I could come up with that was available. If you think about it our name isn't even all that great! It just seems like a great name after all the years of branding and brainwashing we've done. <laughs>"Q: How & when did the mascot & tagline come into being?
"Both our Slogan and mascot were created just a few days after our domain was purchased. I wanted something a little more interesting then your average slogan which is why I gave it some bite. The blue gator we have was actually green in the first draft. We then tried red and a few other colors before deciding on the blue. I look at our gator so much I often forget that gators aren't blue in real life."
With the good sometimes arrives bad though. After their start in 2002 some potential issues arose in a facility that they had chosen & HostGator was left with the decision to move somewhere else.
Q: After you began having problems in the facility (in Atlanta, if I recall correctly) you were in, what made you choose The Planet as your next location to setup shop?
"We were with DedicatedNow prior to switching to The Planet. Our short stay with DedicatedNow was a great one with very few issues. We left DedicatedNow when we discovered they were planning to move our servers from NAC to a brand new facility they purchased. The combination of thousands of servers being relocated and a facility with no track history was more risk then I was willing to take.
The Planet was chosen based on reputation, support, price, and most important of all proven stability. Had HostGator chosen a different partner to go with there’s a good chance we wouldn’t be having this interview."
Q: With companies like Dream host, Hostrocket and many others that are (or have) building or own their own facility, is that something that we may see down the road from Hostgator?
"Anything is possible for the future, but as of right now we do not have any plans to build our own facility."Q: As the owner & CEO of Hostgator, what type of daily operations are you involved in?
"I'm pretty hands on with all aspects of the business. A few things I do are advertising, paying the bills, firing, hiring, monitoring servers, tickets, and the hundred+ emails a day I receive. The majority of my time goes to helping customers. I ask all our customers to request for me personally if regular support channels ever fail."
Q: You're one of the few CEOs I know of that interact directly with
their own clientbase. As your company has grown have you ever found it
hard to find time to interact with them as much as you would like?
"The customers come first so finding time for them hasn’t been the problem as much as trying to find time for the rest of my duties. I’ll remain personally available for every one of our over 700,000+ hosted sites for as long as humanly possible. I just require that regular support channels are attempted first."
Q: What are your thoughts on today's increasing bandwidth, space and resource offerings?
"The majority of hosting companies began offering unlimited disk space and bandwidth plans months, if not years ago. They might not say “unlimited” but with the size of current plans being offered there’s no difference. The top hosting companies could 100x their current offerings and it wouldn’t be any different than what they offer now."
Q: Do you feel that technology is growing at a sufficient pace to meet the demands of the clients?
"I believe if anything it’s growing so fast it’s overwhelming for many. It seems by the time you learn how to do one thing it’s already being replaced by a newer and even better technology."
Q: When looking back on the companies beginnings, what thoughts come to mind when comparing then and now?
"I remember the day we moved into our first office. It was about 2k sq feet, and I didn’t think we could fill even half of it. Less then a year later we couldn’t breathe we were so packed. HostGator is now using about 8ksq feet in our 30,000sq ft building, and I know it’s only a matter of a few years before we have people jammed into closets.
Things used to get so slow we would all take a break to play StarCraft, and now if we did that people would panic that we went out of business.
Years ago I received a call from another company offering a million dollars for HostGator. I wasn’t interested, but it did give me a sense of accomplishment. Fast forward to the present and we could easily fetch 40x that amount. We aren’t interested in selling, but it is sometimes cool to think about what we would go for. I love what I do so I don’t see letting go any time soon."
Q: If you were to have started HostGator today, would you have done
"There was a very short period of time years ago when it was just me and
I couldn't afford 24/7 support personnel.
I worked myself every second I was awake, but in order to cover shifts
while I slept I chose to try outsourcing. This was by far one of the
costliest mistakes I’ve ever made. The amount of money lost from
customers leaving and damaged reputation far exceeded any amount of
money saved. If I could go back in time and do it all over I would have
found some way to come up with money to pay for in house support."
Q: What are your next goals as one of the leading reseller and shared hosting providers in the industry?
"I want to take HostGator more mainstream. I’m not sure where this will take us, but we’ll be experimenting with print, radio, and quite possibly TV commercials. We are a leader with anyone online looking for a web site, but when it comes to the offline world we're non-existent other than word of mouth."
HostGator is a provider of shared, dedicated and reseller web hosting services focused on the consumer and small business markets. Founded in 2002, HostGator has become a leader in reseller hosting, assisting over 11,000 businesses become web hosting companies. HostGator has offices in Boca Raton, Florida and its data center operations are co-located out of The Planet's facility in Dallas, Texas, enabling it to access Tier-1 backbone providers such as UUNet, Sprint, Level 3, Global Crossing, Verio and AT&T. HostGator's shared hosting plans are supported by 24/7 phone support, and comes with a 99.9% uptime and 30-day money-back guarantee.
There's a number of Hostgator Reviews available here on HostJury.