SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Blake Irving, his wife and sons spent a year traveling the world after he left Microsoft in 2007. Part of a group that developed the popular MSN Messenger, Irving had long held an affinity for making connections through technology, but it took an excursion to a secluded skate park outside of Hong Kong to reinforce just how much.
"So we get to Mee Fu, and by this time on this trip I'm injured because I've been skating so much, so I'm not skating. My kids are fine, of course. I'm almost 50 and I'm like, 'I'm dying.' So I am just taking pictures," the CEO of GoDaddy.com, Danica Patrick's primary sponsor, told espnW.com in an exclusive interview.
"So my kid gets asked what I do, and he said, 'My dad did this thing called MSN.' This is seven, eight years ago, and we had 90 percent share out of the U.S. They are like, 'Your dad did MSN?' And they said, 'Yeah, what of it?' And they said, 'Can we meet them?'
"So these kids came up talking about this product and how it was changing their lives. If it wasn't there, it was like their lives would be ruined. Knowing you've done something that was that powerful on a global basis is pretty amazing."
espnW: You've been described as everything from the cool professor you wish you had to an innovative businessman. How did your upbringing get you here?
Blake Irving: I'm a guy who's got a lot of various passions. I love golf. I grew up a jazz musician. I am a drummer. I have a drum set in my office, actually. I grew up in a family of musicians. It was a pretty eclectic family. I guess I'd describe myself as relatively eclectic. I like to surf, I like to cycle. I love technology, and I love getting things at scale that affect people. I've lived through storytelling.
espnW: Do the processes that help make a musician a good one ever translate into the business process?
BI: I took lessons from the time I was 7 years old until I was 20. I've actually studied every piece. I wrote. I taught. I scored for marching bands. I did drum corps, jazz bands, concert bands, all that crap. The discipline established to be a trained musician is really hard because you're always trying to perfect, and when you're playing jazz, not only are you trying to perfect, you're trying to lay down a base and you're trying to improvise on top of that. So you're trying to lay down bedrock and then improvise.
I think I have actually treated my career in a similar fashion where it's been lay down a bedrock, lay down foundation, lay down rules, put a score together so everyone can work together. But there is enough freedom within that so people can be creative and actually work together and make things happen in a coordinated fashion so it's not, 'Dude, you just wandered off into a completely different tune. Come on back.'
I think that's been pretty similar, and what I've told my kids is, 'I don't care what you do in life. I just want you to be passionate about it.' … And I think to be in a gig like this one, you have to have that. I think most of the folks who are in technology roles where you are pushing the creative envelope on what's possible, you'll find people that have a passion for it and really believe that what they're doing makes a significant difference.
espnW: You a car guy?
BI: My first car was a '66 Mustang square back, 289 automatic transmission, the second a '66 [Pontiac] GTO 398 drive-power, three-speed standard, [the third] a '66 GTO 389 drive power, three-speed standard transmission, and I kept blowing through the Teflon timing gear. It shredded if you revved too high.
That was followed by some cars that were more practical when I was in college, and then I think I ended college with a Volkswagen bus. And then I ended up back when I was working and I could actually afford cars again, I've had probably 30 and I could probably name all of them all the way through.
espnW: Guilty pleasure car?
BI: First guilty pleasure car, I had a 1988 [BMW] M5, and then I bought a '91 [Porsche] 911 turbo while I still had the M5, and I have an '87 Slant-nose 911 today that's kind of my wicked car, 'got my car, so stupid' thing. It's actually a Franken-car. It is '75 frame, an '87 aluminum body, so it's a retro body and the drivetrain is a Porsche 993 drivetrain. It's insane. It's quite fun, so yeah, I'm a car guy.