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GoDaddy launches new ‘Airo’ tools, betting on AI to unlock business growth

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GoDaddy is launching new AI tools in an initiative overseen by engineering leaders based out of its Seattle-area offices. (GoDaddy Photo)

After seeing promising results from early customer testing, GoDaddy is launching new artificial intelligence tools for small businesses that automate the process of finding domains, building websites, and creating social media posts.

Much of the work on the unified experience, dubbed “Airo,” took place at GoDaddy’s engineering center in Kirkland, Wash., where the domain and website giant has grown to about 460 people, working on a hybrid basis. GoDaddy’s Seattle-area office was created more than a decade ago as part of a wave of engineering centers established in the region at the time by companies from outside the area.

GoDaddy, based in Tempe, Ariz., is launching the new generative AI features in the face of growing competition from emerging AI tools for building websites and online content, from a variety of startups and large companies.

If the rollout goes as the company hopes, Airo could serve as a case study in AI growth opportunities, both for its customers and its own business. It’s the latest step in GoDaddy’s longstanding effort to expand beyond its core domain and hosting services to serve as an “operating system for small businesses,” as execs describe it.

As demonstrated by GoDaddy engineering leaders in advance of the launch, the new Airo features start by providing an alternative to manual domain searching, instead letting customers describe their business or project in natural language. The generative AI tools then use that description to suggest available domain names.

Searching for a domain name in natural language in GoDaddy Airo. (GoDaddy Photo)

Other AI-powered features launching as part of Airo include automated logo creation, website building, email hosting, product descriptions from photos, email campaigns, and social media calendars, content, and posts.

Early results point to the potential for AI to boost the ability of customers to generate revenue. GoDaddy says small businesses using the Airo tools generated 28% more sales during a study of new signups during testing in August and September of last year.

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“It’s not AI for the sake of AI,” said Gourav Pani, the GoDaddy president overseeing the company’s U.S. business. “AI is just a means to save the customer time and help them get more customers. That’s how we see it.”

Gourav Pani, GoDaddy President, US Independents. (GoDaddy Photo)

At the same time, the approach shows how AI could boost revenue for tech providers. GoDaddy is not currently charging extra for the use of Airo AI tools. However, its testing has shown that customers who use Airo opt to purchase more of its premium services than those who don’t.

Customers that were part of the first test cohort for the Airo experience “monetized at rates higher than those customers in the control group that were not exposed to the Airo experience,” Aman Bhutani, the GoDaddy CEO, told analysts on a conference call Feb. 14. He attributed the increase to customers purchasing additional or secondary products, while also “shifting the mix towards higher price and higher margin products.”

Bhutani, a longtime tech leader who was previously Brand Expedia Group president at the Seattle-based travel giant, was named GoDaddy CEO in 2019. He succeeded Scott Wagner, who took the reins in 2017 from Blake Irving, a former Microsoft and Yahoo executive.

Generative AI “likely enhances the company’s structural distribution advantage for driving new customer growth from its leading domains business,” wrote Brad Erickson, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, in a note in November.

GoDaddy reported 2023 annual revenue of $4.3 billion, up 5%, and profits of $1.4 billion for the year. Its shares are up 51% to $114.78 over the past year in trading on the NYSE, with a market value of $16.2 billion.

Internally, GoDaddy accelerated its AI development in the second quarter of last year by pausing all other work taking place across its engineering organization for a six-week AI “surge” that produced about 30 new customer features, said Laka Sriram, GoDaddy’s vice president of generative AI, during a demonstration of Airo last week.

“It was a big shift for the company,” Sriram said, describing the new release as just the start of GoDaddy’s efforts to use AI to overhaul and upgrade the customer experience.

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GoDaddy is using a combination of homegrown and third-party AI technologies. The technology for suggesting domain names and inferring other details from the customer’s initial descriptions was developed in-house, for example, while the tools for creating social media posts use large language models including OpenAI, Claude 2, Titan, and Llama 2, using technologies including Amazon Web Services’ Bedrock AI platform.

The company also has an internal API layer with its own user interface that serves as a gateway for anyone at GoDaddy to use artificial intelligence tools from any provider, giving the company built-in compliance, as well.

Source: Geek Wire

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