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GoDaddy founder to business journalists: ‘You’re the hero’

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PHOENIX – Jacob Lipnitski got more than he expected after approaching GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons at Thursday’s opening reception of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers’ annual conference.

“Do you want to take a selfie with me?” Parsons asked Lipnitski, a journalism student from the University of Missouri.

After Lipnitski took Parsons up on his offer, the event at The Arizona Republic became selfie central, with participants lining up for the opportunity.

Parsons, who founded Scottsdale-based GoDaddy in 1997 and is its majority shareholder, talked with conference attendees about business, his philanthropy and the role of the news media.

“I thank you. You are the keeper of the American dream,” he said. “When there is a problem, it is fixed because we have the media to shine a light.”

Parsons said he has eclectic news tastes and can’t imagine a world without the variety of news available to him – so much so that he said he’s given thought to supporting investigative journalism.

“There are so many stories we would like to see,” he said, “because a good story is what life is about.”

Parsons serves as executive chairman of GoDaddy, a provider of Internet services, boasts 12 million customers and 57 million domain names under management.

His first company, Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based Parsons Technology, which he founded on the side in 1984, developed a home accounting program.

“No one ever chooses to be an entrepreneur,” Parsons said.

“I hated my job, so I decided to do something that I loved instead,” he added.

In 1996, he sold Parsons Technology to Intuit for $64 million.

Much of Parsons’ talk focused on the Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation. Since it was established in 2012, the organization has given more than $30 million to organizations including the Semper Fi Fund, Make-A-Wish Foundation of Arizona, Maggie’s Place Arizona, Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Child Crisis Center, according to the foundation’s website.

Parsons said his entrepreneurial drive and charity work stem from his service in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. He and fellow Marines would pass their idle time telling stories about what they hoped to accomplish after the war.

“Everything I accomplish is through other people,” he said. “And I learned you can get through just about anything if you have a good story.”

Parsons said business leaders and journalists serve the community in different ways.

“You’re the hero,” he said. “I cannot imagine not taking care of my community, and that’s what the media does every day.”