Game, Tech, Match: Alum Dan Handy
Call it a cruel but fortunate twist of fate: Dan Handy’s companies tend to undergo extreme growth when it comes time for him to hit the books. As an undergrad and a grad student at the Marriott School, the current CEO of Bluehost.com guided two internet start-ups to success, sometimes smashing against current trends with a Ping-Pong paddle.
In 1999 Handy had just three classes left to finish his BS in business management with an information systems emphasis. That’s when Freeservers.com, a free web hosting site, cofounded by Handy and other BYU students, took off in a big way. The company was a pioneer in its market; they were the first to offer subdomain hosting for free, shortening URLs to a few words instead of the long sequences offered by other hosting companies. Like the company’s innovations, Handy also went against the grain.
“Many people were quitting just a semester or two away from finishing school because you didn’t need a degree to be successful,” Handy says of the dot-com boom. “But it was really important for me to finish off my last three classes, so I did that via independent study.”
The company was sold to About.com later that year, securing a new job for Handy, who finished his BS in 2002. Three years later Handy decided to return to the Marriott School, this time as an Executive MBA student. A few months into his program, Handy left his role as VP at About.com and joined Bluehost, a small webhosting company that employed twenty people at the time.
“It was really valuable and fun to be able to grow Bluehost while I was doing my MBA,” says the 2007 grad. “I was able to apply what I was learning immediately. It wasn’t just hypothetical.”
Bluehost now has seven hundred employees in Utah. The company was sold to the Endurance International Group, which went public on the NASDAQ last year. Altogether, it’s the largest web hosting company in the world, with about 3.5 million subscribers and 10 million websites.
Bluehost owes part of its growth to bucking another trend. When it was popular for companies to outsource technical support to foreign countries, Handy and his team instead opted to hire employees from the local colleges, which gained the company a reputation for great technical support.
While scoring professionally, Handy has also been working his way up the national table tennis rankings. Though he mostly plays just for fun, he has become increasingly serious about the game ever since joining Bluehost. In fact, it was a conversation over a game with founder Matt Heaton that brought Handy onboard. His first day on the job, the two bought a table for the office.
“We got more and more into playing, and eventually Matt issued a challenge: ‘If anybody in Utah can beat me, then I’ll give them a free year of hosting,’” Handy says. “We ended up meeting the very best players in Utah and then realized how not good we were.”
That led to more lessons and more games. Handy has worked his way to the fiftieth percentile of all nationally ranked players. He’s most proud, though, of his employees, who have really taken the game to heart. The company boasts the top three players in Utah and a few others who are in the nation’s top twenty-five.
Handy and his wife, Francisca, have two children and live in Orem, Utah. When he’s away from his desk and the Ping-Pong table, he can be found fitting in a game of basketball or traveling with his family to visit Francisca’s roots in Spain.