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An Interview with

Champ Mitchell, Chairman and CEO, Network Solutions

By Derek Iwasiuk

March 21, 2007

Q1: Could you tell us more about your position at Network Solutions?

I am Chairman and CEO of Network Solutions, a leading provider of online products and services for small businesses. I oversee all facets of the company with the support of a very smart and talented management team.

Q2: Why did Najafi Companies decide to sell Network Solutions to the global private equity firm General Atlantic?

Over the past 3 years, Network Solutions has generated sustained and accelerating double-digit revenue growth. As we became recognized as a market leader, Najafi Companies began to receive unsolicited offers for its stake in the company. Najafi Companies believed the timing was right to capitalize on its investment and accepted General Atlantic’s offer to purchase its interest in the company.

Q3: Will the new ownership affect Network Solutions and how?

General Atlantic wants to see us continue to grow our business by enhancing and expanding our product set, continuing to provide our customers with an outstanding customer experience and acquiring new customers through new channels of distribution. They also have a willingness to fund acquisitions to help grow our company and expand our products and services.

Q4: What challenges will the company face with General Atlantic as its new owner?

There are two. First, we will continue to grow at high rates. Growth always presents a challenge, but it is one we have handle so far and we will as we go forward. The second challenge is finding quality acquisition targets that share our passion for excellence, including the same commitment to customer care and support.

Q5: Will your role in the company change?

I will continue to be the Chairman and CEO of the company and continue to oversee the company’s operations.

Q6: Tell us more about the transformations of Network Solutions through the years?

There have been so many transformations in the 28 years this company has been in existence; however, some of the most notable changes have taken place in the last 5 years. I came to Network Solutions in August of 2001 and this company was losing market share rapidly, hemorrhaging cash and our customer service was the worst in the industry. With a tremendous amount of hard work and the dedication of a great team of employees, we were able to turn this company around. First we had to fix fundamental problems with the operating platform and completely rebuild customer service with people who cared about the customers’ experiences with us. We also had to become cash positive. This took us two years. Then we had to begin the reinvention of Network Solutions from a domain name company to the leading provider of web based services to small businesses. To do that we had to not only have a highly reliable platform and the best customer service in the industry, we had to add drastically to our product portfolio, and we had to own and operate core products to guarantee the customer a good experience. We have just completed that. The result is that today a majority of our cash revenue comes off of products other than domain registration and renewals and our base of small business customers is growing rapidly.

The new products that were added last year, particularly the best ecommerce package in the industry and the broadest and best quality online marketing suite of products, will not only continue to increase our products per customer, but become strong differentiators that mark us as best of breed. That is why we have seen such a terrific uptake of these products by our existing 3.5 million small business customers and the accelerating increase of that small business base.

Today, our focus remains on small to medium sized businesses and our current top-line growth rate is 30 percent. It is the combination of product excellence and breadth of our offering along with superior customer service that is totally free and available 24/7 that now makes us the best one-stop-shop for a small business. Our customer service is the best in the industry and we are recognized by J.D. Power and Associates, for providing our customers with an “outstanding customer experience” for the second consecutive year, which is a tremendous accomplishment. It is also available 24/7 and you do not pay for it, not even for the call. It is part of what you get from being a Network Solutions customer.

Q7: Will the deal influence Network Solutions' employees?

One of the many reasons General Atlantic took an interested in investing in Network Solutions is because of its phenomenal team of employees and the significant growth and financial performance we have achieved in the last three years. This change of investors will fuel our growth and provide our employees with more opportunities to broaden our product portfolio.

Q8: What do customers have to expect from Network Solutions' acquisition by General Atlantic?

Our customers can expect us to provide even more products and services that small businesses need to establish and grow their companies online. In addition, our customers will continue to receive the best quality customer service in this industry, and to have it available without charge 24/7.

Q9: How do you see your company's expansion in the near and in the far future?

We will continue to enhance and expand our products, and we will focus on broadening our market reach through the expansion of new channels of distribution and customer acquisition.

Q10: Tell us more about Network Solutions' determination to bring the best services to its customers.

Network Solutions is acutely aware of the wide range of service offerings that exist in the online market space. We believe that in order to succeed as the premier provider in today's market, and more specifically the small business customer segment, we must differentiate ourselves on two key business imperatives: product and customer support. Product differentiation for us requires not only the broadest range of products, but the best quality products to be found by small businesses. Four years ago we found ourselves in the unenviable position of having a bulk of our non-domain name service offerings outsourced to other providers. While that position allowed us to save in the development area, it left us unable to directly control the quality and capability of the offerings on behalf of our valued customers. That has all changed.

Since our departure from VeriSign (2003), we have pursued a highly focused strategy: develop or acquire best quality product offerings that can scale to meet our stringent performance criteria for millions of customers, develop them in every area of customer need, back them up with exceptional customer service and offer them at a competitive price. That strategy has netted impressive improvements in our product set and, more importantly, in our customer satisfaction levels. Over the last two years Network Solutions invested heavily by purchasing a hosting and email provider, InQuent Technologies, in 2005, and buying the premier hosted e-commerce offering, MonsterCommerce, in 2006. In addition, we also introduced our own branded digital certificate offering, a wide array of online marketing services, "Do it For Me" website and logo offerings and the world’s first secure domain based, web-mail enabled secure email offering.

On the customer service front, we have achieved equally impressive results. In 2005 our call center was first certified by J.D. Powers and Associates, for offering our customers an “outstanding customer experience.” They recognized us again in 2006. We were runners up in the national American Business Awards, which recognize outstanding customer service performance, and we achieved a customer service satisfaction level of 84%.

In summary our strategy is working, but it is far from complete. The online space is continually evolving. In order to realize the full potential of our investments we must maintain and improve our products as well as be constantly vigilant about what new offerings could save our customers time or help them make money.

Q11: Can you tell us if the company is about to launch new products and what they are?

We just launched SiteSafe™ Extended Validation Certificates, to provide our customers with a new level of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate, which offers the highest level of security and assurance. And over the course of the year we will continue to enhance our current products and introduce new services.

Q12: What does Network Solutions do to keep its existing clients and how will you recommend the company to potential customers?

It’s simple really. We provide our customers with quality products and services that perform as advertised and are supported by our free, 24/7 real person customer service to give the best customer experience in the industry.

Q13: What makes Network Solutions different from the other providers of Internet services?

Our customer service support, which has been recognized by J.D. Power and Associates for providing an “outstanding customer experience” for the second consecutive year; and the fact that we provide the broadest range of products and services for small businesses to establish and grow their companies online in the industry. We provide this breadth and this quality of product and service at a scale that is unparalleled in this industry.


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