Ben Gabler of Rocket.net

Ben Gabler – CEO & Founder of Rocket.net

November 5, 2020 / Hosting / 0 comments

My name is Ben Gabler, CEO & Founder of Rocket.net. I grew up in and currently reside in a little town in South Florida called Jupiter (I promise it’s not the planet).  😉

I’ve lived in a few different states throughout my career such as Arizona and Texas but always find my way back home to Jupiter.

I spent the majority of my career (17 years) building and managing various hosting companies/platforms including HostNine, HostGator, GoDaddy, UK2Group, IX Web Hosting, and StackPath.

The Journey Began

I’ve been in the hosting industry since high school, originally stumbling into it through a friend I knew from IRC (Internet Relay Chat). I was delivering pizza and heard about an opportunity to sell web hosting. I did some research and realized I could also run my own IRC server on a dedicated server. So I purchased my first server from a company called FDCServers.net, had them install cPanel v4, set up an IRC server, and I was off to the races.

After some trial and error, and multiple Operating System reloads. I started my first hosting company in 2003 at 18 years old and ultimately ended up joining forces with HostGator.com (Boca Raton, FL) at age 20 as employee #10.

WordPress was just released in 2003 and over the course of the next 17 years would become both a passion and focus. In 2006, I decided to launch HostNine (H9). I was young, didn’t have much to lose & my experience at HostGator provided me with enough knowledge to execute.

Being as I bootstrapped the business living out of my parents’ house with very little money & learned with a very low budget, I had to set myself apart in some way. That’s when I launched Reseller Central. Reseller Central sat in front of many cPanel servers around the world allowing our customers to spread their sites out on multiple servers in multiple locations.

For SEO and businesses that wanted to keep their hosting “local”, this provided an easy way to offer reseller geographical options from one source and it just so happens most of the websites launching were utilizing WordPress, so I launched a WordPress auto-installer (2007-ish).

HostNine (H9) grew to a successful company and in 2010 I sold it and decided to return to HostGator for a short spell & attempt to take a break. My break lasted 72 days when my current partner (Aaron Phillips) called insisting that I talk to GoDaddy about their desire to mass deploy cPanel & WHM.

After speaking with Jeff King and interviewing with the GoDaddy team in Arizona, I took a position as Sr. Product Manager, Hosting. In my first week on the job, we went out to LA and met with the Media Temple team – ultimately leading to a future acquisition of Media Temple & I was in the zone!

After the Media Temple acquisition, we went heads down with the teams to integrate with cPanel, Plesk, and to finish our Managed WordPress Hosting Product. And by integrated, I mean replacing their 15-year-old, in-house hosting solution with a modern hosting platform that customers wanted & were demanding.

Jeff gave us a very aggressive launch date of 90 days, and we hit it! It was such an amazing experience to relaunch the entire hosting division at GoDaddy and watch them (in my opinion) become a true hosting player.

After GoDaddy, I really wanted to get back into the startup world. I spent some time working on a few SaaS startups around real-estate and customer service. It was a ton of fun and I continued to level up on modern software development practices, financials, operations, and many more critical areas.

Once those projects were complete, I joined an Edge Services company (CDN, WAF) known as StackPath as Chief Product Officer to oversee all Product & Software efforts. One of the most recognizable StackPath brands to the WordPress community was MaxCDN and that was a part of our Product Portfolio.

Between MaxCDN and relaunching our StackPath platform, I worked with thousands of WordPress users looking to achieve two things – faster speed & better security. The problem was, it’s hard to integrate a third-party hosting account properly with CDN and WAF, and even once integrated it becomes expensive when you combine the bill with your hosting bill.

So with my hosting background and a new-found love for CDN and WAF – I knew there was a huge opportunity and set out on my own (not quite alone, but we’ll get to the dream team shortly) to launch Rocket.net.

The Need for Rocket.net

Rocket.net Logo

Rocket.net Logo

With my hosting background and passion for CDN and WAF – I knew there was a huge opportunity and set out to launch Rocket.net. I was officially on a Mission to Accelerate, Protect, & Deploy WordPress at the Edge!

Today, there are a few managed WordPress Hosting providers out there that offer solid products but do not have full site delivery with CDN and WAF. There is a big focus on scaling containers and PHP, but not a focus on scaling content – that’s where we come in.

Our platform will automatically scale an entire WordPress website out to over 200+ locations around the world. With our Enterprise CDN, we’re able to offer full-page caching with cookie bypass capabilities, so we don’t break things like blogs, contact forms, & WooCommerce. This means your WordPress website no longer just lives in the middle of nowhere on a server – it lives on thousands of servers just a few hops away from your website visitors all over the world.

We also took it a step further by adding tons of content optimization and security tools in the process. Including lossless image optimization, third-party script and font proxying, brotli compression, web application firewall, bot mitigation, DDoS protection, malware protection, and much more.

The best part? The problem we’re solving? Getting all of these benefits for your WordPress website is no different than pointing DNS to any hosting provider in the world. We’ve assembled an all-in-one Product offering with no hidden fees, premium plugins, or advanced configuration needed. The second you create a new WordPress site on Rocket.net, it’s accelerated by the global CDN, protected by the Enterprise WAF, and benefiting from all of the optimization features on the platform.

Myself with my Brilliant Team

Team Rocket.net

Team Rocket.net

I know it’s cheesy and cliché, it’s okay you can say it. I say it to myself all the time but we really do have the dream team. When I set out to build Rocket.net, I knew it would not be easy. I knew to succeed we had to have the best of the best, and we do.

The three of us have worked together in and around the hosting industry for over 12 years. The trickiest part for me was explaining the Edge and its value – which was great! This proves the exact problem I wanted to solve exists. As soon as I could explain using the CDN to host the website in 200 locations around the world with caching, it started to click.

Advice for Business Owners

My advice is to find something you’re extremely passionate about and go full throttle. I’ve tried to get into several industries over the years, but nothing excites me nearly as much as hosting.

I called a very respected industry friend of mine when I had the idea for Rocket.net. I thought I was going to get the response:  “a hosting company in 2020? You’re crazy” – but his immediate response was:

“Ben… if you called me and said you were opening a bar or restaurant… I’d be worried… but when you call me and tell me you’re starting a managed hosting company but it’s going to be different? I know it’s going to be huge. GO”

I finally feel like I’m back into my element, doing what I love, and having a blast doing it. It’s essential to have fun in the process. This doesn’t mean partying or being reckless, but you have to be able to have fun with your team, and even your customers. Last night I spent 3 hours in chat with a new customer, and we got to take a trip down memory lane talking about our past hosting experiences, it was awesome.

Another thing, BE HAPPY! For me, a big contributor is my hometown Jupiter, FL. I was in Texas for over 4 years and was extremely homesick towards the end. To be successful you need to be happy. While I still work 12-14 hours a day, I make it a point to spend time with my family. I get to see my daughter every day and spend family boat time every weekend – ultimately allowing me to reset. You have to be able to reset at some point.


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WordPress & Beyond

Our plans for Rocket.net are to continue building and delivering critical features for our customers. We’re very customer-centric and like to help our customers as much as possible when it comes to their success.

Don’t be surprised when you see the CEO in the chat at Rocket.net or any of the other founders. When I relaunched hosting at GoDaddy I sat in live chat and the help desk for weeks – the first day I could knock out 70 tickets alone. It’s crucial for me to have a direct line of communication with our customers to ensure their satisfaction.

Over the next 5 years, I think we see WordPress become a bit more modular/highly available. Today it’s pretty restricted based on the MySQL dependencies, but I think some serverless opportunities are coming. I think the primary benefit of doing this would really be for things like WooCommerce to deliver a fully leveled checkout experience across the world.

With platforms like Rocket.net, they can already deliver the same experience globally 99% of the time, it’s just the checkout portion that still has to hit PHP.

I don’t really see any threats to WordPress from competitors. Webflow is definitely getting pretty popular, but WordPress also powers 38% of the internet and is growing. With the strong community and excellent release history, it has it would be very tough to threaten it.

My Love for the WordPress Community

One of my favorite places in the world is a good conference. Forget the location of the conference, it’s all about the people and networking. I went to every HostingCon (other than 1) and putting a face to the name was beyond incredible. Not to mention, it was an annual reunion to see friends, partners, and meet new people.

When it comes to WordCamp, we did one in Phoenix while I was at GoDaddy and it was amazing. Rocket.net will most definitely be getting involved with WordCamp as COVID-19 starts to wind down.

How I Keep Myself Updated

You won’t catch me in my office without CNBC on the TV (with volume). It’s great background noise, but also has some triggers to pause and listen when we hear one of those familiar tech names. 🙂

As for WordPress, I subscribe to several newsletters related to WordPress and the hosting industry in general, and of course, there’s always Twitter.

I Have a Life Other Than the Work

If you ask anyone that knows me where to find me? They’ll tell you about my boat! I have a 26ft Angler that I’ve probably put 1000+ hours on over the years and it’s my favorite activity. Whether I’m out fishing offshore or spending the day at the sandbar with the family – it’s the best. I also grew up surfing from 9 years old and I’m trying to get back into it. It’s definitely a little more difficult at 35 years old, but I’ll get there!

I Reward Myself by 

For me, it’s taking care of my family. I am blessed and fortunate enough to be able to support my family including my parents. We try to take a few vacations a year, but Jupiter is very similar to the Bahamas, so we’re lucky to get a mini-vacation every weekend.

Ultimately, the best reward is the time I can spend with my wife and daughter. During my tenure at StackPath, we were on a roadshow for almost 12 months and I missed a lot of the beginning when my daughter was born. Now, I get to go home at lunch and spend some time with her every day and It’s great!

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