Surviving Exponential Growth: Lessons from Network Solutions


At the beginning of 1995, there were only about 71,000 domain names in the entire world, and a grand total of about 16 million Internet users. This was the year that Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), then based in San Diego, acquired Network Solutions—a small technology company in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC. By the end of 2000—the year we sold Network Solutions to VeriSign—the number of domain names had mushroomed to 27 million and the number of Internet users increased dramatically, to 361 million people around the world.

The five years between these two events serve as an exceptional case study in managing near-exponential growth.

Network Solutions administered the Internet domain name system, managing the sale of domain names by way of its exclusive cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation. The growth of the Internet during these years was unprecedented, threatening at times to overwhelm Network Solutions. But a combination of dogged leadership throughout the organization, technical talent, and good-old-fashioned hard work by government and commercial types enabled the domain name system to transition from military and academic use to broad commercial scale.

Domain name registry DNS Traffic

Internet Growth Curve (Image from Names, Numbers, and Network Solutions; © Foundation for Enterprise Development)

We learned a number of lessons from our experience that are instructive to other companies anticipating high rates of growth in their respective industries—especially for companies with commercial solutions attracting a high level of public interest. We discussed our experience with Xconomy San Diego Editor Bruce Bigelow some time ago, but since then we’ve written a book that details many of those lessons.

Here are five of the most important.

First, you’ve got to be ready to exploit opportunities when … Next Page »

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J. Robert Beyster (a San Diego Xconomist) founded Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in 1969, and served as the company's chairman and CEO for 35 years. Mike Daniels was the senior executive who led SAIC's acquisition of Network Solutions in 1995, and oversaw its phenomenal growth, IPO, and follow-on public offerings.Follow @

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