5 With...

5 With… Andrew Allemann

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Domain Name WireAndrew Allemann’s Domain Name Wire was the first  domain investment blog, and since that time, it has maintained it’s status as the leading domain blog. Since 2005, Andrew has been providing unbiased industry news and insight on the business of domain names.

It came as a bit of a surprise to me a couple of months ago when Andrew announced that he was going to work for Directi, as Senior VP  of Business Development for several of Directi’s media businesses.

I wanted to give Andrew some time to settle into his new role before asking him some questions about this move and how it will impact him, DNW, and domain investors. I appreciate that Andrew took some time out of his very busy schedule to answer the questions below.

ES: What were the factors that contributed to your decision to work for a large domain-related company?

AA: I’ve had a couple companies talk to me over the years about coming to work for them.   It makes sense — I have deep knowledge of the industry and the key people.   I also spend much of my time thinking of ways to make the industry better for domain name owners.

ES: What changes will be noticeable on Domain Name Wire, and how do you plan to alter your reporting on articles that may conflict with your new position?

AA: My deal with Directi includes me retaining ownership and control of Domain Name Wire.

Now that I’ve been working with Directi for a couple months, I can safely say that you shouldn’t notice many differences on Domain Name Wire.   As I announced my new role I reached out to several of my sources and companies in the industry to let them know about the change.   I was expecting some of them to clam up about working with Domain Name Wire in the future, but this was not the case.   Most were supportive.   If there ever is an industry where partners are also competitors, this is it.

As far as DNW content is concerned, if I spend 1 hour a day instead of 8 hours, the difference in what my readers get out of the site probably drops only 10% or so.   There will be a few stories I’m late on or don’t cover because I don’t have time, but this will be minimal.   I’m also working with some industry freelance writers to bolster the site’s content.

Whenever I write about a Directi product I will include a disclaimer in the story.

ES: With a number of domain companies hiring these days, what made you choose to work for Directi’s media businesses?

AA: Leaving the world of being a full-time entrepreneur was not an easy decision.   Had Directi not brought an incredible opportunity to me I would have declined.   Several things drew me to Directi:

-It’s constantly innovating.   It’s not a company that will ever say “Let’s just stick to what we’ve been doing.”

-There’s no committee to make decisions.   It’s in the hands of a couple smart brothers, which means the company is nimble and can move on opportunities quickly.

-It’s based in India.   One of the most important skills needed in today’s world is to be able to work across cultures.   I’m learning quickly what that entails.

-It’s not just a domain company.   I want to expand my knowledge base.   For example, we just launched Media.net, a contextual advertising solution for developed web properties.

ES: For those of us who may not be familiar with the company, please provide some information about it and let us know why we will want to work with your company.

AA: Although Directi owns a top 10 domain name registrar and various related businesses, I’m specifically working with Directi’s media businesses.   This includes two parking companies (Skenzo and BigJumbo) and Media.net, a contextual advertising solution.

Very few domainers have dealt with Skenzo because it targets bigger players that earn $50,000 or more a month.   We recently relaunched BigJumbo, which gives all domainers access to our parking technology regardless of size.

ES: What are you most excited about in your new position?

AA: I’m working with some dynamic and successful people that live half way around the world.   I don’t think about it day-to-day, but it’s really quite amazing: I walk into my office, turn on a big screen TV, and suddenly I’m video conferencing in high definition with people 10,000 miles away.

There’s also nothing boring about this role.   Every day is different, whether it be working on a marketing strategy, making a sales call, or evaluating a new opportunity the company is considering.

5 with… Rob Monster, CEO of Epik

Most of us have probably heard about Rob Monster’s development company, Epik,   and the company’s development conference from September 15-17 in Seattle, Washington. I had a chance to ask Rob a few questions about the conference that may be of interest to you if you are either thinking about attending or working with Epik.

I know a couple of people have privately expressed concern that it would serve as an infomercial for Epik and/or that only Epik customers would benefit, so I asked Rob about that in the interview below in case you also have concerns about this.

As I blogged about previously, I am using Epik to test one site right now, and I am going to give it a few months before making any judgment. I bought BumperProtectors.com on Snapnames, tried to sell it to an end user without luck, and I opted to use Epik’s services to generate revenue on the site and increase its search engine rankings for future usage.

ES: This is more of a question related to my development with Epik, but it might be helpful to people who also have Epik websites. People can have a look at the stats for BumperProtectors.com and see there isn’t a lot of revenue yet (it hasn’t been live very long). What can I (and others) do to build traffic and revenue to our Epik websites?

RM: The pattern with BumperProtectors.com is fairly consistent with what we see. During the first 30-60 days, the focus is on getting a site fully indexed. With 75 pages indexed, BumperProtectors.com is indexed.   It is also now #10 on Google, i .e. on the bottom of page 1.     This position typically accrues 2-3% of all organic clicks compared to 30% of organic clicks for position #1.       Getting to page 1 in less than 45 days is a good outcome so I would say BumperProtectors.com is definitely on the right track.   I would expect BumperProtectors.com to become a money site when it gets to around position 5, perhaps in the next 30 days or so.

Keep in mind that Bumper Protectors is a category with 3,000 monthly exact searches, or 100 searches per day. As such, a good outcome here is say 30 clicks per day, or 10,000 clicks per year, which at $0.18 per click is still a nice business.   In other words, it is not a question of retiring on BumperProtectors.com but rather assembling a portfolio of 100 of such names.     And fortunately, we find that you can achieve similar results with a hyphenated .com or .net.   This means that it becomes affordable to have 50-100 income-producing sites without having to spend a fortune on domain purchases.

Looking a bit further out for BumperProtectors.com, once the site is #1 or #2 in search, we would suggest to either (1) sell the top-ranked site to a player that is active in the production of bumper protectors, or (2) adding dropship capability, which is something Epik expects to support   on a scalable basis starting in Q4 2010.

ES: Who should attend the Epik conference and what do you hope attendees will learn?

RM: Attendees of the conference can expect to leave with practical knowledge.   Beyond knowledge, I expect attendees will realize that there is a vibrant community of Epik developers who are some of the nicest and most competent people that I have ever met.     These developers are openly sharing what is working for them, while also challenging the Epik team to keep raising the bar.   They are genuine partners in the creation of a better Internet that also happens to serve as a platform for wealth creation and wealth preservation.

Epik DevCon is an ideal opportunity for anyone who wants to build passive recurring income by Acquiring, Developing, Operating and Selling websites.   We believe that capital efficient websites are the single most interesting investment category in existence.   I believe this for the simple reason that the internet economy is growing, even at a time when the offline economy is not.   This means that the raw land of the internet will become more valuable, and the folks who add value to that raw land can expect outsized returns.

ES: Do attendees have to be Epik customers, and is the purpose of the conference to only promote Epik development opportunities, or can people without interest in Epik attend?

RM: The event has ample teaching content that can be applied generically to domain development.   Of course we hope that folks will build on Epik, which is why we offer $500 in Developer Credit to anyone who attends the conference as this does provide an incentive to start building sites on Epik.

The auction on Thursday, September 16, co-sponsored by Moniker will feature 100 developed websites.   Most of these sites are powered by Epik platforms.   Buyers of these developed sites are not required to continue on Epik, and indeed in many cases, if a site is acquired by and end-client, they may well take the site in a different direction.

ES:   What is the most important thing you’d like domain investors to know about Epik?

RM: First and foremost, I think it is important to know that Epik is a true business partner.   From a distance, it is tough to fully appreciate the sense of shared mission that the Epik team has vis-a-vis our development partners who are building on Epik.     The Developers who have been working with Epik since early on know first-hand that Epik is committed to the success of each and every Developer. The Epik team works insanely hard at making sure that we provide compelling return on capital employed.   We fully appreciate that times are tough for folks these days. This is exactly why we take our work so seriously.   The economic safety nets are crumbling and people need to be looking for ways to provide a diversified and sustainable income stream. That is really what Epik is all about — empowering individuals to succeed in a changing world.

ES: How has Epik changed since launch and what’s expected in the future?

RM: Epik has come a long way since Summer 2009.   The vision of a connected web has been with us since day one. What has changed has been the implementation of that vision in the form of money-making websites that leverage the unified architecture or ecosystem (http://www.epik.com/blog/the-epik-ecosystem-at-work.html).

When we launched the first Product Portals in Fall 2009, we still had a relatively immature platform even though we were building on years of prior development and insights.   By Spring 2010, Product Portals were firing on all cylinders. We now have 5,000 product portals and are producing another 200-300 custom product portals per week.

Looking ahead, I expect you will see similar factory-style discipline with the expansion of Directory Portals, Video Portals, as well as new initiatives that we are actively working on in response to Developer demand for scalable development of high potential domain names.

The other area where you will see Epik increasingly active is in the larger dialog with the industry around how to solve some of the industry’s most urgent challenges.   Perhaps the single biggest challenge is the urgent need to evolve from PPC to Development at a time when many domain owners are stretched financially.   This requires innovative thinking, and in some cases requires new stakeholders.

5 With… Alex Tabibi, CEO of TABcom

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Alexander A. Tabibi is the founder and CEO of TABcom, the multi-divisional internet company that focuses on the pet, equine, garden and green spaces, and uses ultra premium generic domain names to do so. Now among the 200 largest e-tailers in the United States (Internet Retailer – 2008), TABcom develops and maintains ‘conscious lifestyle’ websites that offer products, community and interactive content for enthusiasts with an interest in a variety of leisure activities.

Among other generic domain names (some which are added in the interview), TABcom operates Dog.com, Horse.com, Garden.com, Fish.com, Bird.com, and PetSupplies.com.

Alex Tabibi grew up in Manchester, England and moved to the United States when he was 19 to escape going to medical school. However, a few years later, he ended up going anyway. “Tabibi – my family name – means doctor,” he says, “so there was quite a bit of pressure in the family to become a physician.”

Tabibi is a board certified physician and began his career as an oncologist. He earned his medical degree from the USC School of Medicine, where he graduated with Highest Distinction. However, at the age of 30, he made the difficult decision to leave medicine when he realized it wasn’t fulfilling his true calling – his entrepreneurial spirit and desire to build a business.

After leaving medicine, Tabibi and his brother Carlo, launched the privately held investment firm ZCapital and developed a specialty in technology companies that use new media to deliver a range of new services and/or old services more efficiently.

One of the companies in which they invested was a canine catalog company called Dog’s Outfitter. When that company went out of business in 2002, the Tabibis bought it out of foreclosure and changed its focus to e-commerce. This led to the founding of PetsUnited and soon they had added Dog.com, Horse.com, Fish.com, Garden.com and Ferret.com, among other sites to the organization’s portfolio.

“Dog products are as different from horse products as solar products are from garden products – but the processes that need to work efficiently to do one correctly are the same for almost any vertical,” Tabibi comments. “So my brother and I targeted verticals that we felt were economically sound and were either developing or very fragmented.”

In 2008, Tabibi brought in an entirely new management team and led a complete transformation of the company. Under his leadership, the company fully integrated its IT, marketing and operational infrastructure.   By moving from multiple platforms that were a result of legacy systems from disparate acquired companies, they have successfully unified and upgraded the look and feel of the sites and have also improved navigation and search capabilities.

This re-engineering of the company led to its subsequent rebranding as TABcom in 2010. Now, TABcom is poised to strengthen its position as a leading destination for end users with a variety of lifestyle and leisure interests.

“TABcom is much more than just a random list of great domains,” says Tabibi.   “We offer our users a one-stop interactive online experience that holistically integrates community, commerce and content. Most importantly, we have a deep understanding of the interests of our consumers because we share the same passions as those who visit our sites.”

I’ve had the opportunity to speak on the phone with Alex, exchange many emails, and do some business with his company. I am appreciative of his willingness to share information with readers of my blog in this interview below, and I hope you enjoy learning more about Alex and his company. You might also find his interview in Forbes and INC to be interesting as well.

EJS: Your company owns the best collection of developed animal/pet related generic domain names. How do these brands help your business, and would you have the same success without them? How would your strategy change without them?

AT: Thanks Elliot. Actually we own many domains within the pet space that nobody even knows about. Then we have green and leisure domains ranging from solar.com and green.org.

They are sitting on the side – waiting for our platform to be developed. As for how these generic domains brand our business – I cannot sufficiently emphasize their importance. From bounce rates to SEO and business development – they have helped tremendously. Our success is definitely based on them in part – but at the end of the day – it is just one of hundreds of
elements that have to be executed well.

Our strategy – being in effect based this number of generic domains would be entirely different without them. I do not consider TABcom as an “e-commerce” company. We are really building a factory that can build online ecosystems integrating commerce with content and community. The intelligence and platforms are built to work in many different areas. Our technology and processes therefore have to be scalable to a degree – which is unmatched in its breadth. Some companies have the e-commerce part down very well. But integrating all of these – dozens of times – making sites relevant to their niches – is no easy task.

EJS: Although generic domain names are valuable to a company, having several different ones doesn’t necessarily help a company build its brand. What challenges do owning different generic domain names pose on your business, and how do you overcome them?

AT: The TABcom brand is not what we are trying to push. Recognizing that there is a common company delivering this level of experience across many domains is more valuable to me from a b2b experience.

The experience is what will brand us. The idea is to brand the e.g. Horse.com domain such that the equine world will think of us for all their online needs. So we will overcome the issue – simply by delivering on our goal of delivering an outstanding experience throughout all TABcom powered properties.

EJS: What advice can you give to owners of generic domain names who are interested in building a business on them?

AT: Call us. We now have the infrastructure to allow you to monetize them using a best of breed technology. Our technology is designed to be product/niche agnostic and we will save you millions of dollars in cash and years of heartache.

But seriously – outsource what you can. Anything you can think of is already being done. Find good partners, keep your costs low and be as efficient as possible. It’s all about cash-flow at the end of the day.

If you can afford it – buy secondary domains around the first to increase the SEO value of your domains. SEO is key.

But don’t think that just because the domain is strong that it will overcome everything. That is far from the case. Again – e-commerce is complex as so many things have to work together to give the consumer the experience they expect. From page loading times to product delivery – everything still has to be optimized.

EJS: In your interview in Forbes in 2007, you disclosed that about 10% of your company’s revenue was from self-branded products which I assume are more profitable and can help build your brand to consumers. How has this number changed since 2007, and what is your goal for this in the coming years?

AT: Our sales in our existing brands in the private branded segments do remain – but as we cast a wider net of products – e.g. Entering the garden category – we were not going to do private labeling.

We are actually moving to e.g. Dog.com branded products rather than having “private labels” under other brands. This has not helped our branding until now – so that is part of the reason for the change.

EJS: How is your company coping with the difficult economic conditions?

AT: We believe that the problems we are facing in our company – while excacerbated by the economy – are at the end of the day our problem to have solved. E-commerce is still growing – and our niches are relatively unscathed. Again – I hate to blame the economy for anything as I feel that given our breadth of products and number of domains -we should be able to grow through it.

That said – we have reduced the less profitable marketing spend and have accelerated the introduction of new sites so we have a larger pool to monetize.

An extra drink or two – now and then – does some good to0 – mind you 🙂

5 with… Tony Kanakaris, SocialDomainers.com

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Tony Kanakaris of SocialDomainers.comI am frequently asked if attending a domain conference is worth the expense and time off from work. I have always said yes, and I want to share a good example of why I think so. Tony Kanakaris is a fellow New Yorker, and despite both of us being members of DNForum and sending a couple business messages in the past, we never had the opportunity to get to know each other. Earlier this year at DomainFest, we were able to get to know each other better, and now we talk business all the time.

Tony was born in Queens and attended St. John’s University, where he played Division IIA college hockey. He was previously a Financial Advisor with Morgan Stanley, and he got into domain investing in 2007. He is an expert web developer, although he primarily works on his own projects, including SocialDomainers.com, a social networking website for domain investors to meet and learn about upcoming conferences, tradeshows, and regional get togethers.

Some of Tony’s future projects include FlipThis.com, CanYouBuyMeThat.com, and GlenCove.com, a domain name I know took him a while to acquire. I interviewed Tony to learn more about SocialDomainers.com, and I hope you’ll check it out when you have a chance.

ES: What are your plans for SocialDomainers.com, and what are your objectives with regards to the site?

TK: The thinking behind the creation of SocialDomainers.com was to create a centralized online location for where domainers can get together and create local events, groups etc. as a means to network locally offline with domainers in their area.   A few years back (Oct. 2007) I had created a thread on DnForum.com where I was looking to meetup with local domainers near me to discuss ideas, domains, etc…I was relatively new to the domaining scene and just wanted to be able to meet local domainers face to face and just chat.

As soon as I created that thread (the 1st of its kind)…i soon started to see many other threads start popping up in DNForum regarding local domainer get-togethers…. in California, Philly, Chicago, Florida, Romania, China…etc….basically all over the world….so I thought to myself…why not create a site that would cater to just this….a place where domainers can post events, create groups..etc…as a means to locally get together with other domainers near them.

So..that was basically the initial plan…to create this Facebook type social platform for domainers…..additionally i am also using SocialDomainers.com as a place to advertise all the domain conferences that take place across the world…we have also added an area where you can list domains for sale…latest domainer news, a chat functionality, and an IM functionality located at bottom toolbar of site.

ES: Ron Jackson had an article discussing the history of domain   conferences. What are your thoughts on current domain conferences?

TK: My thoughts on the current domain conferences is that there are just too many…all that seems to change is the location… each conference seems to offer the same content….the same people…etc…and the cost starts to become a factor….not everyone can afford to attend every show… hence the low number of attendees…hence the creation of my site to make it easier
and affordable   for domainers to get together.


ES: Do you prefer large conferences or smaller, more localized gatherings, and why?

TK: I like both…large conferences to get to meet with a larger group of people with whom you don’t get the chance to meet too often…and smaller local gatherings to be able to meet more often and discuss ideas openly.

ES: What do you see as the future for domain investor social gatherings?

TK: I see a smaller amount of conferences taking place in the future with more content/substance to them…..

ES: Will SocialDomainers.com be planning any events or conferences in the     future, and if you could create a conference anywhere in the world,     where would it be and what would be its theme?

TK: At the moment we would be more interested in sponsoring events/conferences as a means to further build out our brand….there are currently enough domain conferences out there……..if we could create a conference anywhere in the world…it would have to be Athens, Greece….where the birthplace of civilization took place…:)

Orangelist.com: “Great Domains, Healthy Oranges”

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OrangeList.com

How would you like to get a box of fresh oranges from Florida when you purchase a domain name in the aftermarket?

Register.com just rolled out a unique domain sales venue called Orange List, and when you buy a domain name from the list, they will include a box of Florida’s finest fruit.   In addition, readers of my blog will also get a special discount on Orange List domain names – simply include the phrase “I Love Oranges” when you email or call the contact information listed on the website and you will save “15%.”

I had some questions about OrangeList.com for Ross Vinograd of Register.com, and he was kind enough to reply below.

Elliot: What is the goal of Orangelist.com?

Ross Vinograd: Orangelist.com is the only domain marketplace that includes a complimentary box of oranges.   Our goal is to sell domains and simultaneously increase the health of the domainer community.     It is a noble mission and we aim high.

Furthermore, this is a great opportunity to meet domain investors.

Elliot: How often will the inventory change?

Ross Vinograd: We will publish a new list of domains at the beginning of each month.     If we ship a lot of oranges, we will list new names more frequently.

Elliot: Will there always be 20 domain names for sale, or will the site expand?

Ross Vinograd: The number of domains will be limited to approximately 20.   Orangelist.com is designed to showcase premium names and what better way to showcase premium domains than with premium oranges.

Elliot: What orange grove will the oranges be from?

Ross Vinograd: We’ve done our homework and have identified several groves that will allow us to ship delicious oranges year round.   By the way, we ship coast to coast and only to the continental U.S.

Elliot: Are you planning on doing any other fun lists in the future, like CheesecakeList.com, PineappleList.com, or maybe FerrariList.com?

Ross Vinograd: Good question and I defer to the Scientists who have overwhelmingly confirmed that the nutritional value supporting the release of Orangelist.com far outweighs the health benefits of cheesecake, pineapples, and yes, even Ferraris.

That said, keep your eyes peeled and check out our monthly inventory at:

www.OrangeList.com “Great domains, Healthy Oranges.”

5 With… Patrick Carleton, Executive Director, Associated Cities

Associated Cities’ annual GeoDomain Expo in New Orleans is coming up at the end of the month, and I asked Patrick Carleton, the organization’s Executive Director, to answer some questions about it.   The   early-bird rate of $995 will expire tomorrow, April 6th, as will the room block at the Roosevelt Hotel, though they will do their best to help latecomers find rooms at close hotels.

Due to extensive travels this summer and a previous engagement during the conference, I will not be able to attend this year’s conference. I do think it’s a great opportunity for anyone who intends to develop geodomain names or would like to learn ways to better monetize their geodomain names.

ES: What will make this conference different than years past, and are there specific themes that will be covered?

PC:   The 2010 Geodomain Expo in New Orleans this April 28-30 will include sessions ranging from beginning startup development to some of the hottest topics of today including maximizing geo brand traffic revenue, social media, business directories, mobile apps and the mobile web.   We continue to bring in cutting edge speakers and sponsoring companies to partner with you to take your company and sites to the next level.

EJS: Who should consider attending the conference, and how does it differ from other general domain conferences?

PC: The Geodomain Expo was the first domain conference to spotlight development, and continues to focus on development topics to stay on top of the pulse of the ever changing geo space.   Anyone vested in Geodomains, Geodomain development, or even those interested in learning to develop any of their domains should attend the Expo to form relationships with and learn from the brightest and most successful minds in the local domain development space.

EJS: My favorite part of the GeoDomain Expo is the networking. Can you talk about the great networking opportunities that are happening in New Orleans – and are there special events happen because of Jazz Fest?

PC: Year after year attendees tell me that the networking at the Geodomain Expo is second to none – there is next to no competition amongst any of The attendees, so the sharing of best practices in the development of Geodomains is widespread. The networking alone at the Geodomain Expo is worth the price of admission. Learning from the best of the best like the Castello Brothers, Dan Pulcrano, Josh Metnick, etc. is what this conference is all about.

The welcome cocktail reception will be held in the world famous Blue Room of the historic Roosevelt hotel, a venue where musical greats like Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and Tony Bennett were all regulars.   This cocktail reception and the Thursday night party will each have a New Orleans Jazzfest flare and feel.   Breakfasts, lunches, breaks and receptions will provide ample opportunity to form long-lasting relationships with fellow developers which will pay dividends on the growth of your businesses.

The New Orleans Roosevelt Hotel is one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever seen.   Elvis Presley stayed there while he was filming King Creole

EJS: How has Associated Cities changed over the years, and what are the future plans for the organization?

PC: Associated Cities has just become a 501(C)6 non-profit association. With this new structure, every Associated Cities member will now have a larger voice in the growth of the association and its impact on the industry.

EJS: What are the 5 most important reasons someone should attend the conference?

PC:

  1. No other event this year will bring together the owners of the most successfully developed Internet properties and brands in the world.
  2. Local media experts, recognizing the opportunity in the GeoDomain space, are coming to this event to learn directly from GeoDomain pioneers and practitioners.
  3. Two full days of presentations, panels, networking and learning opportunities.
  4. Great after-conference-hours events for fun and invaluable networking.
  5. Jazzfest!   This event draws as many people as Mardi Gras. And did I mention Pearl Jam is playing the day after the conference ends?

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