5 With...

5 With… Donna Mahony, DomainBoardroom.com Founder

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Donna Mahony is the founder of DomainBoardroom.com, a recently formed domain community made up of great minds in the domain business. Donna will tell you that she’s a “dumb bored housewife,” but in my opinion, she is far from dumb, and I can’t even imagine that she is bored! Donna comes from a hard working family from Boston, and she learned at a young age that a person must be guided by strong work and business ethics to be successful.

After she was injured in a car accident in 1997, Donna turned to her computer to help make a living. Turns out, it was one of the smartest things she did. Donna built a strong portfolio based on a PPC model, and she never looked back; However, she frequently would give back to people looking to get into the domain business. Many people remember the early days on the forums where Donna would give advice to people struggling in the business. This is one of the reasons why people like, respect and admire Donna. I am glad I know Donna, and I hope this interview allows others to get to know her better.

1.) EJS: A few months ago you built DomainBoardroom.com, and it quickly filled with some of the smartest people in the business. What sets Domain Boardroom apart from other professional domain discussion forums?

DM: “DomainBoardroom.com is different in that a domainer needs to earn their way in. A person need only be willing to learn, share and have a great reputation for admittance. Feedback I get tells me the “no noise” atmosphere is the biggest attraction for those wanting a place to meet and greet with like minded folks.”

2.) EJS: What was the first domain name you ever purchased, and do you still own it?

DM: “The first domain I ever registered was winfreecash.net . It was just a banner farm all centered down the middle ūüôā In an interview with Ron Jackson here he tells the whole story.”

3.) EJS: If you won a $10 million lottery, would you retire or invest it back into the domain industry? If you choose the former, where would you like to retire, and if you choose the later, in what area of the domain business would you invest?

DM: “Well, if I chose retiring somewhere..it would be right here on my mini-ranch in Arizona! Actually, I would just cut back in my time at the computer and keep doing what I do! I would probably by a large portfolio or a few stellar domains.”

4.) EJS: Do you regret ever selling a domain name? If so, which name was it and why do you regret it?

DM: “I have always enjoyed doing a little selling and never regret the sale. If I see it eventually worth more than I sold for…well, I am just happy that somebody knows they got a good deal!

5.) EJS: There have been several articles about parents purchasing the .com domain name of their newborn baby. Do you own the .com of any of your horses’ names?

DM: “I had a good laugh at this one. No horse has his own domain, but one of my dogs does! And a little stud colt born here this past spring is named for an exec at my favorite parking company, DomainSponsor.com The horses name is Pistols Ron.”

BONUS QUESTIONS!!

6.) EJS: What do you think is the biggest threat to the domain investment business, and what is your recommendation to eliminate the threat?

DM: “Wow, lots of answers to this but bottom line is that we need a united front. An organization run by folks that are squeaky clean and devoted to the industry for the love of the industry, not the love of the cash flow.”

7.) EJS: What personal accomplishment are you most proud of in the domain business?

DM: “I have 2 answers here. I am proud of my success with DomainBoardroom.com. A successful forum is rare and for DBR to be the big immediate success that it is, speaks well of all of us who started it. Less tangible answer is my proudest moment…Ron Jackson approached me at a DomainFest and told me he often hears about my ethics and willingness to help everyone. It doesn’t get much better!”

8.) EJS: What is your least favorite aspect of the domain investment business?

DM: “What I refer to as “Domainer ADHD” . There are so many exciting avenues to explore everyday that I have a hard time focusing on any one of them and find myself spread too thin all over the place!”

5 With… Jay Westerdal, Founder, Name Intelligence

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Jay Westerdal is the founder of Name Intelligence, Inc. the parent company of DomainTools.com. ¬† Jay’s company offers a number of helpful tools, the most popular being the Whois look up tool which includes a ton of extra data from around the web in, all in real-time. ¬†I’ve used the Whois.sc service since I became involved in the domain business, and the Whois history tool has been helpful in allowing me to do my due diligence when purchasing domain names.

Jay’s ¬†company now offers a service that ranks dropped domain auctions, based on a number of different criteria. ¬† ¬†Additionally, the ¬†company has stored every DNS change since 2001. ¬† His services are so unique that he now has clients such as the FBI and the FTC using their tools to track down scammers and people that abuse domain names. ¬† Also, DomainTools was the first company to offer Domain Insurance. ¬†

Jay’s first job during college was for a hosting company as head of domain registrations. Since then he has gone on to form a number of new corporations; Jay is CEO of Spry.com Web Hosting which currently has about 20 employees. ¬† Jay is an active industry domain blogger, and he is heavily involved in ICANN. ¬† I read Jay’s blog daily, and I think this is one of the most valuable domain news outlets.

1.) EJS: What was the first domain name you ever purchased, and do you still own it?

JW: “My first domain was Westerdal.com”

2.) EJS: What has been the biggest surprise/development in the domain industry over the last couple of years?

JW: “I think Transfer Fullfillment by Snapnames is the biggest thing that has happened to the industry. It has eliminated drop catching as we knew it. Then Snapnames was sold for $37 Million, then NameJet appeared out of no where to dominate the market place.”

3.) EJS: What needs to happen to make the domain investment business more mainstream?

JW: “For domain investing to be more mainstream. There needs to be two things. More transparency and greater liquidity options. Domains are too hard to sell right now and there is no good resource to track the sales. What DomainTools did for Whois History we hope to do with Domain Sales in the aftermarket. We want to completely redefine how transparency works.”

4.) EJS: Let’s get personal… Laptop or Desktop, and what brand?

JW: “My computer has Two 30-inch monitors and a few GB of ram from Dell. I also use a IBM Thinkpad.”

5.) EJS: What is the biggest threat to the domain investment business?

JW: “The biggest threat is lack of transparency in the parking revenues. Google is so closed about how they calculate revenue shares you know they must be making millions of dollars each day from it and they don’t want to let go of that. The market is ready for a truly disruptive market move.”

BONUS QUESTIONS!

6.) EJS: Where do you see Name Intelligence (and you) in five years?

JW: “DomainTools and Name Intellingence will be involved in a lot more aspects of Domaining. We just recently got into Live Auctions and the sky is the limit from there. Domain Financing, Domain Insurance, Domain Monetization, and Tagging. We will be associating clips and notes about each domain so that the history of a domain is more rich.”

7.) EJS: While a majority of domain investors choose to be private, you were one of the first active domain bloggers. What is the driving force behind your blog, and what motivates you to be one of the main sources of information and news for the domain community?

JW: “Yes, a lot of domain investors are quite about the Industry. By being open and sharing my prospective it can only help the industry grow. We live in a connected world and blogs in this industry were only a question of time. I don’t share everything either. I sit on things sometimes if it is not news worthy or if someone else has done a good job covering it.”

5 With… Calvin Ayre, CEO, Bodog Entertainment

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Bodog Entertainment is one of the fastest growing entertainment and media companies in the world, offering online gaming, a record label, a publishing division, and a television production division. Headquartered in the beautiful Caribbean nation of Antigua, Bodog was founded in 1994 by Canadian entrepreneur Calvin Ayre, who is well-known and respected as an online and digital branding authority, recently appearing on the cover of Forbes Magazine’s Billionaires’ issue.

I have a deep respect for Calvin. Under his leadership, Bodog Entertainment grew from nothing into a HUGE lifestyle brand, recognized throughout the world. Calvin is a self-made entrepreneur, who has had to work hard for everything. I admire his tenacity in the face of adversity, and the charitable work he and his foundation do is commendable.

In August of 2007, Bodog was forced to deal with a major problem when a Nevada court issued a default judgment. 1st Technology filed suit alleging that Bodog’s software infringed on their patents. In addition to awarding 1st Technology $49 million in damages, the judge also awarded them all of Bodog’s domain names, which were removed from servers, without warning to the company or its customers. Bodog plans to appeal this ruling on several grounds, but in the mean time, any web traffic intended for Bodog.com has been lost. Imagine driving to your local mall only to find it boarded up without any signs informing you where it went or what happened. That’s what it was like for Bodog customers who were unaware of the issue.

Within hours of losing their domain names, Bodog informed its customers of the situation and let them know where the website could be found, ultimately choosing the appropriate BodogLife.com. Extraordinarily, the company saw an INCREASE in web traffic after these changes were made. What could have been a disaster due to lost SEO and confusion turned into a positive. In fact, this Google Trends graph illustrates the amount of searches for Bodog.com (pre-news) and BodogLife.com are nearly identical.

I recently had an opportunity to interview Calvin, and I thank him for candid answers.

1.) EJS: At a certain point in time, money has to stop becoming a motivating factor. You’ve built a wildly successful brand in Bodog. What drives you to continue to fight to grow the brand?

CA: “One of the many reasons Bodog has been so successful to begin with, is that money was never a primary motivating factor. I started a digital entertainment company because I felt it would facilitate a smaller gap between work and play in my everyday life.

I continue to do what I do simply because I love it. I am a builder, I love to build things. I would not know what to do with myself if I were to quit now.

In the future once I am satisfied with what I’ve built Bodog to be, I hope to put this same energy into my foundation work.”

2.) EJS: A company like Bodog needs to stay on top of marketing trends to stay on the minds of its target audience. Some recent trends that Bodog has been all over is online music, mixed martial arts fighting and social networking. What trends are exciting to you (mobile technology for example), and what partnerships are helping you stay in the minds of your loyal customers as well as potential customers?

“We are working on mobile technology as well as streaming video of our original content and continually trying to find innovative methods of combining TV, events and the online realm to provide a great entertainment spectrum. Of course, during this all, we always make sure to incorporate the brand message throughout.

We have run some groundbreaking campaigns with Myspace and Youtube and I am sure we’ll continue to be ahead of the curve with regards to integration amongst social networking and digital entertainment leaders.

Another great relationship for us is our new brand licensing deal with the Morris Mohawk Gaming Group out of Kahnawake Quebec. This is the first of what we hope to be a number of brand licensing arrangements that will evolve Bodog away from being an operating company in all areas of our business.”

3.) When will Bodog introduce Bodog Hotel, Bodog Vacations, and Bodog Cruise Lines and move a bit away from the online entertainment area?

“We have more off-line initiatives coming, but for the time being we are going to focus our offline resources on live music and original content television production.

The Bodog brand is clearly a lifestyle brand and can arguably exist in virtually any form. Achieving this degree of marketability has been the plan since day one. However, for the foreseeable future, we will be focused on internationally expanding the predominantly digital entertainment company.”

4.) EJS: What would be a better feeling – winning the case against the “Patent Troll” or when the United States allows unrestricted online gaming?

CA: “Clearly having the US be more favorable to our sector would be a great thing. For the most part, with the exception of having some humor and publicity value, the patent troll issue is already off my radar.

We won the war the first day when we got back up and running within a span of 12 hours. Bodog is a brand which is not contained within or defined by its domain. Had the Patent Trolls understood this, they likely would not have black-holed the domains as their first move.

Additionally, the company they have the judgment against, though using the Bodog name, is not part of our group and was shut down in September of 2006. Other than wanting the domains back that this company was managing for us, I would not even have an interest in the case.

At this point I am treating the entire issue as an ongoing PR opportunity to be leveraged at will. Now that we have re-established Bodog’s online residence at Bodoglife.com, there is no way we would ever revert back to bodog.com even if the domains were to be returned. At most, we would simply use them as redirects. Bodoglife.com is continually and increasingly rising in search rankings for all of our keywords, so its there to stay as we currently see it.”

5.) EJS: Because of US regulatory issues, PPC (pay per click) advertising revenue in the gaming industry has generally declined, driving down the value of domain names in this genre. Have you considered purchasing generic gaming domain names to forward to your BodogLife.com homepage? Using Frank Schilling’s InternetCasino.com example, would it be worth your while to cut out GooYahSoft, domain parking companies, and domain owners, and just buy some generic casino domain names to help boost traffic?

CA: “This isn’t actually a new idea. We already take part in this and have been doing so for years now. We have an enormous network of off-brand domains doing this for us as well. In addition we also work in conjunction with others who follow this same system. Needless to say, the overlap serves our interests well.

However, these are just secondary to what really separates Bodog from the masses and consequently, what drives traffic to our site. Our branding strategy plays a huge part in our success and this is clear as day when you look at how fast we were able to move to a new online home with no ability to re-direct from previous domains.”

Newsmaking “5 With…” on Tuesday

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There will be a newsmaking “5 With…” interview here on Tuesday morning. I interviewed the CEO of a major online company that’s been in the news quite a bit recently, and it will be published exclusively here on Tuesday morning!

5 With… Michael Berkens

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This week, I was lucky enough to interview Michael H. Berkens, the president of Worldwide Media, Inc. Mr. Berkens is a graduate of the City University of New York at Brooklyn College (BA), Stetson College of law (JD), and the University Of Florida (LLM).

Worldwide Media, Inc. owns over 60,000 domains, and has a retail site selling domain names at http://www.mostwanteddomains.com

Mostwanteddomains.com was listed by a study by Dan Warner of Fabulous released in 2007, as having one of the top five privately owned domain portfolios as ranked by the number of people searching for previously registered domains.

1. EJS: I understand that you’ve done something different with LuxuryBedding.com than with other names in your portfolio. Would you mind sharing some information about this website and how you are generating revenue from it?

MHB: “As an industry we all express interest in developing websites rather than just parking domains. However we all have the same problem, no time, too many domains to develop.

We have entered into a partnership with a development company who specializes in the bedding business. They provided fully developed sites selling products for the home. We share in the revenue generated from the sale of products from the site. Our revenue has increase more than 400% from simply parking the page, and shortly we expect to be ranked in Google, which we certainly could not have been as a parked page which will further increase the revenue derived from the domain. What is pretty cool is that the development company does not carry any inventory. They have deals in place with the manufactures which drop ship the products to the consumer.

We make more money, the developer makes money without any inventory and the vendors sell at a higher profit margin than to a retail store. It’s a win-win-win for all involved. I expect other companies to offer similar deals with domain holders in the coming months and years.”

2. EJS: Is there anything you would trade your entire domain portfolio for?

“As pointed out by Sahar’s Blog several weeks ago, to replace the cash flow generated from domains making just $117 a day in revenue would require $750,000 deposited in a CD for 5 years for an equivalent return. Of course the principal of a CD does not appreciate as domains have. So other than controlling interest in the New York Yankees, I’ll keep the domains.”

3. EJS: Prior to being in the domain investment business, what did you do?

MHB: “Practiced law-slept on the weekends, think it was the last good night sleep I had.”

4. EJS: What is the most difficult part of being in the domain investment business?

“There are several issues you have to be prepared for in the domain business, here is just a couple:

Work and plenty of it.– You have to work every day, 7 days a week, every day of the year, Christmas, new years, your birthday, on “your vacation”. We all do it. There are no days off. If you’re not willing to do it, there are plenty of others that will. If you’re counting the hours you work, you already lost. There are just too many. 40 hour work week, you must kidding; 9 to 5, pretty funny movies with Dolly Parton, but no for this business.

The great part of the business is you can work anywhere you go, on the other hand you wind up working everywhere you go.

Decision making–every day we all review hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of domains and decide which ones we are going to attempt to get, how much we are willing to pay for each, and which ones we are going to pass on. Every day we get offers to sell one or more of our domains. Every day we have to decide whether to sell or hold. You can’t second guess yourself, you can’t look back and you only have a few seconds to decide on what to do. Too many decisions, too many domains, every day of the year.”

5. EJS: What do you think is the biggest threat to the domain investment business?

“Over legislation, regulation or other governmental action.

Contribute to the Internet Commerce Association (ICA). Be proud of the industry. Stop domain testing, it’s a short term profit that will do long term damage. You know stopdomaintesting.com that’s a good name think I’ll register it, got to go.”

5 With… Elliot Silver

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For the inaugural edition of “5 With…” I thought it would be appropriate to conduct an interview with myself. ¬† ¬†Look for new interviews in the “5 With…” category, as I already received commitments from some of the best-known people in the business. ¬† ¬†Here goes…

1.) EJS: How did you get started in the domain investment business?

EJS: When I was in graduate school, I saw people buying and selling domain names on Ebay. ¬† ¬†I thought that if people could do this, I could do it, too. ¬† ¬†I focused on buying domain names I thought could be developed into businesses, forums, or other profitable ventures. ¬† ¬†I stuck with generic domain names that had obvious meanings. ¬† ¬†At the time, I didn’t realize that there were online communities dedicated to the domain investment business. ¬† ¬†Once I joined a couple of the forums, I was able to learn alot from others, and I made contacts with other people active in the business. ¬† ¬†I owe alot to the people I met on Ebay as well as some of the active members in the various forums. ¬† ¬†

2.) EJS: When did domain investing become more than simply a way to earn some extra cash in graduate school?

EJS: After I joined DNForum in early 2006, I saw a listing for the .net, .org, .info and .biz of a one word domain name for sale for a few hundred dollars. ¬† ¬†I bought those and contacted the owner of the .com. ¬† ¬†To my surprise, the owner sold the .com for only a few hundred dollars. ¬† ¬†I was able to resell the entire set for low $xx,xxx. ¬† ¬†Several months later, I bought a well-priced name, and I sold it at a TRAFFIC auction for $xx,xxx. ¬† ¬†I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to reinvest the profits into better domain names, helping me build a stronger portfolio.

3.) EJS: What was more exciting for you: Red Sox winning 2004 World Series or buying Customs.com?

That’s a tough call. ¬† ¬†I think buying Customs.com was more exciting because it was a personal achievement. ¬† ¬†The Red Sox winning the World Series was a great feeling – especially since I was in New York City when they won. ¬† ¬†Hopefully 2007 will be a repeat!

4.) EJS: What’s the best piece of advice you would give people just starting out in the business?

EJS: Study the market as much as you can before you dive in and buy a bunch of names that are best left unregistered.    Since there are many different areas of domain investment, focus on one aspect Рmaybe a particular extension or genre of domain name and learn as much as you can.    Just as you would want to buy low and sell high with stocks, the idea is the same in the domain investment business.     Do your research and continue to buy better names each time you buy.    

Also, may I give a second piece of advice?

EJS: Sure, it’s your show, go ahead.

Thanks!    I would also recommend that people read my blog post here which gives 10 Domain Investment Tips.

5.) EJS: Do you regret ever selling a domain name?

EJS: The only domain name I really regret selling was Arrangements.com.    I still think that name is perfect for a florist.    I think I sold it for a great price, but I was able to reinvest and buyer more great names.    Maybe some day I will try to buy it back and develop it!

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