Last week I visited the many domain name companies that call Seattle home.
Last month I took my annual family “escape the Texas heat” vacation to Seattle. I didn’t get the chance to visit any of the domain companies in the area while I was there, so last week I took a return trip to Seattle to rectify that.
The collection of domain name companies in Seattle is large and growing. This is not by coincidence. A couple domain name entrepreneurs in the area have had nice exits and started other domain ventures for a second act.
Other companies, such as GoDaddy, have moved to the area to take advantage of strong tech talent.
Soon you’ll be able to add even more Seattle companies to the domain name list. Perhaps Amazon.com, which applied for 76 top level domain names, will be considered a domain name company.
While my company visits were mostly for information gathering and introductions, here’s a quick run down of the visits.
My first stop was to visit Archeo on Pike Street. Archeo is the pure-play domain name company being spun off from Marchex. Later this year or early next year it will become its own publicly traded company.
Archeo has over 200,000 domain names, and earlier this week formally launched its domain marketplace.
Archeo excites me. Its domain portfolio has a lot of low-hanging fruit because it hasn’t been touched for years, which means we’ll see a lot of action in its portfolio over the next 6-12 months.
The company is also starting to acquire domain names again, which may present opportunities for domain name owners with solid portfolios or individual domain names. The company will obviously be smart about acquisitions, but there’s one more large buyer in the marketplace now.
Archeo is also looking to do strategic deals with companies and entrepreneurs that want to develop domain names. Plenty of companies have tripped up trying to develop domains, but if done correctly, this could create some great case studies for the power of good domain names.
Just down the street from Archeo is DomainTools, the domain name data company.
DomainTools’ office has an open, startup feel to it. All employees – including CEO Tim Chen – work out in the open. Meetings are held in rooms named after top level domain, e.g. the .org room. (Perhaps it will rename some of them after the launch of new TLDs.)
The company is working on some neat initiatives that I expect we’ll learn more about in the coming year.
Next up I visited with Jay Westerdal, who founded DomainTools and sold it in 2008.
Although laying a bit low, Westerdal isn’t out of the domain business. He is involved with 11 top level domain name applications, a couple of which are uncontested.
The next day I drove out to visit with Donuts. Donuts is the largest applicant for new top level domain names. It originally applied for 307 domains but has since withdrawn some after settling contention sets.
The team at Donuts has basically every aspect of the domain name industry covered experience-wise. It’s also backed by $100 million + in financing and The Wall Street Journal named it the #14 top startup.
In other words: it’s kind of a big deal.
If there’s any disappointment to visiting the Donuts office, its that there’s no Krispy Kreme franchise located in the breakroom. That’s probably for the better; I suspect the company’s health insurer would jack up its rates if there were.
Seattle is home to much of Demand Media’s domain name operations, which will soon be spun off into its own publicly traded business.
That Demand Media’s domain group and Donuts are in the same city is not coincidental. Demand Media’s domain business is built on eNom. Paul Stahura, now founder of Donuts, founded eNom and sold it to Demand Media in 2006.
Demand Media’s domain operations cover the gamut of the domain business. In addition to eNom, the company runs expired domain service NameJet. It also has two dozen active new top level domain name applications and set up registry operations that will handle Donuts’ new TLDs.
While there I also picked up one of the popular .ninja mousepads. Someday these mousepads will sell for a lot on eBay.
My final stop was GoDaddy. GoDaddy’s quest for talent has stretched from Phoenix to Iowa to Silicon Valley and now to Seattle. Its new office in Kirkland is literally walking distance from Demand Media, which means quite a few domain people are bumping into each other while taking caffeine breaks at the same Starbucks.
The office is on Lake Washington. How’s this for a perk: work at GoDaddy’s Seattle office and you can literally drive your boat to work and dock it outside the office. That sure lends a new definition to “morning commute”.