ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the Domain Name Wire Radio. Find Domain Name Wire on the web at www.domainnamewire.com. Now here’s your host, Andrew Alleman.
Before we get started, I’d like to thank our sponsor for today’s show, Traverse Legal. You can find out more about Traverse Legal on the web at www.traverselegal.com.
ANDREW: Our guests today are two of the co-founders of EVO Media Group, which you probably know for their product DevHub: its CEO Geoff Nuval and then we also have co-founder, Mark Michael, on the phone as well. Good to talk to you guys.
DEVHUB: Hey happy Thursday, I love it.
ANDREW: Well, why don’t we jump right into it and, you know a lot of readers at Domain Name Wire know what DevHub is, but if you guys could give me kind of the 30 second overview; that would be great.
DEVHUB: Yeah, great. First of all I appreciate you covering us throughout our kind of whole evolution of the process since we’ve launched DevHub. You know, you’ve definitely been a great voice for us to the domainer crowd. So first of all I just wanted to thank you for that. And kind of a high level of DevHub is basically the ability for people to take their domain name, and really kind of add additional value to them by actually easily creating a site based on kind of a modular process of dragging and dropping in, kind of these modules we already have provided in the editor that enables even people who don’t really have too much of a dev development skill to actually create a full fledged website and the editor, itself, is kind of in a current evolving state to supply additional type modules as we kind of go forward with various different other partners we have in the pipeline. So it’s a constantly evolving platform to allow people to create a website pretty simply.
ANDREW: Great. So, you know, a funny story. I remember meeting Geoff on the bus at DomainFest Global. I believe we wereâ€¦
DEVHUB (Mark): Yeah, he told me that.
DEVHUB: He told me he met this guy he has a website on domainers, his name is Andrew, and Mark’s like “that’s the guy on Domain Name Wire.” Oh man I hope I didn’t speak too much on the bus.
ANDREW: It’s funny, because we were heading over to the Playboy Mansion, I believe, so you probably don’t remember too much about the conversation, but you were describing the system, but you didn’t say what company you were with at first, and I believe I said, “Oh, you must be a competitor to DevHub” so…you explained it well.
DEVHUB: And at that time was kind of early February or January, you know, we were very much in conceptual stage and kind of throughout this year, basically it’s been executing the plan of building out that platform. So the first kind of few months was establishing the editor and making sure that worked really well and then kind of upgrading it and integrating more modules throughout time and in these last few months and then kind of closing the entire loop with having a payment system and all that stuff kind of automated in the last few months. So 2009 has been mostly kind of execution of the plan of building out the platform, and again, like I was telling you on the bus we built it with the mindset of being very flexible from the ground up. So the platform itself is really now easy for us to hook in partners that make sense in the back end and then they pop up as a module in the front in the editor, and not only that, we also have the ability toâ€¦the flexibility of the platform allows kind of the framework of the editor itself to comply to other different verticals or applications that might not be directly suited for the DevHub.com initiative, but through a partnership which we will be announcing a few of those in succession in early January or February allows us to kind of expand the application of the DevHub platform. That takes me through 2009 and what we’ve been doing here. Now being able to kind of grow from the initial, you know, our previous kind of parking based platform, we had about 3300 users. That’s grown to now about to over 30,000 users on the platform, because we have been able to kind of expand. Even the people we address from beyond just people who create domain names to people who just want to create a good site and put some effort behind it. So that’s really expanded our market, and now we have been able to kind of grow the network and the users on the network to a couple million now per month on the network. Now that we kind of have that platform established, you know, 2010 is now focusing back on the network that we built and really trying to focus and build on that. 2009 was platform; 2010 is now focused on the network. So a lot of tools and initiatives that will be coming out in 2010 will be focused on leveraging that piece and also because we have more of a track record in terms of analytics where now we’re more fully optimizing the network and providing tools that we can see through numbers that make sense for the greater platform.
ANDREW: So if I’m a domainer, and I’ve got some domains that are parked somewhere, but they really don’t get any traffic, then is one of the ideas behind DevHub that I can get some organic search traffic to those domains?
DEVHUB: Oh yeah, and so we’ve seen that work really well with people with domain names, even say 2 or 3 word domain names that, you know, the usual website user wouldn’t really type that into the URL bar, but you know, more and more people are starting to use the search bar, and learning how to use search and so as they migrate on that side now that kind of helps as well, but basically you match that domain name to some good content on there; some from the modules and some original content being put into the website as well and the sites that kind of had that combination tend to do really well on our platform.
ANDREW: Now a lot of domainers, when they look at a platform like this, they think “well I’ll just put these sites into the automated system that automatically generates content and then I’ll set it and forget it”. Now what have you found to be the difference in results between people who set it and forget it versus people that actually go in there and create some of their own content?
DEVHUB: Yeah, that’s a really good question. We actually have again like now starting to be able to do some simple analytics on the network to figure out what’s going on and who is doing well. And you know, as late as yesterday we were able to see, you know, run some numbers and see that people who actually create, you know, put some time and effort into creating a site and maybe a blog — which we actually have integrated now so you can just put a few posts a day or maybe a couple a week or even once a week or something like that — tend to do, it was like, at least 10 to 20 times better in terms of traffic to their sites than people who set it and forget it.
DEVHUB: Yeah, and that’s only in the first two months, and we’ve seen that over time if they continue to kind of keep with that development of the site, again it doesn’t have to be any full, you know, it doesn’t have to be a lot of work behind it, maybe just putting a few posts on their to show that that site is actually constantly being updated and is fresh, you know, those sites tend to continue to do, there’s a huge, huge gap in difference between set it and forget it (which there are a bunch of those on our site as well) and those people who actually put some time and effort behind their domains. And the sites themselves, you know, some of those don’t really have great domain names behind them, it was just the effort that was put into the sites so.
ANDREW: Right. So you guys are giving them a platform that makes it easy to create these websites. At the same time if someone wants to maximize the revenue they get out of it, they should plan on putting a little time into developing those sites content-wise?
DEVHUB: Yeah, and you know, in the domain industry the way I say it, I mean, there are two kind of major cash flow models for a domain. One isâ€¦There are two kinds of monetizing models for a domainâ€¦one is kind of a constant cash flow which, you know, parking at an address for a number of years and then there is, you know, selling the domain as the end goal. So not only, we’ve been talking about kind of that cash flow, you know, making money day to day on the domain, but a lot of people who have actually put some effort behind the creation of their sites, there’s actually value behind, you know, developing out something beyond a domain name, and we have heard numerous reports from both individual domainers and also kind of more corporate users of our platform that when it comes time to sell the domain, they definitely see an increase in what they have been able to sellâ€¦the value of the resale of that site now rather than just the domain itself.
DEVHUB 2: Yeah, and just thinking from that point and a lot more offers on the domain name. They thought it would be more offers that, you know, because there was a sign on there, they want to get offers, even though there was no for sale or anything on there, they want to get offers, but they were saying the amount of inquiries they got for a developed site actually went up for them too.
ANDREW: Well I imagine with the search traffic, you get more people showing up that are interested in buying it?
DEVHUB: Yeah, I think that’s probably more the major affect behind that. Yep.
ANDREW: Well let’s talk a little bit–I know the most recent news to come out of you guys is that you landed some funding. Why don’t you guys talk a little about that round of funding, as well as your initial investment from Rob Monster.
DEVHUB: Yeah, so we started off the group. We basically went out and tried to create aâ€¦the first was a platform for automated site generation which kind of evolved into the village to kind of edit that piece which now is DevHub. And so we started off kind of with the idea and kind of approach to the domain industry very much kind of at the end of the 2007; early 2008 and that is kind of when we hadâ€¦we approached Rob Monster who was also out here in the Seattle/Bellevue area, and he had, you know, a background in the domaining space, as well, so we clicked really well early on. He kind of saw the vision of where we were headed, you know, Mark Michael and I sat in his office over in Bellevue, kind of went over what we wanted. Funny story behind that, Mark kind of came in with this huge, what was it, kind of this huge muscle, what is that called?
DEVHUB(Mark): It was one of those big protein, super-supplement kind of things.
DEVHUB: One of those big ones, you know, like the whey product or whatever it is? Yeah, all these huge looking huge bottles, but you know, wrapped around it was like Domain Fuel: Power Your Domains, and you know, came into his office, slapped that on the conference table and then proceeded on so he got his attention pretty early on.
DEVHUB (Mark): But don’t forget that was Geoff’s idea. He just didn’t want to carry it in! I carried it in; that was the only difference. Now I’m getting credit for the story.
DEVHUB: But anyway, he kind of got the vision early on and it was great, because at that time he was heading up Monster Venture Partners in which he had other investments and kind of domain related ventures, and so that initial round was somewhere in the ballpark of about 180 [thousand dollars] total and with that we also met one of his partners there at the time. His name was Jeff Schrock. His background was, you know, he worked at Yahoo! and real networks before that and prior to that he had a company which he sold to CMGI back in the day. So basically as we kind of went forward with that investment, and continued to start build out a platform, Jeff Schrock kind of came on board as ourâ€¦Sorryâ€¦so at first Rob Monster was our chairman, but he had a bunch of various different investments and so kind of to provide more focus, Jeff Schrock came on board as the chairman and so he has been here with the group since mid-2008, and then kind of closer to 2008 basically we kind of started our next kind of round which was kind of fully closed in the last few months, but we kind of waited on announcing it until it’s kind of fully closed, and we kind of basically raised as we needed to. And the raise kind of came from a number of different people mostly based out here in Seattle tied to the internet or media industry. Prominent angels out here in Seattle who are, you know, most of them are kind of venture capital firms and also kind of major names in an online space like CEOs or kind of high level guys out here who kind of backed the platform as well. So that’s kind of, as that kind of year progressed, we got a bunch of those kinds of angels on board and then in the last few months we basically kind of closed out the round with kind of a more major chunk, and that kind of came from a private equity group which I thinkâ€¦ don’t really want to be fully named out, but they are a good group.
ANDREW: And so with this I saw the pictures of you guys expanding your offices and looking to hire a couple people. Are you guys still looking for a couple more developers?
DEVHUB: Oh yeah, we are looking, but we did hire two.
DEVHUB: Yeah, so we hired two; well we kind of did that in the last few months and then we are looking forâ€¦one of the major guys is right now kind of a front end type of developer to kind of close out the initial loop of that team and someone kind of with a job descriptâ€¦
DEVHUB: So if anyone out there; we are looking for a front end developer.
DEVHUB: Hopefully like, you know, in the kind of northwest area. Typically someone would be working on and with Daniel our CTO on kind of the updates to the editor and kind of that front end kind of looking deal.
ANDREW: And so they can contact you guys through the website if they are interested?
DEVHUB: Yeah. We have a career section on the website and they can just kind of go through that.
ANDREW: Ok. Excellent. Well let’s talkâ€¦I know you talked about Rob Monster and his investment in you guys and at the same time you guys power the back end of his newest venture, don’t you?
DEVHUB: Yeah, so Rob basically kind of moved on from Monster venture partners and to focus on his own project which…full fledged company which is Epik, and his approach to build out a hub and spoke type model that hooks into domain names really well whichâ€¦ populate each node with very useful content in ways to monetize. Almost like the way I kind of see it and the way it kind of converses with Rob is kind of like a way to compete with Wikipedia in a way, but by providing the domain name, the real …and allow them to get good search engine placement and things of that sort with kind of marrying that good domain name again with the good content, you know domain names coming from the domaining community and allowing them to collectively compete with say Wikipedia or informational type of site out there and that’s kind of one piece and that’s kind of the piece we know, because that’s the piece that we power. I’m sure there’s a bunch of other kind of projects and things that within the Epik initiative that Rob is tying in as well. That’s part of the piece that we power, basically the ability to create these sites pretty quickly with some exclusive content partners that Rob secured for Epik and monetization partners as well so our system and framework allows all that content to be put together neatly on the site, managed for clients on the Epik platform and revenue is reported and all that stuff…recycling we have over at DevHub.
[At this point, DevHub CTO Daniel Rust joins the show.]
ANDREW: So Daniel, you’re the CTO, correct? A co-founder?
DEVHUB: Yeah. Correct.
ANDREW: So we’ve been talking, obviously, about the big plans you guys have in 2010 and I want to talk about some of the features that domainers can expect and other non-domainer users to the system that will be coming online that they can look forward to.
DEVHUB (Daniel): Ok. I think first stuff that we are going to initially target for 2010 is to kind of solidify our payment systems for automating so people can understand where they are at and that their payments are getting sent to them and everything is automated where they can just submit all their tax information online and everything like that. And then coming down we will probably also have the ability basically for one stop shop for handling the domain name. This is more for the non-domainer that wants to maybe just create a site on a domain name and doesn’t want to have to deal with having to register somewhere else and point it to us and things like that where it’s all deeply integrated into the process so then we can just handle the domain on our side and just register it for them. And then one thing that is lacking a little bit in our interface is communication and community pieces of DevHub itself. Right now users basically sign up, they get access to all of our tools, but there is little explanation of best practices on how to use the tools, examples of other people using them, and also just a dialog to build up the community within DevHub to allow users to learn from each other and to figure out the best way to build sites. Right now, basically a user goes in, they find the tools, but it’s kind of a self discovery sort of a thing to find the best way to actually build a site to make money.
ANDREW: So in other words, educating the users. “Ok, now you have all these tools here and the best practices to use those.”
DEVHUB (Daniel): Yeah, we recommend that you do this and this on your page and maybe they’ll go read on the forum about someone that was able to customize something on one of their pages, kind of that sort of community layer where, because you have a mix of different people. You have people that are going to be using DevHub that have no technical skills at all and then maybe affiliate marketers that will have more skill and abilities and be able to share that knowledge between users. Another thing we want to do more of in 2010 is opening up the number of options in regards to the visual theme and the availability of themes. So we plan onâ€¦right now I think we have 9 different options of themes in which have some color controls, but really they are just choosing from those themes when they are building their site. If you want to add a large number of additional themes there are options for users as well as in the late part of quarter one, beginning of quarter two sort of opening up our basically a theming sort of API which is basically documentation to allow users and also partners to build themes into platforms so that if a user had access to or themselves could build a theme, they would have the ability to have full control of the look and feel of all their site. Where they could use that theme and then use it on their other site or eventually adding into pieces where they could share that theme with other users and kind of premium themes sort of partners where we could have something like really specific themes that maybe someone would want access to.
ANDREW: Ok. So that’s very helpful to give us an idea about 2010. Now, Geoff, I guess when we look at this and domainers think about maybe some of their domains and parking, everyone’s obviously looking for alternatives. Just to kind of set that expectation, what sort of range can people expect if they are putting a domain on there that has no traffic now, getting into the search engines — obviously, it depends on the content they put on the site and category it’s in — but what would you say to kind of set some expectations on maybe worst case scenario and best case scenario so they can expectâ€¦before they start seeing any serious income and what can they expect number was; dollar wise?
DEVHUB: You said it pretty well. It is a pretty wide range depending on the category and how much effort is put behind each site. We have done tests in the past with large groups of domain names and a couple, you know, different portfolios that kind ofâ€¦I was talking about it earlier have that 2 – 3 word domain name, but it is actually keyword rich and putting it on our platform in the first month you can basically start to seeâ€¦as long as that domain name has been around for a while, you know, you’ll start to see traffic actually on the site where the traffic was pretty much zero before that, and you know, the traffic starts to spike month one; two and then the real revenues associated with that traffic starts to come in usually around, at least from our tests, we’ve seen around months 3 – 6 and then it just depends on, again, the domain name itself and how much effort is put behind it and how well, you know, there is kind of a little bit of a black box and it gets picked up in the search engines, but if all good, you know, people are doing, you know, it’s at least by Â¾ that 3 – 6 months is now a level where it’s at least covering costs where before it was not and then it just kind of really just shoots off in various different directions beyond that in how well it can monetize beyond that. But we’re able to see at least covering the costs of the domain name whereas on the previous system where you don’t have that additional traffic to come in, you know, you are taking a loss.
ANDREW: Right. Ok. Great. Well excellent. Well guys; we’re really looking forward to seeing you guys pulling these things off here in 2010 and anyone who is interested in signing up for an account can go to www.devhub.com. Thanks so much guys for joining the show today.
DEVHUB: Thank you. We appreciate it.
ANNOUNCER: Thanks for listening to Domain Name Wire Radio. Keep up to date on domain name news at www.domainnamewire.com