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 Allemann.
ANDREW: Welcome to Domain Name Wire Radio. I am your host, Andrew Allemann. Before we introduce our guest today, I would like to remind you that you can download this podcast or read a transcript of this and any other DNW Radio Shows at www.domainnamewire.com/radio. I’d also like to thank our sponsor, Traverse Legal. You can find out more about Traverse Legal on the web at www.traverselegal.com.
I’d like to introduce our guest today. It’s Jeff Kupietzky. He is the CEO of Oversee.net, and of course, Oversee is a parent company of some companies you probably use: Domain Sponsor, SnapNames, and Moniker, and I invited Jeff onto the show today to talk about DOMAINfest Global 2010; their conference coming up in January. Jeff, welcome to the show.
JEFF: Thanks very much, Andrew, it’s a pleasure to be here.
ANDREW: Well, let’s talk about the show this year. There are a couple of changes. First of all, you’re moving the venue from Hollywood to Santa Monica, is that correct?
JEFF: That’s right and now this is our fourth year of having the show in Los Angeles and based on a lot of feedback from the attendees, we wanted something a little bit fresh. One of the advantages of the site that we’ve picked, the hotel in Santa Monica, is you’re about 100 yards from the beach, and we own the whole hotel for the 3 days of the conference. So given that what we’ve heard is networking has always been the reason that folks come to the show among everything else, this is a great opportunity. It’s a very intimate and exciting location for folks to take care of their networking and at the same time have fun by the beach.
ANDREW: Obviously, it’s been another year in the domain industry that has been rough for a lot of people; are you guys cutting back on any aspects of the conference this year?
JEFF: We’re actually not, Andrew. Our strategy as I think we have talked about is we prefer to have fewer shows and make those shows count more. So our investment continues to be in the 7 figures for a show like this. It’s a very, very large event that is open to everyone, and we have been very pleased with the response we’ve seen so far in terms of registrations. They are higher than what they were running at last year. Sponsorships and a lot of folks are going to be excited to spend their winter in Santa Monica with us.
ANDREW: Well let’s talk briefly; I just have to get this out thereâ€¦the elephant in the room. Now with what happened with SnapNames, does that change how you plan for this conference or the importance of it in any way?
JEFF: Not at all. I mean, that incident has allowed us to continue to talk directly to our customers, and we are very confident that process is going well. And what people are telling us is it’s time to move on and focus on how we grow the industry. One of the themes of the conference is about how we look for fresh ideas. How do we take advantage of the collective knowledge and experience of everyone in the room, and we’re very excited about everybody saying this is a great opportunity to look forward and talk about how do we collectively continue to make money from each other by growing the entire industry.
ANDREW: Now let’s talk a little about what’s going on at the show this year. So, obviously, people can find out more about the agenda at www.domainfest.com, but let’s talk about the party, because that was a big part of last year. There was the Universal Studios and then the closing night a party at the Playboy Mansion and it looks like we are headed back there again this year. How did that come about?
JEFF: Well as we do each year, we get feedback from folks about things they would like to see different and things they like to be the same, and I think hands down nobody was disappointed with the party that DomainSponsor threw last year at the Playboy Mansion. So we said let’s do that again and this year if I can make a plug, Jenny McCarthy’s Generation Rescue is the charity of choice so we’ll be having fundraising at the party at the mansion on behalf of Jenny McCarthy’s Autism charity. We expect to have a great time there, but at the same time that’s actually only one part of the entertainment package that we have. We also have just announced that we’re going to be going to the Getty Museum as well the night before. Last year that was at Universal. This year that’s going to be at the Getty. So we are looking to balance all different forms of how people want to relax, get to know each other better, and get inspired.
ANDREW: It seems like the Getty, from reading the overview, it seems like a very upscale place. What should people expect at that party?
JEFF: As you know, we get guests at DOMAINFest from all over the world, over 60 countries are represented and many people, when they come to Los Angeles, one of the top things on their list is to see the Getty Museum. It’s situated on a bluff overlooking the entire city. It’s an architectural genius and it has a huge collection of both modern and ancient art work as well as beautiful grounds. So we secured the entire museum for the evening. We will own the whole place that night, and it’s going to be a great opportunity for those people who have not yet had an opportunity to see all of the downtown Los Angeles area as well as be inspired by the artwork and just the great surroundings. I know many people have said they would love to get in there, because it’s not so easy and so they will have that opportunity. I think if we look at overall the aspect of DOMAINFest that really becomes fun for folks. It’s the networking side that happens not just at the formal sessions, but at the informal parties and just kind of forums that we set up, and we thought this was going to be a great backdrop for that as people look at art, they can get inspired and be creative on their business side as well.
ANDREW: Ok. The keynote; tell us about the keynote this year, and why you selected him.
JEFF: Sure. As you know, we always look for an entrepreneur who can relate to our core customer base of the individual domain investor and Tony Hsieh is no exception to that rule. He is actually a serial entrepreneur. His first company he sold to Microsoft for a couple hundred million dollars, and then he started Zappos which at the time faced a lot of criticism and skepticism, because it was seen as, you know, a very low margin space, how are you really going to re-invent that? Obviously now history has been proving everybody else wrong and that focus on customer service and really building a great culture. He built a fabul ous franchise that Amazon just purchased for $800 million. But if that were just the case, that would be one thing, but secretly Tony is also a very large domainer. His company just bought Clothes.com as folks know for about $5 million, and we are very excited to get his perspectives on not just how do you create, you know, long term business through entrepreneurship, but also having leveraged domain names as part of that and what’s his view is now as part of Amazon, one of the largest players in ecommerce space, for the role of domain names in an aggressive market campaign.
ANDREW: As you brought up, and it’s probably true, a lot of people were nay-sayers to his business which is how a lot of people react to domainers. I imagine there is a similar experience. I know I never thought I would order a pair of shoes over the internet, and I just bought one from Zappos the other day. So it will be great to hear him talk.
JEFF: Good for you, Andrew. My wife buys more than one from him everyday, and thank God, he has a return policy. But, you know, last year when we had Wozniak, you know, there was the formal session where he talked with me, and I look forward to doing that with Tony. But the other benefit of having Tony just at the show is going to be opportunities for people to go up to him one on one and really get that close connection to somebody who has been very successful and share some of the challenges they face and get his perspective from that.
ANDREW: Ok. Let’s talk a little bit about the agenda for the show and what is new this year as well.
JEFF: Sure. We have always found having a keynote, hearing from our product experts and other folks, are going to still be there. But what is new this year is we’ve got two new concepts we are launching. The first is PitchFest and the idea behind that is we have all heard the same initiatives around how to do more with domain names; what we’re going to do here is create a more exciting kind of competitive environment where people will bring new ideas that we haven’t heard from before and allow them to share them in kind of a bake-off situation with the winner getting a prize in front of their peers. The real opportunity there is for anybody that either has an idea or wants to learn more about how to get some fresh thinking in the industry about monetization. The second idea is what we call LaunchFest. And we believe that we don’t have a monopoly in ideas in the industry, and that’s why we come to the show to learn as well. So to help enable that, we have taken 10 of our domain names and put them out there as part of a contest for people to submit plans and say how would you build a business on that? And here the winner is going to get the opportunity to actually build that business, and we have given them the opportunity to get a whole year free in terms of what the cost would be for that name and a defined price ahead of time so whatever value is created, they can completely capture that, and our view on that is that this is a direction that we think the industry will go where lots of people will be experimenting with lots of different ways to build out domain names, and we’d like to help contribute to that by having a session that highlights the multiple different ways people can approach a single domain name and what they may want to build on that. So those are just two examples. The panelists for thatâ€¦the people doing the judgingâ€¦are all either experts from within the industry or even folks from outside the industry. We have VC’s, Tech Coast Angels from Los Angeles, Technology Crossover Ventures and Jeffries Banking. Those are all going to be on the panel to judge PitchFest and LaunchFest folks like Frank Schilling and Ron Sheridan. Ron, as you know, really came up with the whole idea of DOMAINFest and as an ongoing consultant to the company he’ll be coming back and helping support not just that session, but the overall show.
ANDREW: So as far as cost to get in; usually there is some sort of rebate program for DomainSponsor customers. Is that a similar case this year?
JEFF: That is and it’s a program now that’s worked very well, in our point of view, to help customers that have been loyal to us to give them an extra set of perks by having them come to the show and get a rebate. All the information is on our website. It’s typically a reasonable amount of parking revenue, about $7500 over a 3 month period, but it is always something that if you talk to your account manager, they can provide all the details and it’s been a great way for our current customers to feel like they are getting to participate as well. We also have a similar kind of program for new customers so definitely they can contact our sales group, and they will be able to help them learn more about our program if that is what is keeping them from coming to the show.
ANDREW: And everything is on the DomainFest.com website. Just looking now, it looks like the current registration rate goes up December 24th so people should register before then, before the prices go up.
JEFF: That’s right. It’s $1095 now and if you think about all the value, all the food is included, all the sessions, everything but the hotel and airfare, you know, for a 3 day weekend in sunny California, I’d say that that is a pretty good deal given what you are going to get from it.
ANDREW: Yeah, I imagine just going to the Playboy Mansion costs people a lot more than that!
JEFF: Yeah. That is where a lot of our investment is, but you know what, that always becomes the highlight for people, and we intend to make that as well this year.
ANDREW: Earlier this year, Oversee hinted a little bit that it might hold a second conference in 2010. Is that something you guys have decided? Or is it still on the back burner?
JEFF: Well a great question, Andrew. As you saw probably recently, we have made an announcement about our expansion plans in Europe. We have opened up an office there, and we are starting to have very, very productive dialog with potential customers in that area. So I think it’s very logical that we will likely get their input and look to do a similar type of event in Europe as opposed to staying in the United States. It’s a global industry, and we should be wherever domainers gather. So I’d say look for an announcement probably at the show about the specific date and location, but in the interim, we have folks that are willing to get your input on that both for the location and even more so, content. We know that it is a different set of folks that congregate there versus the traditional ones that may have come to our show, and we would like to know what is on their minds, and we want to put on a show that will match their interests and what they are looking for.
ANDREW: Finally, let’s say someone is on the fence about attending the show. Put your sales hat on and give them the 30 second pitch on why they should make the trip.
JEFF: Well we recognize that everyone has choices. In fact, this year more than any, you could be going to a show probably every month, but if you had to go to only one show, and what you are looking for is an opportunity to network with people that you could do business with, learn new things about how to not just monetize your names or service them, but really build long-term, lasting businesses, we think this is the one show that you should attend that would cover all those for you. It is the largest, and we expect to have over 600 people. It is the most talked about from every fathom of our industry, and it’s also the one that reaches out most aggressively to people that are not traditionally in the industry. So again, this year, if I could just spend a little bit of time talking about some of the themes that we’ve talked about for the agenda, you know, we’re calling it Domain Names overlooked, under utilized, and essential to online marketing services. It’s really about getting our industry to the next chapter here about how do we use our properties for long-term business development that we can take pages from Tony Hsieh and what they are doing at Zappos or from experts that you will hear talking on the PitchFest, which is an opportunity to pitch new ideas — not the same things they’ve heard from people who have not been to any shows before. So more creative concepts, and I think for those people who are looking to be inspired, as we talked about, you will have that opportunity not just in the content, but in the entertainment and the setting and the other aspects that we ensure that this a fun experience as well as an educational one. So hopefully when you patch it all together, this is something that folks will see is not just a great value, but they really can’t be anywhere else during these three days in January.
ANDREW: Excellent. I’m sold. I’ll be there.
JEFF: Ok, we look forward to seeing you and everybody else that reads your blog.
ANDREW: Well, Jeff, thanks so much for your time, and we appreciate you coming on the show.
JEFF: My pleasure, Andrew.
ANNOUNCER: Thanks for listening to Domain Name Wire Radio. Keep up to date on domain name news at www.domainnamewire.com.