Women in Domaining: Kathy Nielsen – Neustar

Women in Domaining

Kathy’s digital career began in online advertising sales and management with BabyZone.com, a company that was eventually acquired by Disney. Her next adventure was to help build a group of content properties under a family of ecommerce sites owned by the eToys.com umbrella (Poshtots.com and BabyUniverse.com). In 2008 she joined Sedo as their Director of Brokerage. During her time at Sedo she served as Director of Strategic Alliances, then Director and VP of Business Development.

With a growing affection for new gTLD industry, she joined a domain name registry, .Green, as Executive Director of Operations and Channel Relations to help prepare .Green for the public launch. Today she works with Neustar, continuing to help educate consumers about domains, building and executing marketing programs, managing channel partnerships and developing premium name sales and auction strategy. She is active on the end user side as well, supporting several clients in domain acquisitions and helping them build domain name strategies.


Mike: How long have you been in the domain industry? Tells about your start at BabyZone.com.

Kathy: I’ve been in the domain industry since January 2010 and got my start with Sedo. But it was my work at BabyZone that really introduced me to the world of online publishing. It was the very early days of online advertising so a main component of my work there was educating about the benefits of online advertising to businesses that didn’t understand how powerful it could be to reach new customers and grow a business. We had a portfolio of directory type websites where each major city had a home on Babyzone.

I started out in my home town of Minneapolis at Babyzone.com, on the ground floor, selling online advertising to local businesses. The amazing part was seeing how some of the small businesses, like a baby photographer, could buy an inexpensive, yearly listing on our site, and it resulted in so many leads that they had to expand their business. I saw many companies that took a chance, dabbled in online advertising in those early days, who grew to be very successful. There were also major, national advertisers as well on Babyzone, but what I found most satisfying was seeing the impact that an increased online presence and traffic had on the smaller businesses.
I was lucky enough to be offered a job in Boston to come and build a network of regional ad sales reps and grow the revenue for Babyzone’s local sites.


Mike: You’ve played several roles in the business and at different companies. Did you ever feel that being a woman somehow put you at a disadvantage?

Kathy:  I never used to think about it much but have reflected on that a bit more recently. I am the youngest of 6 kids and my 5 older siblings are all boys. I grew up in a world where I was always in that mix and it seemed natural to me. One of my first jobs out of college was at an industrial tool manufacturing company. I remember many challenging times there because I was a woman. I can’t say it ever affected promotions, pay, etc. but there was certainly a disadvantage. Working in that male-dominated workplace environment was awful. It was constant – inappropriate behavior all the time that created a such a bad environment. Being subjected to that environment every day just wears on you emotionally and all I really wanted to do was work. Maybe I was too young to feel any fear, but I never thought it was OK or that it was normal because it was a male dominated industry. I always spoke my mind if anyone crossed the line. I’m not sure how I came across on that front, but if nothing else, I definitely helped raise awareness of the issues at that company and there was positive change.

Today, I’m extremely fortunate working with Neustar. I am on an absolutely fantastic team of highly motivated people, many of which are women. I greatly value each and every one, it’s probably the most motivating team I’ve ever worked with.


Mike: Have you had one or more mentors in your career? How has that helped?

Kathy:  A few people come to mind immediately. Tim Schumacher at Sedo was really the first person in my career that was great at encouraging me to try new things, knowing I would succeed with some and fail at others but in the end, learn and grow.

I have to say that the women in the domain industry have always been very incredibly supportive and open. If I ever have a question or want to float an idea by someone, I have this built in network of very talented people, in all areas of the industry, and that has been invaluable.

The two I look up to the most and from whom I have learned so much, come from the launch days of .co. I was fortunate enough to work with Lori Anne Wardi and Crystal Peterson during the launch of .co while I was at Sedo. They are fearless, smart and did a wildly successful job with .co. In the years between, they were always right there if I ever needed advice or support in any way. They have both grown into much larger roles in the industry and I’m lucky enough to be working with them today at Neustar. Grateful!


Mike: After all your success this far, what struggles do you face on a daily basis?

Kathy:  Ha! It’s been the same for a long time.
#1 reaching the target audience
#2 explaining the value prop of a domain – such a basic thing but so many different answers to this based on who you are speaking to.
#3 the slow pace of change in a niche, ecommerce world.

There are honestly so many amazing naming options out there for businesses, individuals, organizations, and everyone in between. From super premium names, to great new descriptive domains, to category killers, brandable names and more, there really is something for everyone. The trick at the ecommerce level is understanding the intent of the individual user and helping to present the best and most meaningful options to them. Today, that experience is so different in the domain world depending on where you shop, and every sales outlet has vast amounts of room for improving in the future. Luckily, we’ve got technology on our side and things like machine learning and AI should be able to play an increasing role in improving that domain buying experience for the consumer in the future.


Mike: What is the biggest challenge, if any, that millennial women face in the industry or business in general?

Kathy:  I have always worked in very male dominated industries but felt comfortable and fit in – probably due to my life growing up with five older brothers. But I never really felt like it was OK to just be me, a girl. This wasn’t a conscious decision, it just happened. Since I worked mostly with men, I always felt like I had to act more like one of the guys, just like I was with my brothers. When I worked with women, it was a totally different atmosphere and a refreshing change but then I found myself wishing there were some men on the team to balance out the dynamics.

As I began to work in more diverse teams with more of a gender balance, I saw the different dynamics at work and it was amazing. More personalities, more backgrounds, more (or fewer) egos at play – the diversity of the team brings a more open set of eyes to topics. It makes all the work we do simply better.

The importance of diverse and balanced teams can’t be understated. I’d encourage millennial women to seek them out. If you go on a job interview and don’t see any women in the company, or in leadership roles, that’s a big red flag. In the world of technology, it’s not easy to be balanced. Seek out those companies who value diversity. Help and support other women in technology so that they too can thrive and succeed in the industry. This will ultimately create a positive working environment for everyone. Don’t hold back, be yourself. Don’t ever stop learning, speak up, ask questions, participate, engage and bring your diversity to the table.


Mike: You seem like a busy woman, working both sides of the fence when it comes to domaining. How do you manage to keep a healthy work life balance?

Kathy: Personal and family time are both really important to me. Outside work and school, we’re very laid back and not a heavily scheduled family. I’m not running from work to take the kids to soccer, then hockey, then somewhere else like a lot of families do. We all pitch in to make the work/life balance work for us. My kids, my husband, all have busy lives, and we respect each other and help each other. Sometimes, you just need a break. We know its ok if you just feel like doing absolutely nothing on a Saturday or Sunday but binge watch a show or lay in bed and read all day. We also like to do things together like travel, go to a museum, a concert, a play, a soccer game, snowboard, hike, mountain bike, etc. Making time to get out together and experience new things is a big part of keeping our balance.


Mike: What would you say has been the biggest advance in the domain industry over the past decade and why?

Kathy:  I think the biggest advance has been with the registrars and their advances in ecommerce. Before they could sell one TLD, at one price, period. They can now offer more products (TLDs), at variable pricing, from a wide variety of sellers (aftermarket premiums, registry premiums, standard domains). This is great because it makes it so much easier for the consumer to find what they want in one place. It’s not complicated. There is still a lot of progress to be made but I’m optimistic that competition and innovation will drive more change.


Mike: What has been the toughest decision you have had to make in your. Domaining career?

Kathy:  Leaving Sedo. Sedo is a great company full of people I really enjoyed working with. Moving on to new challenges is always difficult but also rewarding.

Dial-a-Domain – Is that opportunity calling?


In the late 1980’s David Fesbinder had a vision of the great potential of vanity 800 numbers. He founded Dial 800 (Dail800.com), a company whose list of clients includes AT&T, Chevrolet, Cox Communications, Waste Management, The Perrier Group, Electronic Arts, Northrop Grumman and Time Warner. He was responsible for the acquisition of 1-800-COLLECT, the most successful vanity number in history. David is now with 1800PayPerCall.com.


Mike:  How did you stumble upon vanity numbers in the 80’s and what made you think this could be a big deal?

David:  In the late 1980’s, even though few companies at the time were using vanity 800 numbers, I saw the trend to use them increasing.  Also, in the early 1990’s a new law allowed one to move their toll-free numbers from one carrier to another.  This was a big change, since a toll-free number that was previously restricted to service with a carrier in one state,  could now be moved to a national carrier like AT&T.


Mike:   Switching from the 80’s to the 90’s, I could see the natural transition (at least in hindsight) into domain names, or in this case, complementary domain names.  How did you identify this bridge?

David:   It only made sense to integrate both domains with their matching numbers.


Mike:  How has pairing vanity numbers and domain names been working out.  Can you provide some examples?

David:   A lot depends on the industry your speaking of.   But, even if a particular industry does not commonly use vanity 800 numbers, having a good one that matches their domain looks impressive.  Especially today, when there is a natural suspicion as to whether a particular online company is legitimate, having a toll-free number that matches their domain name can be an indication that this company is not fly by night.
In the right industry, a vanity 800 number can be the nucleus of a startup.  Look at 1-800-FLOWERS, 1-800-DENTIST, 1-800-CONTACTS to name a few.  In their case, the vanity number may be more valuable than the actual domain name.


Mike:   When a business gets a matching domain and number, you are essentially providing them with branding.  Is that an unintentional byproduct?

David:   A great vanity toll-free number is one that tells you what you selling, who you are and how to reach you, such as 1-800-COLLECT did.    An 800 toll-free number that spells the exact generic name of a sought-after service or product is extremely valuable.  For instance, a company like 1-800-FLOWERS is not only a leader in their industry but when their competition advertises, they cannot help but mention “flowers”, which inevitably strengthens 1-800-FLOWERS brand.


Mike:  Is the growth of the internet, in any way, diminishing the value of vanity names or phone numbers in general?

David: Definitely.  Phone numbers were really the only way to immediately contact a business before the internet.   On the other hand, today where competition is so fierce between online businesses, those a matching vanity 800 number can now have an edge.   And the bottom line is that an inquiry via phone, which means the caller wants direct contact with a salesperson, is considered much more valuable than an inquiry made online.

Mike:  I understand you provide tracking, routing, and analysis of these phone numbers as well.  What does that mean and what does that provide for your clients?

David:   Shared use or call routing can provide a very valuable tool for integrating national marketing with local marketing.   For instance, we have the number 1-800-PODIATRIST which can be promoted via our domain 1-800-PODIATRIST.com.  When any call is made in the U.S., it is automatically routed to the podiatrist located closest to him.  In effect, we could give hundreds of podiatrists exclusive rights to 1-800-PODIATRIST in their local area, and the leads are generated from just one national ad campaign.

Call tracking and other types of analysis can give you detailed insights into how to optimize your ad campaigns, caller satisfaction, etc..


Mike:  One major risks businesses face is not keeping up with the ever-changing trends.   Is there another emerging technology you are watching for or thinking about for the future?

David: Perhaps SullysBlog.com is at the forefront of a trend right now by bringing to the attention of your followers what are the great advantages of a matching number/domains.  I would like to give you an example of how far this concept can go.  We have 1-800-2Day-Air and 2DayAir.com as well as 1-800-Free-Offer and 1800FreeOffer.com.  Since these are already well known generic brands, it should not take much marketing to have such numbers/domains go viral.

This is a new approach to the creation of a startup in that we’re working backward, starting with an already known brand that is represented by a matching number/domain.


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Women in Domaining: Natasa Djukanovic, CMO of Domain.ME

Women in domaining

An economist by education, Natasa Djukanovic is the CMO of Domain.ME, the international tech company that operates the internet domain “.ME.” She’s spent her entire career at the intersection of banking, social media, leadership and technology, and is constantly trying to figure out the secret to being in three different places at the same time.

Natasa is also a co-founder of a local NGO Digitalizuj.me which is a not-for-profit organisation that examines the transformative power of technology through various projects and lectures.

Through her effort to help the community she started with her friends a conference Spark.me, which is today one of the biggest tech/business conferences in Southeast Europe.

I last connected with Natasa back in 2011, so it’s long past due that we catch up.


Mike:  Natasa, it’s been quite a while since I last interviewed you.  What has changed for you and dot ME since 2011?

Natasa: Well, everything changed. And yet, nothing changed. We managed to almost reach the long term goals we established at that time. For us at the time the most important goal was to create a strong and safe brand. We did a brand health research in 2017 and were quite please to see that we are perceived as a strong and reliable brand. The numbers are quite as we expected, we survived the big turbulence of the market called new TLDs, mostly unshaken, and kept the profit. I have, in the meantime, grew old and mature :), although always strategically focused, now a little bit more flexible and adjustable. I started mountaineering and that activity gave me a completely different perspective on business, leadership and changing environment.


Mike:  Is there a woman that inspires you as a business leader, either in or outside of the domain industry?

Natasa:  She is more a combination of different women with their strength and their fragility, their determination and their emotionality. My inspiration is a combination of Marisa Meyer, Sheryl Sandberg, Merrill Streep, my mom, my aunt and my daughter. And they are all different, with all of their virtues and faults.


Mike:  You’ve been asked to speak, and have spoken, at several different events and business around the world.  What does that mean to you?

Natasa: I had a big fear of public speaking. My voice would tremble and it would sound like I am crying. It was embarrassing. I was determined to fight that fear, like I am fighting any fear. I am very proud to say I am over that, and people started calling me to give motivational speeches. It feels good now, because the feedback is good and it seems to me that I help people define certain fears in their pursuit for better life.


Mike:  Not only are you CMO of Domain.ME, but you also have other causes such as Digitalizuj.me and Spark.me.  Tell me about these organizations and how do you balance this all?

Natasa: Digitalizuj.me (digitize.me in translation) is an NGO that I founded with a couple of friends back in 2011 with the goal of helping the local Montenegrin community educate for new technologies. Today we employ 3 people, and have a joint project with UNICEF around creativity and entrepreneurship for children. It is recognized in Montenegro as a startup community, an organizer of workshops after which you can find a job, and lately educator in programming. Spark.me is a conference, sponsored and organized by the .ME registry. I am always afraid I am too enthusiastic and subjective about it, but I’ll tell you that 500 people come every year from all over the region, and stay in the conference room for 8 hours straight. The conference happens in a hotel at the beach and there is sun outside, it’s a sandy beach and the sea is light blue. But everybody is listening to the presentations. And the world renown speakers keep coming back. My balance is strictly connected to great team around me. I can rely on them, and they can rely on me.


Mike:  Do you feel you have faced any challenges in your career over the years due to the fact that you are a women?  How have you overcome them?

Natasa: Montenegro is a very patriarchal community, but women here were always working and had an opportunity to build careers. My aunts were some of the most successful people in my home town, and I am raised with the feeling that women can do everything a man can do, from chopping wood to managing a company, raising kids, and taking care of their man. There is a saying here that a man is a head of the house, but the woman is a neck. And that is true. In many ways it places a special burden on women in Montenegro, but it also opens many doors. My aunts made fun of me and my housework choirs, as I never liked to cook. On the other side when I started working, I started managing projects very early and when I entered a meeting once, the business partner who sat at the table asked me for coffee. He taught I was a coffee lady. I brought him coffee and sat close to him and started asking questions and kept insisting we can’t accept his conditions in a deal we were trying to arrange. He was very confused at first, and then started laughing at his mistake. I overcome these perceptions by accepting them first. Yes I can be a coffee lady. But then if you are decisive and persuasive enough you can turn that in opportunity. I am not saying it’s easy for every women if they are strong enough. For some of them life is much harder.


Mike:  What impact have the new gTLDs had on .ME, if any, and what has been your marketing strategy to stay competitive?

Natasa: Of course new gTLDs had an impact on .ME. Mostly in terms of the price on a domain, which means revenue. Their marketing strategies shook up the market. It did give some kind of global awareness on domains, but in the end, I think it all calmed down, and didn’t change much. Our strategy certainly didn’t change much. We were perceived as somebody who changed the industry and we just kept doing different and creative things to stay on top. Both with end customer marketing and the relations with registrars. I think the industry is much more alive and energetic today.


Mike:  Do you consider yourself a mentor to any women in the industry?

Natasa: Not in the industry. Not really. I do mentor, however, startups and have some women that I mentor in Montenegro, and help them around marketing and business management. I am very proud of their achievements.

Exclusive Interview with Lars of DNForum.com

I want to say it was Garmin running shamer, pro-blogger, and green-thumber Shane Cultra who first dropped the news about the new owners of DNForum.  Shortly after there was a mixed buzz on social media and blog comments reflecting the reaction of the domain community.  Some were delighted that some hope was being infused back into the once unparalleled forum while others were less optimistic about its future or even returning to visit the forum under new management.

Lars gave me a little insight into the reason behind the acquisition and the direction the forum plans to take.  I can appreciate his realistic view on what it will take to change course and his optimism that he and his partners, along with the help of the domain community, can make it happen.

Mike:  I have not been an an active part of DNForum.com in the past, but what can be expected as the forum continues on?

Lars: In the past DNForum.com was the go-to place for professional domain investors to talk and trade domain names. Our goal is to expand and develop on that past and to provide a safe and filtered forum experience focused on quality content.


Mike:  Taking on a forum in any industry is a huge responsibility.  What made the three of you decide to tackle this?

Lars: Each of us have been paid members of DNForum.com for a great many years and carry a lot of affection for the place. As such it was a pain to follow its downward slope into oblivion and its turbulent changes in management in recent years. When the chance offered itself to purchase the place we could not let it go and jumped on it. Further we believe in the potential for righting the ship and that DNForum.com can be a healthy business again.


Mike:  There has been a little bit of a mixed buzz around the forum. Blogger surveys, post comments, etc.  Some folks wishing you good luck and suggesting this is the right move while others not as pleased.  How do you react to the domaining public on this?  Do you have some PR barriers to overcome with perception and how do you plan to do that?

Lars: Realistically speaking the image of DNForum.com is at an all time low. The interest, traffic and content was allowed to leave and certain events in the past also rubbed off a bit of the previous shine. But the good news is that its hard to go much lower from here. To go into a head to head argument with DNForum.com’s detractors would be counterproductive and frankly we don’t want to begin our fresh start with an argument. Further we are firm believers in showing by doing, so we will be trying our best to prove them wrong by holding true to our plans for DNForum.com. Luckily the buzz also included a great many DNForum.com veterans and supporters which has helped us getting business back to the site almost from day one of the takeover.


Mike:  It sounds like some people “grew up” on DNForum and learned much of what they know about domaining there.  What do you see in the forum that others might not?  What is it that makes sense about “saving” this forum as opposed to walking away or trying to create a new one from scratch?

Lars: It is exactly that. It has a history of being the place to talk and trade domains in the professional sphere of the industry. A place where, if you were willing to listen, you could pick up a lot of great knowledge and in the marketplace; actual great domain deals. The site has a lot of cache amongst industry veterans even with its recent turbulent history and still has a lot of business potential from a branding stand point.

Further in our industry it does not hurt us to operate under the category killer domain name of our niche.


Mike:  You have listed several short and longer term goals in your initial announcement.  Are these thoughts that the three of you came up with based on what you feel needs to be done or was there any user input involved?

Lars: I have to take responsibility for the currently proposed strategy. I have a clear vision of where I think we need to take DNForum.com to re-establish it as a staple of our industry. Going forward we will be asking our community for input on what they would like to see happen at DNForum.com and we will be open for community suggestions. If we find them viable and they fit into the plans we have for DNForum.com.


Mike:  What is your measurement for success?  How will you know if you are succeeding and how long do you anticipate it will take to see results?

Lars: Naturally we look at financial profitability as one of the chief measurements of our success. We hope to get DNForum.com in the green within 3 months of the takeover. But to achieve that we need to reinvigorate our user base and bring them back to table to deliver the quality content DNForum.com needs to flourish. So we really look at user activity as a key performance indicator, we want to bring back our investor crowd to create a working marketplace with no fees for domain name resellers.


Mike:  What do you to critics of the paid membership model?  Are their other alternatives to generating income on a forum?

Lars: Well for us its not the revenue aspect that is interesting. If we wanted to focus on membership revenue we would go the subscription route instead and not offer lifetime memberships for a one time payment. If we are very lucky the paid memberships will almost cover the server costs. It will never do much more than pay the base bill.

The reason we need a paid membership model is because it allows the more serious voices better access to promoting their content. We think that by limiting the noise that free access to markets often create, we create a higher quality offering.

Mike:  Anything you would like to add?:

Lars: We would love to see you back at DNForum.com or come for your first visit. In the upcoming weeks and months we will be; fixing old stuff that was broke or missing, sprucing up the design to create a fresh feel, introducing a number of new partnerships and benefits for our paid members and down the line also introducing new functionalities to our board. To make it happen we need all the help we can get and hope you will be a part of it.


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Squeeze.com – Importance of a single keyword domain name

Key word domain

I recently had the opportunity to have a quick, yet valuable exchange with Brent Campbell, COO of Squeeze.com.  Brent is known as being passionate about building successful companies and making the people around him better.  He makes careful well-thought-out decisions supported by data and analytics.  He is driven by a winning attitude and a desire for the team to win as a whole.


Mike:  I’ve heard Squeeze referred to as a “disruptive fintech app.”  Tell me more about Squeeze and why is it disruptive?

Brent:  Squeeze.com is a comparison engine that goes to work for the consumer by tackling your recurring expenses. We compare it all, from mortgages to mobile plans and everything in between. Whether you’re looking to purchase your first home or just shave a few bucks off your internet bill, Squeeze has your back. We have been referred to as the Travelocity or Expedia for your recurring bills.


Mike:  The domain name is a great one, a single keyword, generic domain name.  Can you tell me how this domain has helped with your branding?

Brent:   Squeeze is such a brilliant word for branding. We are trying to visualize the idea of savings, which is essential to all consumers.  Having Squeeze.com,  a single keyword domain name is vital for a startup trying to make its mark.


Mike:  How does the site generate revenue and how do you plan to expand that in the near future? 

Brent:  Our revenue model is performance marketing based. We allow the user to access free information and tools that will enable them to make better buying decisions. Companies are telling consumers to “Switch” every day. We earn revenue if they switch on Squeeze.com.

Mike:  How did the company acquire the name?  Can you share the purchase price and/or the process you went through to acquire the name?

Brent:  We negotiated off and on for about two years until we felt it was time to pull the trigger. The company that owned Squeeze.com was FUTURE MEDIA ARCHITECTS, INC. We negotiated through uniregistry.com, and we finally got to a point where we felt there was value. They started at $300k, and we ended up a little over six figures.


Mike:  How does one go about getting partners or companies willing to work with a new startup?  I think that’s a challenge many starts face.  How did you overcome this?

Brent:  You have to be persistent and build relationships. Building a startup is never easy, but if you work hard enough and find the right talent, anything is possible.


Mike:  What in your past has best prepared you for where you are at in the business world today?

Brent:   Having great mentors and coaches. Jim Rohn said it best, “You’re The Average Of The Five People You Spend The Most Time With.”


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