Starting up with Dot io

I recently came across an article I thought was interesting.  I’m a bit of a productivity enthusiest and I enjoy hearing how others manage multiple projects.  That’s where I was first introduced to Stuart Brent.  Talk about managing multiple projects, Stuart is a serial founder, whose projects include Vacord Screen Printing, userinput.io, startupresources.io and startupaffiliate.io.  I had a chance to ask him a few questions and here’s what he had to say.

Mike: You founded a successful printing company back in 2006. Since then, you have dabbled in many things and started some additional projects such as stratupresources.io and user input.io. What interested you about the online aspect of business?

Stuart: Well, I’ve been a geek for a long time. In middle school I liked QuickBASIC programming and learned HTML. In college, I studied Information Science. So it’s old hat to me, being online.

I started the t-shirt printing business in 2006, just out of my basement. It was a hobby that I monetized and decided to pursue full time. I didn’t know marketing then, but I had been interested in owning my own business for a long time. I already liked making websites, and knew I needed one for the business, so I built a site. A friend of mine was doing SEO for a living, which I hadn’t really heard of, but I traded him beer to teach me the basics, and I ranked for some terms. Honestly, marketing online and having a slim operation let my business survive the great recession around 2008, which killed a lot of print shops.

My interest in SEO lead me to getting more domains. This was back in the easy days before the infamous Penguin/Panda Google update that killed the power of Exact Match Domains. I had my main domain for the screen printing site, vacord.com, but I also bought waterbasedscreenprinting.com and dischargescreenprinting.com, since those were types of inks that I specialized in, as well as customamericanapparel.net to focus on printing on American Apparel shirts, which is more profitable.

Penguin/Panda made those side domains very pointless very fast once the update took effect. One year, customamericanapparel.net brought in $80k worth of screen printing orders, which was great for a side domain. But after that update, it plummeted in the rankings and was worthless. I’ve since let all these other domains expire, and just focus on regular marketing for the screen printing business.

I experimented with dropship businesses too before that Google update, and had a lot of weird exact match domains, including dogstairssteps.com which sold dog stairs, like for small dogs to get on the couch or up onto a tall bed. I’ve bought a ton of domains over the years, including a lot of weird ones to try to take advantage of Exact Match Domains back in the day.

I always wanted more businesses than just the screen printing business, but dropshipping did not work out. Around 2013, I got interested in the startup world, and launched my first startup, which provided reviews of online dating profiles. It was a neat idea, but it failed. I learned a ton during that whole process. It was a better education than college.

I love the online aspect of business because I honestly just love marketing. I think it’s fascinating. And the internet itself is incredible. And businesses just have to have a good online presence to survive and thrive now.

Plus obviously there are the wonderful aspects of online businesses like remote working, and shaping your own career and all that. I shifted myself out of the screen printing production, so now I just work in a nice office by myself, which I like. And I can work from a laptop anywhere, and that’s the dream, right? It gives you a lot of freedom.

Mike: You have seem to take a liking to dot io domain names, as many startups have. What is the attraction to the TLD from your perspective?

Stuart: I think it’s sort of silly, but startups have adopted the .io domain and I just went with the trend. I assume originally they took to it because “IO” sounds like “input/output”, which is techy. It actually means “Indian Ocean”, as .io is a country TLD that was just sold off commercial, like so many countries have done with their TLDs.

So it’s just part of the startup branding to use .io. I’ve found in surveys that people are confused by .io as a domain, and I think it’s better to use a .com if you can, if your service isn’t targeted to startup people. But we all know how hard it is to find a good .com.

I usually look for a .io domain now when I have a new project idea, but I will get the .com also if it is available.

Mike: Tell me about startupresources.io. It’s a great collection of categories and resources to consider for any new business.

Stuart: I loved that project. I’ve actually sold it off now, but I kind of miss running the site. I just had too many projects going, and offered it to someone, to get it off my plate, and to help get rid of some credit card debt!

That site had a pretty simple origin: My memory is lousy. A friend had told me about some Twitter growth tool, and I for the life of me couldn’t remember the name. So I decided to start keeping a list for myself of all the tools I came across with all their weird names, so that I couldn’t forget the cool resources that I heard about.

A lot of my business ideas are born on road trips, and it was while driving to my in-laws that I realized I should make that list into a public site. It was good timing on my part because on Product Hunt, curation sites were getting pretty popular. I got the site to #1 on Product Hunt when I listed it, and got consistent traffic from then on. And then the curation site trend sort of crested, so it’s good I did it when I did.

But anyway, that site is just a lot of categories relevant to startups and online businesses (SEO Tools, domain services, hosting services, feedback tools, etc), with 3 to 7 of the tools I liked listed. And there is a weekly newsletter tool with new tools and blog posts. It’s all still active, and it’s cool to be in the audience rather than running it now. I still submit new tools that I find to the site.

Mike: What is the business model on that site? Is it a lead gen business? Do the businesses pay to be listed? The value of this site is not diminished in anyway by sponsors listings, if that is the case.

Stuart: It had a few revenue channels, but never made a ton of money. It made plenty, and the return on investment was incredible, since all I did was buy a domain and use a template to build a flat site. Building that site made me realize that you can make money with JUST a domain and an idea, compared to having to hire a developer and build a startup. That site made way more than my first actual startup, and with tremendously less investment.

It wasn’t really lead gen, though I did retarget the traffic to market my t-shirt business to the visitors, and also market my website feedback service to them.

Businesses could pay to get listed really quickly instead of waiting a few weeks or months to get on the site. But really, it was affiliate sales. I never put a product up there that I didn’t actually think was a quality tool, but if a service had an affiliate program, I enrolled and used an affiliate link. It was my first foray into the affiliate world, and it’s harder to make money with affiliate stuff than people say it is, but I liked the affiliate world. I learned a ton about it.

I did some sponsorships of the newsletters, but not a ton. I actually ended up selling the whole site to a sponsor, who took it over and has done a great job keeping the spirit of the site the same.

Mike: How difficult is it to maintain a site like this and find sponsors?

Stuart: It was hard to maintain because I’m only a front end developer, not a back end. If I had had an actual database, and could have automated the listings and everything, things would have been so much easier. Or if I had used PUG or something to generate the pages more easily. Since it was a flat site, maintenance was easy, but updating it was annoying. And people submitted tools constantly. Everyone with a Startup is desperate to get attention to it, so I would get a lot of submissions. I’d have to manually add them to the pages, and I had some tricks to make it easier (like using Zapier to write submissions to a Google sheet which also embedded the HTML formatting needed) but it still was a chore. I often only added the expedited submissions.

I never sought out sponsors, they’d find me. When someone submitted a tool, I’d see if they had an affiliate program I could use. I could have done a ton more with the site, but never made it my main focus.

Mike: How about userinput.io? How did this idea come about and has it caught on?

Stuart: In 2013, I found feedbackarmy.com, which is defunct now but let you get on-demand feedback, and I used it to get feedback on my sites and I got really curious how that site worked and where the reviewers came from. So I researched it, and found that he used Mechanical Turk, which is Amazon’s digital workforce that does little odd jobs on the internet, like categorizing, transcription, surveys etc. I was totally fascinated by it, and wanted to use that workforce to build a service.

At first, I thought I could use those workers to do resume reviews, but that didn’t really make sense. Then I realized they could give feedback on dating profiles. Like if a guy has an OkCupid profile, he could submit his profile and get 5 women to tell him what they like and dislike about it, if he seems creepy in any way, how he could improve it, what pictures to get rid of or highlight, etc etc. I built a service around that (side note, I met my wife on OkCupid after using my service on my own profiles!)

But the dating feedback startup was really just a super difficult model to pursue (you can read more about the issues at igniteyourmatch.com), with a lot of inherent issues and marketing difficulty. So I started thinking, well what if I just make a better version of feedbackarmy.com? So I did.

It’s been a slow slog, and the project has been mostly backburnered during its whole existence, but it was fairly simple to build out, and it gets a lot of orders every month without much effort from me. I’m not currently doing any marketing for it. I’m about to finish a major overhaul of the site, and I’ll start marketing and expand the services. Right now, it lets you get feedback on your website or business idea so you can learn how to improve. I’d like to have mobile app feedback as well as video reviews of websites sometime soon.

I think it has a lot of potential and I plan to focus on it in 2019.

Mike: Do you have any other projects you’re working on or any other domains you have plans to develop?

Stuart: Oh yes. In 2017, I had too many projects going on, and in 2018 I made a “no new projects” rule, and now that 2019 is approaching I joke that I’m going to go crazy with new projects again. But really, I just have old projects sitting that I’d like to pursue.

When I get a new idea and buy a domain, I always build a little waiting page, add an email list to it, and put it on Betalist. That’s a good way to start building a potential audience for when it launches, but also a way to judge interest. Some of these waiting lists get only up to 100 people, but some get to 1,000.

In 2019, I hope to finish out these side projects / domains:
appinput.io – Feedback / beta testing on mobile apps
startupaffiliate.io – My entry back into the affiliate world, a site to find and list startup related affiliate programs
launchready.io – A checklist of what you need to do before, during, and after launching your startup

Also, I built conversionchecklist.org, which was a simple site that listed 40+ things you should do to try to improve the conversion rate on your website, and I also have marketingchecklist.org and retargetingchecklist.org, and I hope to write those in 2019 as well. These checklist sites are nice to get people in the very top of funnel for userinput.io.

Mike: What advice do you have for those of us looking to develop some of the domains in our portfolios? Is it worth the effort?

Stuart: Sure, it’s worth it if you want to do it, and you have a good plan that makes sense. It depends what domains you have already. I’ve learned you can get the best return with a small investment, meaning you won’t make a ton of money, but you can make some money without investing a ton. I invested $20k in the online dating startup, and it failed in the red, but I also made a lot relatively off startupresources.io, and didn’t spend anything on development. So the ROI was great.

Just think about what domains you have, and whether they could/should turn into a real service, an affiliate play, or an informational site that can be lead gen for another project. I’m a big fan now of side projects as a way to market a main project.

And don’t be scared to let domains expire or sell them off if you’re never going to really do anything with them! I’ve let so many go over the years.

But my main advice, think about how you can make money with the site without investing a ton in it, so that you can have the best ROI and the least risk. And have fun with business.

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dotjobs

Find.jobs – Are there advantages to .jobs names? Several

Ettore Fantin is the  Director of Marketing at Find.jobs.The find.jobs team recognized the need to develop an industry-leading solution for job seekers. With 30% of the global workforce actively seeking a job change, they set out to develop a unique solution. To service this need they launched Find.jobs. The flagship .jobs property utilizes ElasticSearch and the Google Job Discovery API to surpass current search mechanisms. This is backed by more than 8 million open positions available to job seekers at any point in time.  The parent company of .jobs and Find.jobs, Employ Media, LLC is the licensed operator of the .jobs TLD on the internet.

Mike: Tell me what differentiates find.jobs from other job sites?

Ettore:  We have identified several opportunities to create a better job search experience for our users.  One of which is providing users a more accurate search experience. Many of the largest job sites use one to one keyword matching for their searches.  The result of this is frequent irrelevant search results, elongating the process for job seekers. Utilizing the Google Cloud Job Discovery API, we are confident in our accuracy being superior to that of other websites. This paired with the extensive .jobs network provides job seekers a targeted and precise job search experience.

Mike:  As the director of marketing, what goes into marketing a site such as find.jobs?  What’s the most challenging aspect of promoting a website?

Ettore:   The most challenging aspect is quickly articulating the message of the question above.  The difference is clear when doing a side by side comparison between job sites, but not as clear on first impression.  My job is not only to get job seekers to our website but to also get them returning to the site as their preferred platform.  We see a high number of return visitors on the site currently, that number will continue to go up as we release new and innovative features!

Mike:  Does the dot jobs tld help with search engine placement for job sites or companies posting jobs?  

Ettore:  In several cases, the .jobs TLD will help with search engine placements.  We’re seeing a lot of large companies notice the same value as we do and using a .jobs domain. Amazon and even Indeed utilize a .jobs domain for their career sites (Amazon.jobs and Indeed.jobs)   These companies hire on such a massive scale that a tweak such as using .jobs as opposed to a subdomain can make a large difference. Companies posting jobs can benefit greatly from the .jobs network. We provide job search sites focused on geography, industry, and position. As we present highly target jobs to job seekers with these sites we also present a highly targeted audience of job seekers to employers. Companies that want to get a job in front of a highly targeted segment of job seekers would be hard-pressed to find a better resource.

Mike:  With Employ Media, LLC being the parent company and the licensed operator of the .jobs TLD, does that put you in a position of competing with those that register .job names?

Ettore:  Mike, the short answer to your question is “yes” but to be clear we compete against other TLD operators particularly, .com, who has had the huge head start.  To create consumer awareness for the .jobs TLD, notably with job seekers, Our strategy as the TLD operator is to invest, own and operate .jobs website properties. These websites serve the many ways employers and job seekers use the Internet for employment purposes. Find.jobs is an Employ Media owned website property. We’ve long believed that for .jobs to be a successful TLD and gain mindshare with users that we have to encourage the competitive landscape to adopt .jobs, not just sit back and hope this happens on its own.

Our methods of domain name allocation with registrars have in fact encouraged various startups in the market to register .jobs domain names to compete. These include landing.jobs, museum.jobs, crypto.jobs, greater.jobs, sweeps.jobs, instaff.jobs, and realtime.jobs to name but a few. In 13 years of operation, .jobs has never increased its wholesale fee to registrars. This decision brings with it certainty and stability to registrants (registrar customers) to develop their .jobs domains into competitive properties. Further, there’s never been a UDRP action filed involving a .jobs domain name since inception.  We know these are important ingredients as the operator of the .jobs TLD to gain trust in the marketplace.

The online recruitment marketplace is both robust and dynamic.  We recognize .jobs to be a natural TLD extension that fits this vertical.   Companies have built very successful website properties in .jobs including hyatt.jobs, att.jobs, nissanmotor.jobs, and psu.jobs.  We are proud of these properties as they are great examples of the .jobs intended use. Annually, hundreds of millions of job seekers engage with .jobs websites from nearly every country in the world By investing into our TLD, and bringing it to market, we have built confidence that others can create competitive .jobs properties.

Mike:  What is your position on the newer TLDs that have been released.  Do you feel that is good for business? Has it impacted registration rates of .jobs in any way?

Ettore:  We’re actually a fan!  The .jobs TLD was applied for in 2003 and granted in 2005 when there were only a couple dozen TLDs.  Now with several hundred TLDs, we are proud to be early adopters and pioneers in the space. We have participated in several other TLD applications since, and are optimistic about the direction which this is moving.

Mike:  How many .jobs domains are currently registered?

Ettore:  There are nearly 50,000 .jobs domains registered.  Given the professional nature of the TLD, there is very little turnover and the TLD was identified as the 2nd safest “neighborhood” on the web by Symantec Blue Coat!

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Is this the future of domain names?

James Stevens was born in Singapore, the son of a military chaplain. Educated at boarding school in England, James (who had always excelled in Mathematics & Physics) fell in love with technology when, in the early 1980s, the school acquired some Apple ][ PCs. He later took a holiday job writing accounting systems, on the Apple ][, for small businesses at an Apple dealership in the Barbican. Although, technically, his first paid work in computers was aged 16, selling games for the 8-bit home computers that had become popular in the mid-1980s.

James went on to study computer science at university where he first came into contact with Unix system and immediately was taken by their openness and flexibility.

After working at a software house and a relational database vendor, James went into freelance contracting working in the City of London, specialising in high-speed database applications and front-office trading systems mostly using Sybase on Solaris.

While at Goldman Sachs in 1994 he worked on a project to provide server monitoring and management using a web interface and could immediately see the potential of this new technology.

Leaving Goldmans he started a Linux research company specialising in network appliances, embedded operating systems and remote web management. That was sold ten years later to his business partner when he was offered the role of CTO at the dot-IO domain name registry – which also managed dot-AC, dot-SH and (under contract) dot-TM.

While there he jointly founded CommunityDNS (www.cdns.net) to exploit the security advantages of the then emerging Anycast network technology. Using his experience in embedded operating systems to design and create the hardened & encrypted operating system for the CommuityDNS platform, as well as implement a full rewrite of the dot-IO domain name registry system.

With his heart still in entrepreneurship, he left the CTO role to found Names.of.London Ltd to exploit innovative and imaginative new techniques in human readable domain names, made possible by the release of the wave of new top level domains.

Mike: I like the idea of what you are doing with names.of.london.  Tell me how you came up with the concept.

James:  One morning, I heard a radio ad for dot-LONDON on a local station and immediately realised there was an opportunity to run a second-level registry using “of.london” – I also thought it would be cool to own “mayor.of.london”

I was originally going to launch with “of.london” & “in.london”, but I wasn’t allowed “in.london” as “in”, for all the new-GTLD, is currently blocked by India as they fear confusion with dot-IN.

So I designed an algorithm to look for other combinations that would work, for creating three word phrases, and the one that came out head-and-shoulder above all the others was “for.sale”.

It cost quite a bit to buy, but it needs no explanation.

Mike: It reminds me of co.com. Have you collaborated or learned from the people behind that effort? What similarities and differences do you see?

James:  Those domains were/are all run by CentralNIC – they were one of the customers of CommunityDNS (www.cdns.net) while I was CTO there, so I know Gavin Brown, the chief techie there, pretty well.

I always liked the idea, but felt it lacked a certain something. It seems to be pitching itself as a second-class choice – you’d only buy it if you can’t get the dot-COM.

Clearly from a purely technical perspective they are basically the same business model, but I feel the additional concept of turning domain names into human readable phrases gives mine an edge. I feel what I am doing offers something quite different from anything else on the market.

As far as I know, nobody else is offering a similar service to me.
I’ve not spoken to anybody there about this project, or collaborated in anyway, but I have learned a lesson from the problems they have had with “gb.com” in terms of ownership and control of the parent domain.

“gb.com” is (was?) rented from a third party and when there was a dispute the original owner would disable all the names – this kills the reputation of /all/ their other domains – for this reason I would only sell from parent names I own directly.

Mike: How does Google and the other search engines treat the names? Are there any SEO benefits or penalties for this type of URL?

James:  They seem to be treated very favourably.  We get top-5 ranking on many terms where we clearly have absolutely no relevant content. I think this is due to the high levels of type-in traffic we get.

Most (55%) of the people using our phrases are under 35. They don’t remember the original dot-COM boom, so domain names mean something different to them.

This can make buying one of our names one of the cheapest ways to draw targetted visitors to your site – “pugs.for.sale” is $25/yr and will get you about 650 targetted visitors per year for your $25.

Although Facebook’s ad rates are pretty low, it would cost you quite a lot more to get that number of /targetted/ click-throughs.

Mike: Again, similar to co.com, are these second level domains in which registrations are at the third level?

James:  Right – but, as with “co.com”, my domain names can work exactly the same as any domain at the second level, if you want to use them that way – just like “co.uk”, which used to be the de-facto standard for UK businesses.

Where one of the names coincides with an existing brand – e.g. “links.of.london” or “just.for.men” – I see that as the most obvious use. I like the way the domain name is just the brand and nothing else, really makes it stand out.

However, with “phrases.for.sale” we’re offering a service more like bit.ly where you use the phrase to re-direct people to existing content – but unlike bit.ly our phrases are easy to read & easy to remember.

For example, if you have a Nike store on ebay you an use “nikes.for.sale” to redirect to your store – its much shorter & memorable than the full URL – but still clickable in Twitter and attractive URLs get 34% more click-through (according to bit.ly).

Or you could use a phrase like “break.from.work” to (say) promote a snack bar – linking users to online content offering a competition or coupon etc.

Mike: What does it cost to register a name with you?

James:  Like most new-GTLDs, it depends on the name. But all prices are capped at $300 new ($250 renew) and we don’t have a massive number at that level.

However, “.for.sale” has flat pricing, every name is $25 – about 10 are reserved – otherwise, if its not sold its available & $25.

If I thought it would boost sales, I would be happy to drop prices to any sustainable level, but I don’t think pricing is currently the barrier to adoption as we also have a 30-day free trial.

Mike: How many registrations have you received to date?

James:  Although I started the business about 18 months ago, it was only at the end of Jan-2017 that I left my “day job” to work on this full time.

So right now sales are slowly picking up.

I’ve had a lot of positive feedback and I think I’ve been able to provide solid responses to legitimating concerns.

Mike: What are some examples of names that are in use?

James:  We have a Chinese buyer who has bought a few clothing related names, and some domainers who have bought some property and domaining related names.

One buyer has signed up for an affiliate program and has bought names to redirected to that, which seems quite an interesting business model.

e.g. domain.for.sale redirects to a Uniregister affiliate.

We’re getting over 600,000 visitors a year to our domains, which are often really targetted (like pugs.for.sale), so the lack of sales can be really frustrating!
Mike: Do you think this is the future? Are you acquiring other names to use in a similar manner and grow the business?

James:

Yes – I’m convinced human-readable domain names will be a big part of the future direction of the domain industry.

It feels like the time when we switched from the geeky old MS-DOS 8.3 files names to the freedom of full Windows file names – no longer were we tied to the computer code file names of the 1980s.

You can already see the human-readable combinations like “golf.club”, “coffee.club”, “diet.expert” fetching some of the highest prices.

The new-GTLD registries need to find new markets for domain names if they are going to sell in anything like the numbers they want/need. Naming websites is a limited market – they need to get a lot more creative and innovative.

I think that’s where names.of.london can come in – domain names can become like promo-codes that you can enter into any phone or browser to be taken directly to the content that relates to the promotion you saw.

We are also already seeing businesses rebranding to include the dot as part of the company brand. This started with some dot-COM, but is more common with the new-GTLDs.

I have a list of existing names I want to buy and, if the concept becomes universally accepted, registering my own new-GTLDs would be the eventual aim of the business.

I am aware its a problem, only being able to offer a specific range of endings. If a TLD was registered for the purpose of turning into phrases you could guarantee that any phrase ending in that word could be available to buy. Whether ICANN would agree to that is a different matter, but I don’t give up easily.

Right now I would buy a premium name that has good potential (I am currently negotiating on one), and I sometimes buy ones that are dirt cheap even where they have limited potential, but mostly my priority now is getting my sales up.

Its a myth that a good product sells itself – if nobody’s heard of it, no matter how good its is, nobody’s going to buy it.

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What is everyone around me doing right now?

Mack Hasz is a 22 year old raised in Malvern, PA. He’s a recent Virginia Tech graduate who had an idea for an app. As a freelance Software Developer living in Arlington, VA, he decided to put his idea into action and created OutHere. His website is OutHere.social

Mike: What inspired you to create the app?

Mack: OutHere is an idea I conceived when I was a sophomore in college spending the summer in Blacksburg, Virginia. Life moves pretty slow in a college town in the summer and I kept thinking “What is everyone around me doing right now?”. I wanted to be able to get a general snapshot of what was happening at this very moment. There are other services out that tried to do that, but none to my liking. The problem is that these services allow any ‘ol picture to be upload, usually resulting in meme like being shared. I wanted to see what was happening in real life. The closest thing to what I wanted was Snapchat city stories, where this app draws heavy inspiration. I enjoyed seeing what the community was doing and it was cool to see my posts be a part of the story. However, it didn’t do enough of what I wanted and I saw many ways to improve upon the idea.

Mike: Tell me about the app. What makes it unique?

Mack: OutHere is a public social network. Your typical social app is inherently private, allowing you to connect with family and friends. OutHere, you connect with the world. There is no direct interaction with other users. You don’t send send anyone anything. You simply take a picture or video and put it “OutHere” for the world to see. All media is taken straight from the phone’s camera. Arbitrary uploads are not allowed. This guarantees authenticity. That moment you are viewing wasn’t photoshopped or edited, it was real and it happened. Furthermore all posts are tagged by geolocation with the city they were taken in. This results in you being able to search and discover places that interest you most.

Mike: You selected the name outhere.social as opposed to a traditional dot com name. Tell me why you chose a non dot com and specifically the social TLD.

Mack: I’m a big fan of the non dot com domains. They are alluring and for sure stand out more than a normal .com would. I went with .social to be different, hoping to attract more visitors. I specifically chose .social because it fits my app pretty well and it sounds inviting and friendly, like a “come hangout” vibe.

Mike: Did you write the app yourself? How hard is it to code something like this?

Mack: Yes, I wrote the front and backend which came out to nearly 25,000 lines of code. The level of difficulty depends on how experienced you are as a programmer. I was lucky to start this project with 4 years of university under my belt. If I were a beginner programmer and learning coding from scratch, this would be quite an ambitious project. I already knew good coding practices so all I had to pick up was the Swift programming language syntax and come to understand the iOS UIKit API. There are a ton of great resources available for free online which I was able to use to my benefit. All in all the app wasn’t too challenging and I reckon most seasoned iOS developers will be able to implement something like this rather quickly.

Mike: What is the first thing a person should do when they have an idea for an app?

Mack: It’s important to look at the competition. What’s already out there? Why are they successful? What do you do differently? You can see where your app fits into the ecosystem. Either there is a killer shark waiting to eat you up or you’ve discovered a new species.

Mike: Do you anticipate any challenges with a dot social name? Customer confusion, people not knowing what dot social is?

Mack: I am not sure how knowledgable the public is of other domain names. They have only recently come out and I know most of my non-tech friends don’t know what they are. Regardless of wether they know it or not, they do not that text in blue and underlined are links that take them to other websites. As long as that holds true I should be OK. Over time consumers will become more aware and I should observe a long term benefit.

Mike: What means can one use to promote a new app and get the word out about it?

Mack: This is a good question and one I’m still trying to figure out! I am finding this the most difficult part of the process. How can I get the app into the hands of as many people as possible for as little as possible? So far I have done very little marketing, just a Facebook post to friends. I’m thinking I’ll have to pay for some sort of advertising, I just need to figure out what is most effective. This being a mobile app, it makes sense to advertise to mobile users. I’m working out all kinks, but I do know that blog entries certainly help!

Mike: How important is it to have a website supporting your app?

Mack: It’s crucial to have a website that goes along with your app. It’s what makes your idea shareable. Maybe you start showing up in some search engines, maybe your website gets shared on a forum somewhere, or maybe a coworker sends the link over the work list serve. Before you know it, your app has gone viral. This is not possible if you don’t have a website supporting your app. Another factor to consider is that any people, including myself, don’t want to download another app to add to their growing arsenal of already downloaded apps. It’s important to have a place on the web where they can easily check things out and learn more about the app. If the website is effective, then it should lead to more downloads. I have made my site a preview of what goes on in the app with the idea being that people will see some interesting posts, maybe think of some posts of their own to add, and then hit download.

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Finished with dot Club

David Leshaw is the CEO of Finishers Club, a startup for runners. He hails originally from New York, and currently lives with his wife and their toddler in Jerusalem, Israel. He is passionate about trail running, good coffee, and tech startups. He one time got a double-bingo in Scrabble.

Mike: David, what exactly is finishers.club and how does it work?

David: Finishers Club is a free online platform for runners to log their race finish times and track their gear — think of it as a mix between a virtual marathon trophy case and locker for your running gear. It’s a fantastic way for runners of all distances to show off their running achievements with a dedicated running profile page, and to also let other runners know what kind of gear they use, and how they like it. We also have a weekly newsletter, as well as an iMessage sticker pack.

Mike: You chose dot club for your domain. Tell me what went into your domain choice.

David: Dot-club was a natural choice for us. We had originally chosen the name “Finishers Club” as a way to convey the exclusivity and sense of community engendered by crossing a finish line — no matter the distance. Whether you’ve hustled across a 5K finish line or dragged yourself through the last minutes of an ultra-marathon, you’ve become a member of a club — people who set a goal, who trained, and who followed through. We wanted to capture that spirit of achievement and camaraderie through our name, and “Club” seemed the natural way to do that. At the time, FinishersClub.com was taken, but .club fit better with our mission, regardless.

Mike: What benefits have you seen from going with dot club as your tld?

David: The medium is the message here, and our choice of .club as our TLD makes it clear that we are committed to conveying that sense of exclusivity and achievement produced by crossing a finish line. I also believe that, in general, shorter names are better, and since it takes fewer breaths to say – or keyboard strokes to type – “finishers.club,” the name’s relative brevity works to our advantage. Say it out loud: “finishers-dot-club.” It’s simple, almost impossible to misspell, and the “clubbiness” of the TLD provokes curiosity in people who haven’t yet signed up.

Mike: How long have you been in business and how many users do you currently have?

David: We’ve been in business just about one year, and have several thousand users across the globe. Our member base ranges from busy parents and college students who run 5Ks on the weekends through sponsored ultra-marathon runners who tackle 100-mile races in a stretch, and everyone in between.

Mike: How does a site like finishers.club generate revenue?

David: We’ve just launched our tee shirt store, where race finishers can customize a performance race tee that features a bib imprinted with their name, their favorite race, and their finish time at that race. We also sell various other fun tee shirts and trail running caps. We currently use affiliate links on our site and in some of our content, and are exploring sponsored content, as well as events and premium features that would provide additional revenue down the line.

Mike: I see FinishersClub.com is available for sale. Is that something you would consider to supplement your domain. Why or why not?

David: At this juncture, our focus is on using our resources to make something insanely great for our users. We rank reasonably well when it comes to SEO, and so, at this point, we are just focused on asking ourselves “How can we make finishers.club even better for runners around the globe?”

Mike: Tell me about running an online business. Is it a lot of work? What have been the biggest challenges?

David: The biggest challenge in running an online business is finding a way to keep delighting users in new and surprising ways — based both on the things that users actually request, and the features we sense they would want based on how they use our site. I mean that seriously.

For instance, we noticed that users were inputting in a lot of detail about the kind of gear they were running in. Runners were spending time keying in, for example, “New Balance Vazee Pace v2.” We wanted to find a way to make that and easier to do and more visual. So we crafted an auto-complete function that necessitated re-writing our database and re-doing certain visual elements on the site. But it will now auto-complete the name of your gear as you type, and also produce the relevant image, as well as the ability to rate that given gear item. We think – and users tell us – that it’s a fantastic addition to their running lives.

But ultimately, our whole team – from our CFO to our developers to our marketing team – is comprised of runners, and so delighting athletes is part of our organizational DNA. We are lucky to be able to build the best running platform of its kind for an incredibly passionate group of people.

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The “Legal” side of TLDs

Brian Pendergraft is a Real Estate Attorney and Planlord® Attorney at tpf.legal that uses his most valuable resource, his time, on studying and practicing law to provide landlords and investors with a wide-range of services. Most real estate attorneys “specialize” in one particular area such as only being a title producer, but Brian is 6 or 7 real estate lawyers in one. He does contract drafting and review, evictions, litigation, document drafting, closings, and more. His life’s mission is to turn landlord into Planlords.

Mike: Brian, the domain you chose is a dot legal name. Why did you decide to go with that over a dot com such as tpflegal.com?
Brian: With .legal and other non-dot com domain extensions it is easier to get shorter domain names. I value having a shorter domain. I also own the more conventional pendergraft.net and pendergraftfirm.com, but people tend to hear and spell “Pendergrass” (like the singer Teddy Pendergrass) instead of Pendergraft.

Also, .legal is something most of my potential clients have never heard of and it stands out. It has a certain “coolness” factor to it that distinguishes my modern law firm from older. more traditional ones.

Mike: There is also the dot law TLD. Have you considered also securing your name TPF.law? Why did you choose dot legal over this?

Brian: I did consider .law but last time I checked it cost about $400.00 a year whereas .legal is about $40 a year. So it was based on cost.

Mike: Do you see other attorneys leaning towards these new TLDs as well? What are your thoughts about the future of dot legal?

Brian: The adoption of .legal will be very slow. Attorneys, like the law itself, are very slow to change. In addition, many attorneys invest their knowledge and training into reading and writing and not into learning domain name registration and building websites. So many attorneys won’t know that these options exist unless whoever they pay to build there website brings it up. Also, changing domain names after you have been using one for a while has its own unique set of challenges, so attorneys that do learn about .legal will tend to stick to whatever they were using first.

Mike: What strategies do you currently use to promote your site and your law business? SEO, advertising, social media?

Brian: SEO, content marketing, and e-mail marketing. I do blog post and video where I share free legal information that is very relevant to my target audience of landlords and real estate investors. I share the content on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and Instagram. I am currently not paying for any advertising. I want to see how far I can go by just giving away free content. It’s working well so far! To see an example of what I mean you can check out my latest piece of content on how to file for wrongful detainer in Maryland at https://tpf.legal/wrongful-detainer. I tell my audience exactly how I do it so they could actually just prepare their case themselves and not hire me. However, I’m betting that many people will watch the video or read the post and just want an attorney to handle it for them and hire me, the helpful attorney.

Mike: Did you hear the one about the two lawyers on a row boat in the middle of the ocean? Just kidding. Why is it that lawyers, in general, get a bad rap?

Brian: I think it’s a combination of classism (or should I say access to justice), high fees, rotten apples, television, and a lack of transparency and understanding.

We have all read a few stories where rich kids were able to avoid prison for committing grievous offenses because their families had connections and were able to afford high-powered lawyers with lots of connections.

Lawyer hourly billing rates are very high when put into perspective. At $300 an hour that’s one brand new Nintendo Switch an hour!

Corrupt lawyers make the rest of us look bad. Kind of like how bad police officers make good police officers look bad.

The general publics understanding of what we actually do, in part because of television, but admittedly it maybe moreso because of us lawyers ourselves. Being a real lawyer and running a law firm is nothing like TV. One time I had a case where the Judge decided to postpone the case to give the other side time to get an attorney. He asked me why didn’t I object. The Judge already made his decision there was nothing I could do. But on the TV shows the great lawyers can say magic super convincing words and get their clients whatever they want. In the real world in many cases we settle and compromise a lot and no one actually gets what they want.

I think this lack of understanding may be more so the fault of lawyers because law firms and lawyers are very protective of their processes and what they actually do. I remember when I first tried reaching out to other attorneys as a brand new attorney and they refused to help me in the name of protecting their business when I was just trying to figure out how to lawyer at the time. So if the lawyers aren’t telling people what they do then television will.

Mike: Do you think you’ll consider getting additional names to support and promote your business?

Brian: Yes. I recently registered the trademark for “Planlord” a term I made up registered on the same day as my birthday, April 11th. It’s a pun on the words plan and landlord. I self-published a book on book Amazon for landlords on how to avoid the legal pitfalls that cost landlords thousands of dollars called Planlord – The Landlord Primer. Planlord.com was available so I bought it and plan on using it one day for a Planlord line of legal products.

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What’s all the buzz about this domain?

There are many new TLDs floating around out there with people and businesses registering countless domains each day.  The whole concept is great, and opens up tremendous opportunities.  Some names and TLDs just don’t fit well together and require a certain niche.  Others, fit together like they were made for each other.  Jordan Lavin is Chief Operating Officer at Mosquito.buzz, and has taken some time to talk to me about his domain and his business.

Mike:   Mosquito.buzz just flows off the tongue.  A great name selection.  Tell me about the business behind it and what service you provide.  Is it a new business?

Jordan: We offer mosquito control service to residential homes, cottage owners, events, business facilities and anyone who is looking to ‘stay outside’ without the annoyance, or health risks associated with mosquito bites. We opened the company in January of 2016, the first service of its kind in Canada. Our expansion plans across the country include franchise opportunities as well as corporate operations. We have had a lot of interest to be a part of the brand.

Mike:  What did you take into consideration when you were choosing a name for the business and domain.  What factors feed into it?

Jordan: We sort of ‘reverse engineered’ the business name once we found the domain we liked. We were not going to pick a business name without a solid domain to connect it to. When we saw the .buzz extension, it really worked for our brand, and our service. It’s functional and fun…and hopefully memorable.

Mike: You offer a free ebook on mosquitoes.  How has that helped business or to drive traffic to the site?

Jordan: Our free e-book offering is simply just delivering what we know to potential customers, and people interested in learning more about how to control mosquitoes. Why not offer up your knowledge? It give us good ‘street cred’, it follows the law of ‘reciprocity’ and it gives customers, potential customers, and general visitors some further knowledge on the insect that tops the list of the world’s deadliest animals. Mosquitoes kill over 700 000 people each year and the diseases they carry are getting broader. Mosquitoes are a growing concern for people all over.

Mike:  .buzz is a newer TLD and not necessarily widely know by consumers.  What sort of feedback have you received?

Jordan: Generally great feedback. It fits well with our brand. We have ‘gone back’ to adding the www. in front of the domain on a few occasions to ensure people understand that .buzz is the whole domain. It’s a good conversation starter!

Mike:  Personally, I get eaten alive by mosquitoes and would love to have your service on a regular bases.  I also have dogs and kids… is it safe for them?

Jordan: The products we use are safe for mammals. We ask for a 30 minute grace period to let the products dry before you re-enter the treated area. Our products are very similar to the widely used for animal flea control, and many outdoorsmen, and military treat their clothing to protect against insects in the woods.

Mike:  I see that you wisely registered MonsquitoBuzz.com and have pointed it to your main site.  Are there other domains that you have registered? 

Jordan: We registered several, just to protect the brand, and anyone’s confusion about the domain. It’s just good business practice when building a solid brand.

Mike:   Any tips for those considering the .buzz or any other new TLD?

Jordan: .com domains are tough to come by. I think that creativity add some ‘spice’ to a brand. In our case, I think that .buzz ended up more powerful that any other choice we could have made. At first, we were hesitant that people wouldn’t ‘get it’. We were wrong. They get it, the like it, it’s fun, and fun wins the consumer these days.

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The Naked Truth on the “dot fit” TLD

Farhad is the Founder and CEO of Naked Labs. Inspired by his life-long dedication to fitness and technology, he set out to create the only fitness tracker that gives you a full picture of how your fitness and lifestyle choices affect your body.

Prior to founding Naked Labs, Farhad held several business/product management and engineering roles in the semiconductor industry. Most recently at Maxim Integrated, he led the Wireless product line as Director of Business Management, serving both Automotive and Consumer markets. Farhad is also an avid cyclist and a certified spin instructor at Bay Clubs.

Sully: My first question, for those that don’t know, what is Naked and what does it do?

Farhad: Naked is the world’s first home body scanner–Naked is a full-length mirror embedded with Intel RealSense 3D sensors. When you step on our scale/turntable, you rotate 360 degrees in 20 seconds, allowing the sensors to capture your accurate volumetric body model. From this body model, we are able to extract accurate measurements, calculate body fat %, and provide you with a progress map showing where you are gaining/losing muscle and fat, all of which is accessible from our companion app for iOS and Android. You can also set and track goals and create time-lapses of your body’s changes!

Sully: Where did this idea come from?

Farhad: Fitness has always been important to me, so even while I worked as a business director at Maxim Integrated (Nasdaq: MXIM) prior to founding Naked, I was adamant about keeping a work-life balance and was a part-time spin instructor at the Bay Clubs. I saw first hand the influx of new members each January, then the 80% dropout rate after only six weeks. I also realized that people who saw visible progress were much more likely to stick with a regimen or a diet. The issue was that even though the newcomers to the gym were making good progress, it was not reflected on a scale (weight without context is meaningless) or in the mirror (subtle changes are difficult to see with your own eyes), and they quickly lost motivation. With this observation, I met up with an old friend, Ed Sclater and founded Naked Labs, with the mission to inspire health through honest insights and motivate behavioral change by helping people visualize progress much faster and more accurately than what you can see on a scale or in a mirror.

Sully: The company selected the .fit tld for the domain name naked.fit. Tell me what went into your name selection and why .fit was chosen over a .com name.

Farhad: We knew that we wanted a short, memorable domain name to make it easy for people to find us. Having a product name like Naked meant that a lot of the domains we were interested in were already taken, and we wanted to brand with the product name (rather than company, which is Naked Labs). When we saw that naked.fit was available, it was a no brainer! We are a first-of-its-kind product with an already playful name, so it just made sense to pick a domain name that broke away from the ordinary.

Sully: How have customers reacted to the .fit tld. While it seems to be a perfect, natural fit, has it caused any confusion being a newer tld?

Farhad: Surprisingly, there has been minimal confusion. People think it’s a pretty cool domain, and we’ve received a lot of compliments. Sometimes people get confused and say, so I should email you at “info@naked.fit.com“? But, overall, it’s been manageable and easily corrected.

Sully: Naked is available for pre order right now. When do you expect it will ship?

Farhad: Naked is expected to ship in March 2017.

Sully: What advice do you have for others that are considering launching their business on a new tld such as .fit?

Farhad: Since so many new businesses are popping up on the internet, clean and professional domains that end in .com are becoming rarer and rarer. We’ve seen a lot of companies launch with unique domain names like ours, such as camera companies using the .camera domain. We’ve also recently noticed an increase in companies rebranding their websites using creative domain names, such as venture capital firms using the .vc domain. We encourage businesses to take the risk and go with the new tld! Soon enough, using new tlds will be the norm, and you’ll be considered ahead of the curve for your decision.

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Organic Domains – Do you qualify?

Roland LaPlante, Chief Marketing Officer of Afilias, spoke to me in the past about .INFO being the forth most popular domain gTLD in the world. Today, he shares the current outlook on .ORGANIC and what qualifications are needed to own a domain with the TLD.

Mike: Describe for me how .ORGANIC will be seen as the exclusive online destination for members of the organic community.

Roland: While many companies and organizations associate their business with “organic,” there has been no easy way for consumers to identify the ones that are truly in the organic business. They would have to dig into these organization’s web sites to determine their authenticity. Until now! Today, companies registering for a .ORGANIC URL will only get the URL if they pass our verification process. For example, if a farm is USDA Certified, we will check with the certifier to ensure that they are really certified.

Over time consumers will have two reasons to know that EVERY .ORGANIC site is authentic. First, their experience will tell them they are visiting a community member. And second, search engines will begin to rank .ORGANIC sites higher as they become recognized as authoritative and authentic. The growing importance of the organic market coupled with the careful .ORGANIC verification process will enable .ORGANIC to stand apart as the real deal in the organic business while making it easy for consumers to identify and find truly organic goods and services.

Mike: How is registration going for .ORGANIC?

Roland: This URL has only been made available for a few weeks and we have already received hundreds of registrations. Some prominent members of the organic community have embraced this protected new space and plan to have sites up soon. These include:

  • Rodale Institute
  • Stonyfield
  • Applegate
  • Bitsy’s Brainfood
  • NibMor
  • OMRI: The Organic Materials Review Institute

The .ORGANIC team was at the Natural Products Expo East 2014 in mid-September, one of the biggest trade events for the organic community on the US East Coast. .ORGANIC was enthusiastically received by both the exhibitors and attendees – many went back to their business teams at home with plans to deploy their own .ORGANIC sites.

Mike: Would you recommend that existing businesses pick up a .ORGANIC domain to supplement their existing site? If so, why?

Roland: Absolutely! A .ORGANIC web address is one of the most powerful differentiations an organization in the organic industry can leverage to build awareness, credibility, and consumer interactions. Having the word “organic” in an organization’s URL really says it all when it comes to branding and reinforcing your “organic-ness.”. Imagine having the word organic in every email, every package, every ad—everyplace an organization uses to get the word out. A .ORGANIC address makes every communication work harder to differentiate an entity as authentically “organic.”

Beyond branding is the ability to capture whole organic categories. Since the .ORGANIC top-level domain is still new, many great generic terms are available. A great example: Alpine Valley Bread just registered “bread.organic,” thereby establishing themselves as THE place on the web to purchase and get information about organic bread and bread making! Participants in every organic category are now looking to see if they too can get a good generic name (note—they must be verified as eligible and must use the name in conjunction with the term they register).

Mike: Do you believe consumers are adapting well to the new TLDs and will .ORGANIC integrate well?

Roland: A recent research shows consumer trust is growing in new TLDs: the number of people stating that they would only put faith in heritage domain names dropped from 54% in 2013 to 39% in 2014. Moreover, 18% stated they would prefer to buy from a branded domain, e.g. “shop.adidas” over “adidas.com/shop,” up from 13% last year. What’s even more interesting is that 13% would feel that brands are “behind the times” if they were not using branded domain name extensions. Consumers “get” the purpose and benefits of new TLDs and I am confident we will begin to see a shift in consumers’ behaviors once companies start building out their sites on these new TLDs.

Specifically for .ORGANIC, it is such a natural fit with and a much needed differentiation for members of the organic community. We have every confidence that consumers will quickly embrace the new .ORGANIC domain as they see how easy it is for them to find and access web sites of verified organic community members.

Mike: Where do you see .ORGANIC in a year from now? 5 Years from now?

Roland: The .ORGANIC domain extension is the logical next step for the organic community. In addition, we expect it to really be a game-changer and will grow very quickly in the next 12 months. Qualified organizations who don’t have a web site on this domain will soon be seen as behind the times. Further down the road, say 5 years from now, .ORGANIC will become the standard in separating the “real” organic companies from the rest. Qualified organizations will simply be expected to have a web site on the domain.

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